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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 03 JUNE 2021 VOL 47 NO 56

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Thursday, 3rd June, 2021

The National Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two O’clock p.m.

PRAYERS

(THE HON. SPEAKER in the Chair)

ANNOUNCEMENTS BY THE HON. SPEAKER

OMISSION OF A NOTICE OF MOTION

THE HON. SPEAKER: I have to inform the House of an inadvertent omission of a Notice of Motion by Hon. Saizi on today’s Order Paper.  I therefore direct that the item be inserted as Notice of Motion No. 12 and the subsequent Orders of the Day be renumbered sequentially, accordingly.

REPORTS LAID UPON THE TABLE

THE HON. SPEAKER: In terms of Section 12 (2) of the Audit Office Act [Chapter 22:18], I lay upon the table the following reports of the Auditor-General presented to Parliament for tabling in November, 2020.  The first one is Registration, Supervision and Monitoring of Schools and Independent Colleges by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.  The second set is, Disaster Preparedness and Distribution of Cyclone Idai Donations in Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces by the Civil Protection Organisation.  I therefore urge Hon. Members to please read the reports accordingly.  The Clerk should check if there is a soft copy for it so that they are distributed through the soft copy platform.

HON. DR. KHUPE: Thank you very much Hon. Speaker Sir.  I rise on a matter of public national importance.  The campaign on accelerated reduction of maternal mortality in Africa says, ‘no woman will die while giving birth.’  As a result of that, Zimbabwe came up with a policy that Pregnant women will not pay user fees when they go to health facilities to give birth because when women are giving birth, they are performing a national duty.

The sad reality Mr. Speaker Sir is that, this policy is not being followed because women are made to pay user fees when they go to give birth.  I therefore request that the Minister of Health and Child Care comes to this august House with a Ministerial Statement so that he clarifies whether women should pay or not.  We have been raising this issue time and time again but we are told that women are not paying whereas on the ground it is not true, women are made to pay.  Our mortality rate Mr. Speaker Sir, is increasing because it used to be 650 out of every 100.000 live births.

I am pretty sure that now it has increased because women are made to pay user fees resulting in them not giving birth in either a clinic or a hospital.  They end up giving birth from home and thereby some of them end up dying, so the maternal mortality rate increases from time to time.  I request that the Minister of Health and Child Care comes to this House with a Ministerial Statement so that he clarifies on user fees for pregnant women.  Like I said, when women give birth, they are performing a national duty.  I thank you.

          THE HON. SPEAKER:  The Acting Chief Whip, can you make sure the information is disseminated to the Hon. Minister of Health and Child Care accordingly so that next week they can through their office prepare a Ministerial Statement as requested by Hon. Dr. Khupe.

          HON. MAVETERA:  Thank you Hon. Speaker Sir for giving me this opportunity.  I rise on a point of national interest which I thought is important Hon. Speaker Sir, to be able to applaud each and every effort that we would have done as a country and be able to relate to it as it goes.  Hon. Speaker Sir, I would like to applaud our Members of PAP from this august House who went to South Africa and had to defy all interests that had been done by other countries whereby they want to marginalise certain countries or other regions from participating in the regional cause.

          Hon. Speaker Sir, we celebrated Africa Day on 25th May this year and indeed we actually had to speak and foster on issues to do with regional interests and African interests as a continent.  Hon. Speaker Sir, we realised that there was actually an interest that had certain countries as we noted from what was presented.  We realised that some countries were then marginalised from getting into elections at the PAP.  We saw our very own Hon. Rwodzi, Hon. Mathe and Hon. Togarepi going head on with people there to show that at least as Africa and also Zimbabwe, we are supposed to be included.

 Hon. Speaker Sir, this has always been the norm even with other regional bodies whereby you realise that there is that marginalisation.  We really want to applaud that team which was leading.  Indeed, we want to thank them.  Hon. Rwodzi inspired us as women and she had to fight on for economic freedom; we want to applaud all that work.  We want to say this is what we need to do whereby we need to be fighting for our inclusion as women and as Africa so that at least we can then become one Africa.  Thank you very much Hon. Speaker Sir.

THE HON. SPEAKER:  In response to your observation, I would like to put it on record that we had a very strong and robust team that claimed their right in terms of the leadership of the Pan African Parliament.  I was happy to see that our delegation was multi-party.  Members from the opposition joined the delegation.  These included Hon. Sen. Mwonzora, Hon. Dr. Khupe, apart from Hon. Dr. Mashakada who is a Standing Member of PAP.  I can inform this House that the delegation joined hands with other Members from the southern regional caucus and put up a very strong fight which ended up in the elections being postponed.  I am sure that at the appropriate time, the African Union, through its appropriate organ will be able to go to South Africa and be the polling officers on neutral gear to ensure that elections are conducted in a very calm atmosphere.

 In any case, bearing the fact that the delegation presents its report to this House as expected, there were only two regions; that is the northern and the southern regions that were due to contest the PAP presidency.  However, the northern regional caucus did not want to put up a candidate for the presidency and that left the southern regional caucus being the only caucus with a candidate in the name of Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira who should have gone in unopposed in any case.  We are hoping that will take place in due course and I will brief His Excellency the President who has been a strong supporter and campaigner through his colleagues Head of States and Government and ensure him that all is not lost.  We will get there and will do so successfully.

I can assure you from my assessment of the understanding of Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira on issues at hand that you will see some major transformation of the Pan African Parliament in terms of rules of procedure as well as its impact in its role as an organ of the African Union.  Rest assured, that will happen as soon as he assumes the PAP presidency.  Thank you for your observation Hon. Mavetera.

HON. NDUNA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  I rise on a point of privilege on an issue of national importance that arises because of your interaction with your portfolio committees and thematic committees in Parliament.  As it relates to reports of portfolio committees Mr. Speaker Sir, they are both informed by Section 117 of the Constitution and Section 119 of the Constitution relate to the oversight that Parliament has on the Executive.  It is my fervent view that the view and the oversight exhibited by Parliament should not come to the fore only when the Executive has not performed diligently in their duties. The example and the key issue that brings me here is the former Pencil Fin Highway of death of that the Masvingo/Beitbridge/Harare highway which used to bring in three quarters of our GDP.

          It is my hope and view that if your Committees in particular of transport had to play critical oversight, they would both chastise in the 8th Parliament that we did, chastise the Executive in our oversight role, but they would also in the 9th Parliament applaud the Executive in the manner they are carrying out their mandate in terms of infrastructure development. There is nothing that has come to this House to applaud the infrastructure development that is over half a billion USD.

          It would then seem as though there is nothing happening in the Second Republic as if your Committees of Parliament remain mum, dumb founded and quiet in the face of such humongous, gigantic and very critical, big investment and infrastructure development which is going to make sure there is more than three quarters of our GDP coming into the country. I ask fervently that you do not harbor the bygones if there are ways that you can reinvigorate your Committees in particular. Reinvigorate them by inclusion of Hon. Members that have both -  according to Section 18 (2) of your Standing Rules and Orders, the clout and the interest so that they can be robustness in the carrying out of their duties in applauding the Executive where it is applaudable. I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for giving me this opportunity to ventilate my issue.

