PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is furious with Vice-President Joice Mujuru for supporting Finance minister Tendai Biti’s bid to amend the Exchange Control Act to usurp his regulatory power given to him by the Act.The rejected amendments, which were supposed to be introduced through the Finance Bill, would remove from Mugabe his powers in relation to gold, currency, securities, exchange transactions, payments and debts, as well as imports, exports and transfer and settlement of property and vest them in Biti.
The amendments were also expected to amend the law to ensure that one person is allowed to sit on boards of up to three state entities. Currently no person is allowed to sit on more than two boards. The changes were expected to help Biti’s ally Charles Kuwaza to remain as deputy chairman of the Reserve Bank as well as chairman of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and State Procurement Board.
Mujuru collaborated with Biti in steering the amendments through the House of Assembly last week before the alarm was raised by Zanu PF senators last Friday.
The controversial amendments were sent back to the Lower House. They were discussed amid furious exchange in cabinet on Tuesday before being rejected.
Biti was lambasted by the principals and ministers over the changes.
Mujuru and Biti threatened Zanu PF and MDC–T MPs respectively with expulsion if they refused to vote for the Appropriation Bill and Finance Bill on the budget. The amendments were contained in the Finance Bill.
MPs were refusing to vote for the budget demanding to be paid US$3 000 monthly, arguing that they had not been paid their sitting, travel and subsistence allowances for three years. Mujuru and Biti threatened to get them fired if they refused to vote for the budget and proposed amendments.
Biti also used certain inducements to get the MPs to vote for the budget: he promised to buy them new cars and write off their car loans, as well as raise their salaries with effect from January 2011.
Informed sources said Mugabe was alerted to the amendments on Friday last week by Reserve Bank officials. It was said after that Zanu PF senators were instructed to attack Biti over the issue and suggest “amendments to the amendments”.
Sources said Mugabe was angry that Mujuru worked closely with Biti on the issue without consultation. Mujuru is widely seen as an ally of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-T.
It said Mujuru has maintained close relations with the MDC-T because she anticipates that in the event that Mugabe cannot continue in office either through incapacitation, retirement, removal or death, she can secure a majority in parliament to be his successor.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe says if the president can no longer continue in office, both houses of parliament – sitting as an electoral college – will elect the successor.
If Mujuru has the support of MDC-T it means she would be well-positioned to succeed Mugabe ahead of her rival Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mugabe is also said to be fuming with Mujuru for supporting Biti on the Kuwaza issue, mainly because the former Finance permanent secretary has been fighting Mugabe loyalist, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono.
“The president is very angry with the VP (Mujuru) because of her collaboration with Biti. He thinks she was involved in a plot with Biti and that she has damaged her prospects to succeed him,” a senior Zanu PF minister said. “The president wanted to hear what she would say in defence but she did not attend cabinet on Tuesday. There are going to be serious problems.”