Zim 2017 budget: All you need to know about Mugabe's fin min

2016-12-08 11:15
Patrick Chinamasa. (File: AFP)

Patrick Chinamasa. (File: AFP)

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Harare - Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has the unenviable job on Thursday afternoon of presenting Zimbabwe's national budget - just as the southern African country looks dangerously near to economic collapse again.

"Pushing the frontiers of productivity": that's the theme he's chosen for this approximately $4bn budget, according to state media last month. 

Those frontiers are certainly going to need some pushing if Zimbabwe's economy is to see the 4.8% growth Chinamasa has forecast in a pre-budget paper.

But the 69-year-old former justice minister has delivered some surprises before in his long career in Mugabe's administration.

Here are five things you may not know about him:

1) Law degree

Senior members of the G40 faction of Zimbabwe's bitterly-torn ruling Zanu-PF party may be part-way through their law degrees at the University of Zimbabwe (think Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere) but Chinamasa got his years back, in 1971. He's also reported to have a Diploma in Law from the University of London. BTW, Chinamasa is probably not a member of G40.

2) Abandoned Zimbabwe dollar

Perhaps a bit of a sensitive subject just now in the face of bond notes but Chinamasa was the minister who in January 2009 effectively announced the authorities' decision to abandon the Zimbabwe dollar. By then it was worthless. Five months earlier, the authorities had granted licenses to about 600 shops to trade in forex: everyone else was still doing it under the counter. Significantly Chinamasa (who was acting finance minister at the time) couldn't actually bring himself to use the word "abandon". What he said was that the government was "allowing the use of multiple foreign currencies for business transactions alongside the Zimbabwean dollar".

3) Overruled by Mugabe

Chinamasa has twice been humiliatingly overruled by the president over civil servants' bonuses. This year he again tried to defer bonus payments for 2016 and 2017 but Mugabe didn't agree. At least Mugabe didn't call Chinamasa's plan "disgusting" as he did in 2015.  

4) Journalist daughter 

Chinamasa's daughter is Gamuchirai Chinamasa, a socialite and journalist who's written for the Herald and worked as a DJ for local radio station PowerFM. In May she tweeted according to News24: "I believe in my father but I also believe in myself more."

5) 'We literally have nothing'

This is a comment Chinamasa is reported to have made during a trip to meet lenders in Paris in June, according to website NewZimbabwe.com. From there he went on to London, again to try to win over lenders. In the last few days, the British embassy in Harare has again been strenuously resisting claims that it has mobilised funds to prop up Mugabe following a report that British bank Standard Chartered was considering putting up 262 million US to help Harare clear a debt with the African Development Bank.

Is Chinamasa really Zimbabwe's "worst ever minister", as former finance minister Tendai Biti alleged last week?

We'll wait to judge.

Read more on:    zanu-pf  |  robert mugabe  |  patrick chinamasa  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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