          Hon. Dr. Labode having said something after Hon. Nduna’s speech.

          THE HON. SPEAKER: I did not get it Hon. Labode. Ukhuluma loSpeaker kumele ume, ngizakususa endlini yakhola la.

          HON. DR. LABODE: Thank you Hon. Speaker. I have heard Hon. Nduna appealing and today in the afternoon he was telling me about how he is well versed with transport. Now I have heard him crying out to you to say some of the things are not being done especially in the transport industry because we lack the people with the requisite knowledge in the Committee on Transport. I propose to this House that Hon. Nduna be incorporated the Transport Committee.

          THE HON. SPEAKER: Hon. Members, there was a request for a ministerial statement from Ministry of Finance and the Hon. Deputy Minister is here now and I want to accord the Hon. Deputy Minister the opportunity to deliver that Ministerial Statement.

MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

ISSUANCE OF STATUTORY INSTRUMENT 127 OF 2021

          THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIGN AND DEVELOPMENT (HON. CHIDUWA): Thank you Mr. Speaker for me this opportunity. I rise to make a Ministerial Statement of on the issuance of Statutory Instrument 127 of 2021. My Ministerial Statement provides the policy rationale on the issuance of Statutory Instrument 127 of 2021. My statement will cover the following critical areas of the S.I.: background, objectives and advantages.

          The Financial Laws Amendment Regulations (S.I 127 2021) seek to address the gaps identified in the bank Use Promotion Act (chapter 24:24) and the Exchange Control Act (Chapter 22.05), to stabilise the exchange rate, promote use of the banking system as well as safeguard the banking system from being abused for illicit activities, by introducing administrative or civil penalties on delinquent individuals and corporate entities.

          Mr. Speaker Sir, the President is empowered in terms of Section 2 of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act[Chapter 10:20] to make such regulations when a situation arises which he considers needs to be dealt with urgently in the economic interests of Zimbabwe or the general public interest.

          Regulations made under Presidential Powers are valid for six months to pave way for amendment of the aforementioned two Act through the normal process which involves the passage of the amendment Bills through Parliament. The Statutory Instrument seeks to:

ü Minimise arbitrage opportunities in the market;

ü Minimise abuse of the auction system

ü To provide a level playing field for business

ü To protect consumers; and

ü To enforce compliance, which is necessary for continues stability

          Mr. Speaker Sir, the Statutory Instrument will empower the RBZ and the FIU to impose appropriate penalties on individuals or corporates where there is evidence of the following delinquencies:

ü Using foreign currency obtained directly or indirectly from a foreign exchange auction or an authorised dealer for a purpose other than that specified in the application.

ü Refusing to allow a buyer to tender payment for goods in Zimbabwean dollars at the ruling exchange rate

ü Failure to verify correctness of  customer information by banks

ü Charging a price for goods/services above the auction rate or allowing a discount on foreign currency payments

ü Issuing of local currency receipts for a foreign currency purchase

ü Failure to open a bank account

ü Failure to avail to customers electronic means of payment

ü Failure to keep records

          Mr. Speaker Sir, it is envisaged that implementation of the regulations will have positive impact through;

ü Consumer protection from abuse by unscrupulous businesses

ü Increased financial inclusion

ü Convergence of parallel and formal exchange rates.

Price stability of goods and services, customers will be able to settle payments of goods and services in either currency.  The S.I. promotes market discipline which is a key anchor of the price and financial stabilisation strategies.  The banning on cross-currency receipt issuances where goods are sold in USD$ would be receipted in ZW$ ensures that vulnerable consumers are protected.  This is in line with standard Consumer Rights and expectations in the region and elsewhere.  The widespread abuse of the auction platform through arbitrages will be eliminated by making sure that banks adhere closely to KYC and due diligence procedures.  This will ensure that foreign currency is available to genuine importers and not speculators.  Hon. Members, the implementation of this noble initiative will require the auction system to increase access of forex to more businesses.

          Mr. Speaker Sir, after all has been said and done, these regulations have been promulgated to urgently maintain exchange rate stability, enforce compliance and market discipline in financial transactions thereby protecting the consumers.  Exchange rates can be any figure but it does not generate forex.  What is critical is production and the consolidation of stability which is critical for us to move forward as a country and is supported by genuine progressive corporates, organised labour and consumers.  I thank you.

          THE HON. SPEAKER:  Thank you Hon. Minister for the statement.  Are there any questions for clarification?

          HON. CHINYANGANYA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir and I want to thank the Hon. Deputy Minister for giving us the Ministerial Statement…

          THE HON. SPEAKER:  Can you put your gadget nearer and try to speak up a little bit?

          HON. CHINYANGANYA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for giving me the opportunity to pose a few questions to the Hon. Deputy Minister on the Ministerial Statement.  Mr. Speaker Sir, I wonder if the Deputy Minister is aware of the rate at which prices of commodities have gone up since the pronouncement was made.

          I will give a practical example.  Today I went to Halsteds intending to buy rhinoset.  Last week I bought it for $11.00 for 25kgs and today, I was told that it is now $18.00.  I then went to Lighting World; chandeliers that were costing $250.00 now cost $750.00 and other forms of commodities.  This is how prices have increased in the past four days.  My question to the Hon. Deputy Minister is, what measures are being taken by the Government to make sure that all those retailers and wholesalers who have inflated their prices are punished?  I feel that the proposed $50 000.00 penalty to business people is nothing but it is the ordinary people in the streets who are suffering.  Their salaries are not going to be increased yet the prices of commodities have gone up three to four times.  So what is the Government going to do to cushion the ordinary citizens…

          THE HON. SPEAKER:  Order, order! Hon. Member, you are now debating.  I thought you asked a very good question when you started and I am sure that the Hon. Minister captured that question.

          HON. CHINYANGANYA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.

          HON. NDUNA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir, I have two points of clarity.  The first one is …

          THE HON. SPEAKER:  Two points of clarity? – [HON. NDUNA:  Questions Mr. Speaker Sir.] – Clarification. – [HON. NDUNA:  Points of clarification.] – Points for clarification yes.

          HON. NDUNA:  Thank you for that clarity in terms of clarification Mr. Speaker Sir.  I have got two Mr. Speaker Sir …

          THE HON. SPEAKER:  I will indulge you but you are expected to ask one question.

          HON. NDUNA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  The first one is, what is going to happen to the abusers of the foreign currency that they would have received from the auction system?  The second question is, is it possible for you Hon. Minister to publish the names of those people/businesses that would have accessed the monies from the RBZ auction system so that we can know which garages to go and buy that fuel at the auction rate in RTGS form, those are the two issues that I would want you to ventilate on.  I thank you.

          (v)HON. MUSHORIWA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  My question to the Hon. Minister is that Hon. Minister, if you read through S.I. 127 especially Clause 5 (7), it says that any person or corporate that charges a rate that is higher than the official rate, which I assume to be the auction rate, will be guilty of an offence.

