By Everson Mushava
Aleaked list of the beneficiaries of a controversial Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) farm mechanisation scheme has sparked fresh demands for the politically-connected to pay back the money after their debts were absorbed by government.
The government in 2015 passed the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Act to shield the recipients of the controversial farm mechanisation scheme.
It has since emerged that the beneficiaries were top Zanu PF officials, church leaders sympathetic to the ruling party, judges, senior civil servants, journalists from the state-controlled media and relatives of government officials.
United Kingdom-based legal expert Alex Magaisa, who made the expose on his blog Big Saturday Read, said he was doing it to foster accountability and transparency.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa got US$411 728 for his farm, Pricabe Enterprises, and the money has not been paid back.
Some of Mnangagwa’s relatives also benefited from the scheme.
“Interestingly, former president Robert Mugabe’s name never features directly on the list of beneficiaries,” Magaisa wrote.
“There are, however, obscure beneficiaries such as one which is simply listed as ‘HE’ which got equipment worth US$145 691.”
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti said the Debt Assumption Act does not mean the beneficiaries should not pay back the money as it was only to cover a hole in the RBZ.
“Everyone should pay back, starting with Mnangagwa, he was one of the biggest beneficiaries,” Biti said.
“Everything was about looting and patronage and unfortunately, Zanu PF will never get tired of looting.”
But former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo said the mechanisation scheme was never a loan facility and no one was obliged to pay back the money.
He said no one ever signed a form and beneficiaries only signed a receipt note.
The RBZ, under former governor Gideon Gono, was accused of engaging in
quasi-fiscal activities that brought the economy to its knees.
Nick Mangwana, the government spokesperson, said Gono would give a response to the expose in the State-controlled media today.