* Government orders end to property auctions
* Minister decries asset stripping by “vultures”
* Curator may be appointed to manage bank debts
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE, June 20 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has ordered creditors owed millions of dollars by its bankrupt central bank to stop auctioning the bank’s property, local state media reported on Sunday, saying the seizures were tantamount to asset stripping.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) failed to pay local and foreign companies about $1 billion mainly for fertiliser, seed, tractor and vehicle imports at the 2008 peak of an economic crisis which many people blame on President Robert Mugabe’s policies.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti told the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper that the unity government Mugabe formed with rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had decided to halt the auctioning of the bank’s assets by creditors.
“We (the cabinet) agreed to stop the attachment and auctioning of RBZ properties with immediate effect,” he said, adding the government would soon publish a supporting legal notice. “It has become clear that some individuals and companies are acting like vultures after buying the bank’s assets for a song.”
Neither Biti nor RBZ governor Gideon Gono were available for immediate comment.
Biti also told the newspaper that a curator or judicial manager should be appointed to handle the central bank’s debts.
Zimbabwe’s central bank, which the IMF has certified as broke and is struggling to pay its own workers, is now playing a marginal role in efforts to revive the country after being at the centre of the economy for years.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change blames Gono, a Mugabe ally, for contributing to the economic collapse and wants the power-sharing government to appoint a new governor.
In power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe denies his ZANU-PF party is responsible for ruining one of Africa’s most promising economies and has resisted pressure to remove the central bank governor.
The 86-year-old president says the economy has been wrecked by sabotage by his domestic opponents and sanctions imposed by Western powers angry about his seizures of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks. (Editing by David Dolan and David Stamp)