          Hon. Minister, given the fact that the auction has only disbursed, I think, around $1.8 billion and yet the amounts of money that have been in circulation during the course of the auction system is around $4 billion; what it implies is that a number of people are not accessing the auction.  My question is, why would Government want to punish other people who are getting forex from their free funds and other sources and treat them as if they are the same as those who are accessing forex on the auction market, would that be fair?

          Tied up to that Hon. Speaker is the question of consultation.  Did Government carryout sufficient consultation amongst the stakeholders in the industry and small scale because our economy is highly informalised?  I thank you.

          HON. T. MOYO:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for recognising me.  I seek clarification from the Hon. Minister pertaining S.I. 127.  Mr. Speaker Sir, what is the Ministry doing in terms of enforcement?  The corporates and individuals should be able to comply with the Statutory Instrument.  What measures are being taken by the Financial Intelligence Unit and the police unit to enforce this Statutory Instrument?  How many people who have increased prices dramatically have been arrested?  We want to know from the Minister the number of people and how much has been paid.

          HON. MPARIWA: Thank you Hon. Speaker Sir.  Let me begin by thanking the Minister for bringing the statement which actually answers some of the questions that were raised yesterday pertaining to Statutory Instrument 127, but perhaps really to get a clarification from the Minister.  What are the monitoring mechanisms that the Ministry has put in place in terms of continuing to safeguard scrupulous abuse of consumers by those that actually control the market?  I thank you.

          HON. WATSON:  Thank you Hon. Speaker for giving me this opportunity. Could the Minister agree that exporters are given at the auction, 40% of what they are bringing into the country?  Does the 1.8 billion that is going through the forex auctions only represent 40%, so the export is so minimal in comparison to our import duty?

          HON. MAVETERA: Thank you very much Hon. Speaker Sir. My point of clarity is - what barometer are you going to be using to make sure who really is supposed to be benefiting from the forex since you said you are going to be making sure that at least you choose those that have great need?  How are you going to see the need?  How are you going to be determining who is supposed to be getting what and what capacity they have for them to be getting this foreign currency?

          HON. GONESE: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir.  I want to thank the Hon. Minister for the Ministerial Statement. My point of clarification relates to businesses and enterprises that are unable to access foreign currency through the auction.  There are a lot of business enterprises who have had to resort to other means to access foreign currency.  My question to the Hon. Minister is; what are those businesses supposed to do because if they sell the goods at the auction rate when they have obtained the foreign currency at a premium, they actually run at a loss? Is this not going to result in a loss, whether people are not going to sell things under a culture to avoid a situation where they run out of business because they have not been able to access the foreign currency at the auction?

          Can the Hon. Minister also clarify to us the percentage or roughly the transactions which are being conducted outside the money which is disbursed on a weekly basis on the auction platform?  I thank you.

          HON. BRIG. GEN. (RTD) MAYIHLOME: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir.  My point of clarification to the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development relates to the confidence in the banking sector.  You have the exporters who put money under the pillow instead of taking it to the bank because banks are actually charging for deposits instead of giving interest. There is no motivation or incentives for people to really use the banking sector for foreign currency.  Even those who get remittances from relatives have the habit of using the informal system and not taking that money through the bank and there is a lot of money that is circulating outside the formal banking system.  What measure is the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development taking to ensure that people are encouraged to transact through the banks even payments done through letters of credit?

          The other issues have been touched on but I want to emphasize the point that as a Ministry, do you have the capacity to detect who is fueling the black market in this country?  All these security institutions cannot detect who is fueling the black market.  Are we really serious? What efforts are you doing and if you are failing, what are you doing about it?  Why are you not learning from other countries?  It goes down to the issue of enforcement again.  I thank you.

          *HON. NYABANI: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir, I saw a list of the beneficiaries, do you know that some of the people that you are giving money are not selling in RTGS yet you are giving them US dollars?  Do you make a follow up to see that the funds are used appropriately?  This Statutory Instrument has brought about changes. Cement was going for US$8 dollars and now it is US$11 - what has changed?  You introduced a Statutory Instrument today and prices have since shot up to US$11, who is this affecting?

          Secondly, the Ministry must take the money and give it to manufacturing industries.  Some of the people that you are giving money are channeling it to the black market and some are importing goods into the country.  The country does not benefit from importing goods into the country. The economy grows when we revive our own industries; take that money and give it to Lever Brothers so that they can revamp their business. I thank you.

          HON. HAMAUSWA:  I would want to know from the Deputy Minister if he is aware that banks are failing to pay their clients the foreign currency they would have gotten through the auction system.  This is a crisis which the Hon. Minister and his Ministry should address because you said there are people who are getting forex through the auction and abusing it, but in fact clients specifically and I will single out Stanbic; it is failing to pay its clients on time. What are they going to do?  I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.

 (v)HON. KASHIRI: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Hon. Kashiri, you are badly connected, change position.

(v)HON. KASHIRI:  Welcome back from South Africa Mr. Speaker Sir.  Hallo Mr. Speaker, now can you hear me?  Am I audible now Mr. Speaker Sir?

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Now you are clearer, yes.

(v)HON. KASHIRI:  Thank you Mr. Speaker…

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Your internet connectivity is poor Hon. Kashiri.  Can you give way to Hon. Molokela?

(v)HON. MOLOKELA-TSIYE:  Thank you Mr., Speaker Sir.  Thank you also to the Minister for the Ministerial Statement.  My question to the Hon. Minister is, is the Ministry willing to open its doors for those who have responded to the SI.  The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries is one of the associations that are in the media today saying they are seeking audience with the Ministry.  Is the Ministry going to open its doors to everyone who is concerned about this Statutory Instrument and how it is going to affect their business?

HON. MBONDIAH:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  My question to the Hon. Deputy Minister is, how far are they with the decentralisation of the auction system which will see that system benefiting cross border traders, particularly women.  Thank you.

THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. CHIDUWA):  Thank you Hon. Speaker Sir.  The first question came from Hon. Chinyanganya.  What I can say in terms of the provisions of the SI is we have got what we referred to as designated authorities.  The designated authorities are and shall be determined by the Governor of the Reserve Bank.  So in terms of what is provided for at the moment, we have got officers from the RBZ and officers from the Financial Intelligence Unit as designated authorities who have been…

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Order, please take your seat Hon. Minister.  Hon. Members at the corner there, I think it is Hon. Hamauswa and Hon. Musanhi, you have asked very pertinent questions which devolve on the lives of people in terms of the cost of living, so it is good that you listen carefully to the response by the Minister.

HON. HAMAUSWA:  I apologise for that.

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Thank you.  Apology accepted.

HON. CHIDUWA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  I was saying in terms of the SI, at the moment the designated authorities are officers from the RBZ and from the Financial Intelligence Unit, but the SI also provides for the RBZ to designate any other authorities to be able to look into the compliance.  So at the moment when we were doing some discussions we were also looking at roping in ZIMRA and any other authorities shall be determined by the RBZ Governor as and when the need arises.

Then the Hon. Member also said the fine of $50 000 is not enough.  If you checked the civil and administrative penalties as provided we said there is going to be a penalty of $50 000 or whichever is higher depending on the infringement.  The $50 000 is the minimal, so it may actually be far much higher than this depending on the level of infringement.

The next question came from Hon. Nduna.  Thank you so much for the questions Hon. Nduna.  In terms of those who are caught on the wrong side of the law, here we are looking at two issues, the first one being violation of the Exchange Rate Act and the second one being the one of bank use.  So depending on the infringement if I am to take the one for violation of exchange rules for those who are accessing funds from the auction, there is going to be a total ban from participating in the auction in addition to the civil and administrative penalties.  If you had gone through the SI those who are abusing forex that is obtained from the auction markets the minimum is ZWL1 million or whichever is higher depending on the level of infringement, but in addition to that we are also looking at a total ban from participating in the auction market.

The publication of names of those accessing forex from the auction, this we have been doing but what I think is needed is the recommendation which I also got here yesterday that we should name and shame those who are abusing.  Those who are getting we have been publishing, but we should also name and shame those who are involved in illicit activities after obtaining forex from the auction market.

Then the question from Hon. Mushoriwa…

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Just hold on Hon. Minister.  Hon. Sikhala.

HON. SIKHALA:  Yes, Hon. Speaker Sir.

THE HON. SPEAKER:  When you respond, you must be on your feet Hon. Sikhala, you have to be on your feet.  You are well dressed for the court process. Why not put on your tie?

          HON. SIKHALA: I left it in the office and I kindly seek your indulgence for today only but I am wearing a bore tie.

          THE HON. SPEAKER: That is a bore tie for the court.  I will indulge you for today.

          HON. CHIDUWA: The question from Hon. Mushoriwa was that why would the Government want to punish those with free funds and also that were enough consultations done.   Hon. Speaker, what we are dealing with here is the operation of an underground economy which has got the potential to totally destabilise the Zimbabwean economy. The use of free funds; it is something that we allowed as financial authorities and we did not sanction that free funds should be used for illegal activities.  If you checked, there is no way we can have a country where there are no parallel markets.

          However, it is the degree of premium that gets policy makers to be worried.  I remember making a presentation here where I said, ‘what is critical for Zimbabwe is stability’. There was stability in the parallel market and there was stability in the official markets.  As long as there is stability, the economy is good to go but the moment we realise that there was a movement from 1:20 in the parallel market to 1:40.  Surely that movement was not as a result of economic fundamentals.  Therefore, there was need for us to ensure that there is stability in the exchange rate market.

          The parallel market is operating because people are looking for USD.  Why would somebody with USD now want to go to the market to look for ZWL?  If we are saying they want the USD to use them for importation, if they have got free funds, they. can use them directly for importation.  However, the moment the free funds are now going to the parallel market and you see that the rates that are being charged are far way from what we expected in terms of international best practices…

          THE HON. SPEAKER: Hon. Minister, address the Chair and not the questioner.

 HON. CHIDUWA: In terms of consultations, consultations were done but they were not as extensive as what we would have wanted.  I have mentioned in the Ministerial Statement that the SI was done under Presidential powers and this is going to expire after 181 days and after that, this is where we are going to bring the two acts for amendments to this august House.  I am sure from there we should be able to consult from our constituencies.

          Hon. Moyo – what is the Ministry doing in terms of enforcement of SI 127 and how many abusers have been arrested and how much has been raised.  This I am sure I have covered.  In terms of what we are doing as a Ministry, we have sent out the designated officers on the ground.  I can report that on Wednesday, we sent out officers and we came up with a long list of corporates that have abused SI 127. As of yesterday, we had started issuing tickets.  At the moment I do not have the exact number.  However, I can go and get the full list from FIU though we have already started issuing tickets.       In terms of how much have been raised, again, I would need to get the exact figures from FIU.

  Hon. Mpariwa – what are the monitoring mechanisms put in place to safeguard against abuse. I am sure I had also responded to this question. The safeguards, as I have said, we have got the civil and administrative penalties.  In additions to that especially if you are looking at abuse of forex that is obtained from the auction markets, there is going to be total ban, not only for the clients but we are also taking the blame to the banks.  It is the banks that go to the auction on behalf of their clients.  Banks should be able to do enough due diligence, they should conduct ‘know your client’ process in order to make sure that those who are going to receive foreign currency are the ones who are going to properly use the foreign currency for production purposes.

Hon. Watson said in the terms of the current provisions as provided for by the RBZ, exporters are getting 40% of their forex.  I think it is the other way round.  Exporters are getting 60% and then 40% is the one that is liquidated to Zimbabwean dollar.  Every economy is supposed to function.  The money that you generate as an exporter is probably the money that is supposed to be used at the auction in order to assist the production processes.  So, I think it is a question of making sure that the economy is functional.

However, obviously, as we do more production, these rates in terms of the ration between forex component and the ZWL component will continue to be reviewed.  In Zimbabwe we are doing things far much better than what is happening in the region because if you check in other countries, you liquidate everything within 30 days.   In Zimbabwe we are saying liquidation is now unlimited and then we get the 40% which we then use at the auction.

Another question came from Hon. Mavetera that what is the barometer that we are using in allocating forex and who benefits.  I would want to mention to the Hon. Member that what is guiding us as a country at the moment is the National Development Strategy 1.  The NDS has got 14 priorities and what is critical for Zimbabwe at the moment, if you check the pillar on macro-economic development, it speaks to production.  You look at the pillar on infrastructure development and utilities. These are the pillars that are guiding us in terms of how we allocate forex. For a country to move forward, what is critical is production. We do not prioritise consumption. If you check our list, you will see that the allocations are biased towards production. So the barometer is the application and request for foreign currency for production. As long as it is for production, those are the applicants who are getting priority. This is what we do and we have got a priority list which we use and we are focusing on production.

          Hon. Gonese, let those businesses access foreign currency because if we do not, this will result in shortages and what percentage of transactions have been done outside the auction? Thank you so much Hon. for the question. In terms of the initial impact of SI 127, I think we should all agree that what is happening at the moment in the market is illegal. Guided by Vision 2030, we said Zimbabwe is private sector land but we only do interventions where there is market failure.  Now, what we have seen is rampant increases in prices both USD and Z$, which is not really bordering on production costs. This is bordering on greedy, profiteering and has nothing to do with production fundamentals.

          Now, the Hon. Member is saying this is going to result in shortages. I would want to assure the House that we are not going to control prices. We will allow businesses to thrive and come up with their own pricing models but what is very critical in economics is effective demand. You can increase prices the way you want but what is critical is effective demand. When you have increased your prices, are people going to buy? You can only buy where there is no choice but look at how the Zimbabwe economy is dichotomised between the informal and formal sector. Price controls are not going to assist us as a country, they will take us back but as I have mentioned, there is the issue of effective demand and then the issue of import parity.

We are not banning our people from importing. I know this is going to give a strain again on the demand for forex but what I can assure you is that in the medium term, there is going to be sanity because of lack of effective demand. So Hon. Gonese, I can assure you that there are going to be changes. It happened last year and after some two to three weeks, we started to see prices going down and I can assure you that prices will go down.

Then a question from Hon. Brig. General (Rtd) Mayihlome, confidence in the banking sector as people are not depositing because we have got high charges. Let me respond to this one. At the moment, the banking sector is holding up to US$ 1,3 billion. Hon. Members, I am sure you can hear these statistics. We have US$1,3 billion sitting in the accounts of banks. This is real hard US$ cash but then we look at the other forex which is being generated from say the informal sector and even the other formal channels, it is not being banked because of high charges. We have engaged the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe.

Again, in the spirit of us not intervening in terms of what charges should be used by the banks, we have been using moral suasion to speak to the banking sector to say the charges are too high; but what they have also explained to us; is they are using outside imported banking platforms which are expensive and they would need to be paid in foreign currency. What we have also agreed with them is - why can we not have local solutions that will ensure that we do not import software. This is where we are and the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe have assured us that they are working on making use of local IT solutions but at the moment this has been reported to us and we are aware that bank charges are too high and are moving against the policy of the Government of financial inclusion where we are saying our people, our businesses and our corporates should be given the opportunity to transact through the normal banking systems.

As a Ministry, do you not have a mechanism to see who is fuelling the black market? We have got mechanisms – [AN HON. MEMBER: Are they working?] – At the moment, all transactions that are done through the banking system and through your phones are all connected to the national payment switch and we are able to see every transaction but the question now is - are we enforcing? There is a balance where we are looking at normal usage of your money versus funds that are being used to fuel illicit activities. This is what is being done by bank supervision and Financial Intelligence Unit, but obviously there is need for us to improve so that at least we have mechanisms to see transactions that are being used for black market activities.

Then the other question came from Hon. Nyabani, to say people are being given foreign currency but not using it for production purposes. When we give money, priority is given to the people who are in the production sector.  We are not giving people money for consumption.  We must do follow ups on those who have been given money if they are doing proper production.  I think we must resolve this and do the follow ups on those who have been allocated money for production.

Hon. Hamauswa, banks are failing to access funds – what are you doing about that? It is true that we have been having a lack in terms of payments and some of the payments were even going beyond four weeks but as of last week, we had literally managed to clear the whole backlog.  Some of the reasons why we delay payments is because for every application and approval that is granted, we also do some mini audits.  When your application has been approved and you have done the Zim-dollar payment, we also track the money to see where it is coming from.  This is where we have seen that quite a number of companies they have got runner shelf companies and have got their forex.  The forex is given to a runner company which then goes to the black market to get the Zimbabwean dollars that are required at the auction.  They transfer the money to the applicant and then the applicant pays RBZ but we have mechanisms of following the paper trail where the money is coming from.  Sometimes because of those paper trail follow ups, there is bound to be some delays but I can assure you at the moment that we are up to date with the payment.

Hon. Molokela asked if the Ministry is going to open its doors for discussions with stakeholders.  On Wednesday, I was supposed to do a breakfast meeting with CZI, ZNCC and Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers but after we saw that there were quite a number of issues that were coming from stakeholders, we then agreed as a Ministry that let us postpone this breakfast meeting so that we can do it the following week.  I can assure you that next week, we are going to have a breakfast meeting which is open to all stakeholders so that we can discuss this as stakeholders.

Then the last one from Hon. Mbondia – how far will the system ensure that we also benefit cross border traders especially women.  We have got a dual auction which is covering big and small businesses.   There is the auction market for SMEs and this is where most of our cross borders are.  The cross borders are catered for as long as they comply.  In terms of compliance, they should have their invoices from wherever they are importing from, they go to their bank and the bank is going to apply for forex on their behalf.  We are already doing this. These are the responses that I have Hon. Speaker Maam. I thank you.

(v)HON. SARUWAKA:  My question is a follow up coming as a result of the response where he said one of the policies they are going to employ to arrest the abuse of forex is to name and shame the perpetrators.  Why would they want to name and shame instead of name and arrest?

HON. NDEBELE: Numbers or figures do not lie.  The Minister said that he is at a vantage point where he is able to pick accounts that are possibly involved in aiding the black market.  I would like to check what it is that is stopping him from arresting the people that run those accounts.  Is it because they are politically exposed persons who happen to be on the right side of Government?

From his entire speech, I picked that it would be difficult to totally exterminate the black-market.  I represent the ordinary man in Magwegwe and the difficulties arise from dual pricing that is arising from exchange rate differences between the black market rate and the auction rate.  What is the Minister doing effectively to protect the ordinary consumer from the hazards brought about by these differences?

When the gentleman at Treasury starts shoving down Statutory Instruments using Presidential decrees, we get worried as parliamentarians because all the time, if you check our history when the Presidential Temporary Powers Act is used as a vehicle to bring in laws, these laws always bring difficulties to our citizens.  If I take you back to the Robert Mugabe era, we stood in this House and told them that the bond note will not stand the test of time in terms of being equated to the USD at the rate of 1:1 and that came to pass.  When you see them doing this, very soon they shall come round to raid our nostro accounts.  About 24 months ago, they almost killed us because even for SMEs, they were going to take away our USDs.  I am appealing to the Minister to assure this House as well as the nation that our nostro accounts remain safe – they will not be raiding our accounts once again.

*HON. NYABANI:  Thank you Madam Speaker.  I just want to add a few words to the Statement by the Minister.  I came across the beneficiaries of the USD auction money.  I heard you saying you are giving money to the people who are in the production sector.  I deal with the companies which are noticed on that auction because I am a retailer.  These are the likes of Jarani and OK.  If we put more theories on the economy, it does not work properly.  For the country to move forward and develop economically, let us give the foreign currency to the milling companies, manufacturers of detergents. What are the companies like OK we are giving money to manufacturing?  The OK, TM and Jarani are the ones benefiting at the expense of the producers.  Hon. Minister, this has affected the rural people and has great impact.  Maybe it does not have great impact in Harare where you stay but in the rural areas, it has negatively impacted on people.  The rate of 84 only applies on the book but the rates on the ground in rural areas are at 160, 170.  May you prioritise production companies when allocating money at the auction so that we can have commodities at affordable prices.  Products are not going to be cheap by giving forex to retailers like OK and TM who are going to buy their products from South Africa.  If you want the USD and the Zimbabwean dollar to be at 1:1 rate, give the money to the manufacturing companies.  I thank you.

HON. MARKHAM:   Madam Speaker, I would want to go back on to the issue of the SI which the Minister is talking about, specifically pertaining to agriculture.  My concern remains that we are at the peak of the tobacco buying season where a lot of USD are flying into the country and we have an exchange rate of 85:1 going to the farmers yet the inputs for next year have been priced, and you can go to any shop, at roughly 120.  My question is, surely the Reserve Bank, the Ministry or ZIMRA can link up the bidding for money and the cost of the importation and the markup of the documents on the importation documents.  This has been done in the past before and I do not know why it is not being done now and you have to equate that importation document before you can bid again.  That is the simple way of killing the black market.

My question goes further now because the Minister stated that competition is good.  We finished the tobacco season and we then go into the maize buying and maize marketing season since we have had a bumper harvest.  Are we guaranteed that the exchange will remain the same when we buy the maize crop?  The reason being, the maize farmers for the first time in a long time, have got a reasonable crop.  Will they be able to access funds to import at the exchange rate that is being laid out at the moment so that they can buy capital items for the next crop.  Can the Minister guarantee, secondly on the maize crop, farmers that they will indeed be paid within five days?  If you wait for a month and above, you have no idea what the exchange rate is going to do.  I thank you.

HON. NDUNA:  Madam Speaker, the Hon. Minister has spoken of publication of those that would have accessed forex on the auction market.  Could that proliferate or cascade down to the constituencies?  I am alive to the fact that places like PUMA Garage, ZUVA Service Station, have never sold their fuel in RTGS form.  Does this mean those companies have never accessed forex for them to sell their fuel in RTGS form?  At least there is ENGEN Service Station – it keeps selling in RTGS sometimes.  Can he make sure it comes down so that the electorate in Chegutu can police some of these delinquent and deviant unscrupulous business people who are accessing the scarce commodity using arbitrage to make sure they fatten their pockets?

HON. HAMAUSWA:  Thank you Madam Speaker.  I want to raise two questions to the Minister to help us understand how the auction system is working.  When they are giving USD to the manufacturers, we want to know whether manufacturers are then selling their products in local currency since they will be getting the money from the auction. If they are going to sell their products again in USD, it means there is some sort of a double dipping where they will be selling their products in USD yet they go and get forex claiming that they would want to use it for production.

The other question is, how are they selecting manufacturers who are getting forex for producing their goods?  Are they really sure that they need forex?  For example, if we have a milling company in Zimbabwe which buys mealie-meal from GMB using RTGS, why should that company require forex?  We would like the Minister to explain to this House whether the companies that are claiming to be in need of forex for production purposes really deserve those monies in forex.  What exactly are they buying from outside in terms of inputs which require forex?  If they manage to address those issues, we will have a situation whereby the forex would be directed towards production and all the goods would be priced in local currency because all the manufacturers would be able to get their money through the auction system.  If the auction system is not able to supply the manufacturers, we will continue to have this problem.  Thank you Madam Speaker.

HON. CHINYANGANYA:  Thank you Madam Speaker.  When I raised the question of increase in prices, the Minister responded by saying it is a choice for a consumer to buy those commodities whose prices would have increased.  I would like to think that is not true.  We have basic commodities which people cannot live without, for example, mealie-meal, sugar, cooking oil has gone up.  Some of those commodities are produced locally and we have also medication which has gone up.  Is Government going to subsidise those basic commodities since the Minister has said it is a choice if you want to buy at a higher price.  I thank you.

(v)HON. MUSHORIWA:  Thank you Madam Speaker.  I would want the Hon. Minister to clarify one issue.  There has been a coincidence, the issuance of the Statutory Instrument 127 and the going out in the market by the RBZ to secure $300 million on one year tenure.  Hon. Minister, I want clarification because there is a general feeling that the S.I 127 may be a ploy for the Government to secure foreign currency at a cheaper rate and then abandon the Statutory Instrument 127 on expiry after six months.

          HON. CHIDUWA:  Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am.  Let me start by responding to the question raised by Hon. Saruwaka, that we said we are going to name and shame.  Naming and shaming is a proposal which came in this august House and I said it is a good proposal.  The naming and shaming will not stop us from imposing civil and administrative penalties.

          At the moment, what is provided for in the Statutory Instrument is just civil and administrative penalties.  Remember, there is literally no difference between S.I 127 and S.I 185.  All these things that we are talking about now are all provided for in S.I 185 but the only difference is compliance.  So, we are going to do both imposition of civil and administrative penalties in addition to considering the proposals for naming and shaming.

          There was a question from Hon. Ndebele.  I would want to thank Hon. Ndebele because he is the one who made the proposal yesterday that we should have a Ministerial Statement.  I think this has assisted us in raising quite a number of issues with regards to S.I 127.  He said figures do not lie.  In terms of what he submitted, S.I 185 and the abuse of forex at the auction, what was there before S.I 127 was; we would identify that there is an abuser of forex.  We red flag their accounts, we close accounts or even ban them from participating in the auction but it would only go for 14 days.  After 14 days, we would then open and they would go back to the auction.  Now, because of the civil penalties that are there, and also the issue of banning, I think this is going to assist us to arrest all those who are abusing the forex market.

          In terms of extermination of the premium between the black market and the official, at the moment in terms of where we are as a country, what we can only do is to reduce the premium between the black market and the official.  Obviously, in terms of policy for us, what we would want is a situation where there is total convergence between the black market rate and the auction rate. However, in terms of the reality that is on the ground at the moment, what we can only do is to come up with policies that are going to narrow the gap between the black market and the official market.

          Now, since that premium is going to remain, the question is - what is going to happen to the ordinary consumer who is in the rural area when the black market rate is being used for pricing purposes?  Where the premium between the black market and the official rate is very small, the difference is normally not felt because of competition.  This is why we are saying there should be a reduced premium between the black market and the official market.

          In terms of the other issues that he mentioned, the Presidential Powers were effectively used to protect the national interests of this country; to protect the economic interests of Zimbabwe and there is no ill intention other than to protect Zimbabweans and the economic interests of the country.

          In terms of us as Treasury authorities, there is no going back in terms of the policy trajectory.  We are not going to interfere with the nostro accounts of individuals and corporates.  This is the assurance I am giving Hon. Members and the nation, that their accounts are not going to be touched.  What we would want is; let us operate within the confines of the law.

On exchange rates; it does not make sense for one to have millions of useless dollars.  Exchange rate can be any figure but what is needed is stability to allow businesses to plan.  Our challenge is; we are having business persons, not entrepreneurs.  We are interested in big figures that do not mean anything.  This is why you see that we have got a challenge.

We can have any exchange rate.  We can increase the exchange rate today - 1:200; 1:300; 1:400 but that is not going to generate forex.  We can only generate forex through production.  So, it is very important for Zimbabweans to understand this fundamental point.  Stability works for all of us.  Corporates have been reporting good results and all of them were saying the good results are anchored in the stability that we got from the Transitional Stabilisation Programme.  Why would corporates be involved in illicit and black market things that are going to destabilise the very market which is giving them profits?  I think this is where we need a total reboot of the business-mind so that at least we know that it is not the figure that is important but stability.

There is a question from Hon. Nyabani.  We are talking the same language.  *He said priority should be given to those who do production.  He also asked the criteria used to come up with the priority list for those in the same sector.  When companies come to the auction floor, they come with their rate.  A company can come and say I want to sell my money with a rate of USD1 is to ZD90 and someone says I want to sell with USD1 is to 100. If they are all for production, we consider the one who has come with a higher rate and this is how this auction works. So you can see that we encourage that farmers come with their own rates. This is how that Dutch system works; but in terms of the rate which is the price discovery, we use the weighted average.  However, I want to assure Hon. Members that we are focusing on production. If I use the example that you have used, I might not know how they do it, but companies like OK have some of its branches which does repackaging and so on which is part of the value chain as provided for in the National Development Strategy 1 under local beneficiation.

          Hon. Markham said the rate is not going to promote production and can you guarantee that as we pay our farmers, they are going to be able to buy inputs and also the issue of us continuing to pay farmers within the announced five days. Can you guarantee that? Hon. Member, the policy as provided under the S.I. 127 is actually meant to protect farmers. When we say we should have a predictable official exchange rate, this is promoting farmers. So where we have got the official exchange rate which at the moment is stable, it should allow farmers to plan immediately for the next summer season. I can attest and assure you that what the Government is putting forward here is meant to protect our farmers. This will allow our farmers to go back and till the land, come summer season for 2022.

          In terms payments, we have religiously paid all our farmers. We are very happy that we have got a bumper harvest. Just this May, we were expecting around 54 000 metric tons but we got more than double that and we are very religious on payments. Our farmers are happy and we are paying within the five days. The only problem that we are having is that we have got some farmers that do not have bank accounts and even cell phone accounts. We have engaged our stakeholders to make sure that farmers have bank accounts, cell phone accounts where we can transfer the money to, which is part of our policy on financial inclusion.

          Hon. Nduna, those accessing foreign currency from auction should charge in ZD and let it be ferried down there in Chegutu. It is true what the Hon. Member submitted that if it is a service station or a certain company that is dealing in petroleum products when they access foreign currency from the auction, they should charge in ZWD and where they are charging in foreign currency, it should be at the ruling auction rates. This is what the S.I is saying, that when you access foreign currency from the auction market, charge both in ZWD and in foreign currency.

          The question from Hon. Hamauswa was a point of clarity. He wanted to know if manufacturers will sell in ZWD and how they are selecting those. This again is more or less the same question as the one for Hon. Nduna that when manufacturers access foreign currency from the auction floor, they should charge both in ZWD and in foreign currency and the ZWD price should be at the ruling auction rate. This is what is provided for in S.I. 127. In terms of selection, we have mentioned that what is guiding us is the provision of the National Development Strategy 1, where we are prioritising production.  The priority list is for those who are involved in production and when we pull together those who are in production we are going to be guided by the bid range. Those with the highest bid will get the allocations first. We are also guided to make sure that the allocations is being done for bonafide manufacturers by the invoices that are provided - but again, because of some of weaknesses that are in the system, this is why you find out that some of the manufacturers end up using the money not for the intended purpose.

          Hon. Chinyanganya, there is what we call effective demand and this only happens when the consumers are willing and able to pay. You may be willing and do not have the ability to pay, it is not effect demand. We go to the basic commodities this is where you said there is a problem because it is basic. It is true that we can have challenges where we are dealing with basic commodities that sometimes we do have the choice and this is why we have this intervention that we brought today. As Government we should make sure that we are on the ground and enforce S.I. 127. Are we going to have subsidies – going forward as provided for in Vision 2030, the police thrust of the Government is to move away from subsidies but in cases where there is need for social protection, we will intervene in the form of subsidies.

          At the moment, we have got quite a number of safety nets that are there. If you go to the rural areas, we are having social welfare and in the urban areas we are also doing cash transfers, but to have blanket subsidies as a result of the short-term impact of S.I. 127, this is out. What we will do as Government is to ensure that we are going to enforce S.I. 127 in terms of compliance.

          The last question is from Hon. Mushoriwa where he mentioned something about RBZ securing funds and after that we are going to abandon S.I. 127. One of the areas that we have consistently worked on as Government is policy consistency.  Policy consistency that is critical for the development of this country in terms of our re-engagement efforts and in terms of having investors.  So I would want to allay the Hon. Member’s fears that what he thinks is going to happen is not going to happen.  We are very clear in terms of what we are doing as monetary authorities and as Government.  So I would want to assure the Hon. Member that we are not going to abandon S.I. 127.  We will make sure that at the end of the six months, we are going to review the situation and most likely bring the two Acts for amendment here in Parliament.  I thank you.

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MAVETERA):  Thank you very much Hon. Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development for the great presentation on S.I. 127.  I think I should also take this opportunity to thank you for being so prompt, very responsive and quite timely. Thank you. – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – We revert to business of the day.

          HON. T. MOYO:  Madam Speaker Ma’am, I move that the debate do now adjourn.

          HON. MPARIWA:  I second.

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  We do not adjourn debate for any Ministerial Statement. That is why I said we are going to go to the business of the day.

          HON. T. MOYO:  Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

          HON. T. MOYO:  I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 1 to 18 be stood over until Order of the Day Number 19 has been disposed of.

          HON. MPARIWA:  I second.

          Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HIGHER AND TERTIARY EDUCATION, INNOVATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT ON THE PETITION ON FEES INCREASES IN TERTIARY EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

          HON. T. MOYO:  Madam Speaker Ma’am, I move this motion which is a Committee report in the name of Hon. Maphosa That this House takes note of the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development on the Petition on Fees Increases in Tertiary Education Institutions. (S. C. 13, 2021)

          HON. CHINYANGANYA: I second.

          HON. T. MOYO:  Madam Speaker Ma’am.  The portfolio Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development is presenting a report on the petition of fees increase …

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  Order Hon. Moyo, may you please approach the Chair.

          Hon. T. Moyo approached the Chair.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

          HON. T. MOYO:  Madam Speaker Ma’am, I move that the Committee Report be stood over and we revert to Order of the Day Number 12.

          HON. DR. LABODE:  I second.

          Motion put and agreed to.

          (v)HON. MUSHORIWA:  Madam Speaker, on a point of order! Madam Speaker, I just want to reiterate, how is the Business of the House being organised?  We do not seem to have a proper system of running business these days.  What is happening?

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  I do not know if you have a way that you think you can propose for us because the way that we are running it is the proper way.

          (v)HON. MUSHORIWA:  No, but Madam Speaker, look at this issue.  We have a situation where the Acting Chief Whip moves to go to Order of the Day Number 18.  Then all of a sudden we are going to Order of the Day Number 12, I think that in terms of priority, we should be saying, on a day, if Government Business is not there, then we should deal with the other Orders of Day so that at least we dispose of the other Orders of the Day that are at the top of the Order Paper.

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  Hon. Mushoriwa that is exactly what we are doing.  Thank you very much.

MOTION

REPORT OF THE JOINT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND CHILD CARE AND THEMATIC COMMITTEE ON HIV AND AIDS ON THE PETITION FROM ADVOCACY CORE TEAM ON THE AGE OF CONSENT TO ACCESSING REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE SERVICES BY ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG PERSONS IN ZIMBABWE

HON. SAIZI:  Madam Speaker, I move the motion standing in my

name That this House takes note of the Report of the Joint Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and Thematic Committee on HIV and Aids on the Petition from Advocacy Core Team on the Age of Consent to Accessing Reproductive Healthcare Services by Adolescents and Young Persons in Zimbabwe.

          HON. DR. LABODE:  I second.

          HON. SAIZI:  Madam Speaker Ma’am, let me just go straight to the report itself.

          Introduction

Pursuant to Section 149 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Advocacy Core Team (ACT) petitioned Parliament of Zimbabwe on the age of consent to accessing reproductive health care services by adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe. Accordingly, the petition was referred to the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS for consideration. Thus, the Joint Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS considered the petition and resolved to inquire into the issues raised in the petition. This report is a summary of key findings on the enquiry into the subject matter.

 Objectives

The objectives of the enquiry were:

  1. To assess the level of access to reproductive health care services for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe;
  2. To understand the legal frameworks that support or hinder the provision of reproductive health care services for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe;

iii.             To appreciate the barriers to accessing reproductive health care services by adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe;

  1. To get first hand experiences and feedback from the public on the access to reproductive health care services for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe; and
  2. To solicit for public views and recommendations for improved reproductive health care services for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe.

 Methodology

Due to the exigencies of COVID-19 pandemic, the Joint Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and  Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS received separate oral evidence submissions from the petitioners, the Advocacy Core Team on the 1st and 14th of September 2020 respectively. The oral submissions were aimed at explaining in detail the issues that were raised in the petition.

On the 28th of September 2020, the Joint Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS held an oral evidence meeting with the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, General (Rtd.) Dr. C.G.D.N Chiwenga on the subject matter. The purpose of the meeting was to afford the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care the opportunity to respond to issues that were raised in the petition.

The Joint Committees considered the oral submissions from both the Advocacy Core Team and the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care. Thereafter, they resolved to conduct public hearings in selected areas in the ten provinces of the country from 9th to 12th November 2020. This was meant to solicit for public views on the subject matter. Accordingly, the Joint Committees split into three (3) teams as tabulated below.

Team 1

Date Place Venue Time of   Public

Hearing

09/11/2020 Hwange Lwendulu Hall 1100hrs-1300hrs
10/11/2020 Bubi Tatazela Hall Inyathi 0900hrs-1100hrs
10/11/2020 Nkayi Agape Mission 1400hrs-1600hrs
11/11/2020 Gwanda Gwanda Hotel 0900hrs-1100hrs
11/11/2020 Plumtree Plumtree Community Hall 1430hrs-1630hrs
12/11/2020 Bulawayo Nkulumane Hall 0900hrs-1100hrs
12/11/2020 Bulawayo Pumula South Hall 1400hrs- 1600hrs

 

Team2

Date Place Venue Time of Public Hearing
09/11/2020 Wedza Wedza Sunshine Inn 1000hrs-1200hrs
09/11/2020 Marondera Mbuya Nehanda Hall 1430hrs-1630hrs
10/11/2020 Bindura Chipadze Hall 1000hrs-1200hrs
10/11/2020 Mt Darwin Mt Darwin Community Hall 1400hrs-1600hrs
11/11/2020 Karoi Chikangwe Community Hall 1000hrs-1200hrs
11/11/2020 Chinhoyi Cooksey Hall 1400hrs-1600hrs
12/11/2020 Chitungwiza UNIT L Hall 1000hrs-1200hrs
12/11/2020 Harare City Sports Centre 1430hrs-1630hrs

 

 

Team 3

09/11/2020 Gokwe Gokwe Community Hall 1030hrs-1230hrs
10/11/2020 Gweru Mkoba Hall 0900hrs-1100hrs
10/11/2020 Gweru Gweru Main Theatre Hall 1400hrs-1600hrs
11/11/2020 Masvingo Mucheke Hall 0900hrs-1100hrs
11/11/2020 Bikita Better Schools Program Nyika Hall 1400hrs-1600hrs
12/11/2020 Mutare Sakubva BeitHall 0900hrs-1100hrs
12/11/2020 Rusape Vengere 602 Hall Makoni 1400hrs-1600hrs

3.4 In addition, the Joint Committees also received written submissions via email and  Webinar platforms. The public hearings were funded by Parliament in conjunction with   the National AIDS Council with its Strategic Partners namely: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Educational, Scientific and   Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and World Health Organisation (WHO).

Petitioners’ Prayer

In the petition, the Advocacy Core Team was beseeching Parliament to consider amendments to the relevant legislations that ensure all adolescents and young persons under the age of 18 years can consent to accessing reproductive health services by ensuring that:

  1. The Public Health Act of 2018 is amended to provide that there should be no age restrictions on accessing Reproductive Health Care Services by persons aged 12 years and above, and these services include: HIV testing, pre and post counseling, access to contraceptives and other pregnancy prevention management services for adolescents and young people; and to ensure that there are proper administrative measures to monitor and provide Reproductive Health Rights for persons aged 12 years and above.
  2. The Children Justice Bill is enacted to provide for access to reproductive health services for adolescents and young people aged 12 years and above;

iii.                All other appropriate legislations are amended to ensure consistency among policies guaranteeing access to critical and often life saving health care services for adolescents and young people.

Summary of Submissions

EVIDENCE FROM ORAL SUBMISSIONS

Access to Reproductive Health Care Services among Adolescents: The requirement of Consent as a Barrier.

Unpacking the petition to the Joint Committees, the Advocacy Core Team explained that the petition does not seek to adjust the age of consent to sexual behaviour or the minimum age of marriage, hence this should not be linked to the age at which adolescents can access reproductive health information, education and services.

The Advocacy Core Team argued that:

In spite of Sections 76 and 81 (f) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe guaranteeing everyone the right to health care services including Reproductive Health Care Services (RHS), the setting of legal minimum age with which an adolescent can access RHS without parental or third party consent has created a barrier for adolescents to effectively access these services.

For instance, reference was made to Section 35 of the Public Health Act of 2018 and the National HIV Testing Guidelines of 2014 which limit the age to accessing Reproductive Health Care Services to 16 years.

The Advocacy Core Team also cited the National Adolescents and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health Strategy II, 2016-2020 (ASRH Strategy II) as the Government of Zimbabwe’s guiding document for the provision of Reproductive Health Care Services for adolescents and youths. They stated that the ASRH Strategy II targets the age groups between 10-24 years and advocates for Reproductive Health Care Services for adolescents to be provided in a youth friendly way.

 During the oral session held on the 28th of September 2020, the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care concurred that Section 76 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe  guarantees health for everyone including Reproductive Health Care Services. He also confirmed the existence of the National Adolescents and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health Strategy II, 2016-2020 (ASRH Strategy II) but emphasized that the ASRH Strategy II is premised on-age appropriate sexual reproductive health information and services. Furthermore, the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care confirmed the existence of the National HIV Testing Guidelines of 2014 which limits the age to access these services to 16 years.

However, the Advocacy Core Team further argued that the requirement of consent is also limiting health care service providers from effectively attending to adolescents when providing reproductive health care services due to inadequate legal protection where services are rendered without the legal consent. The petitioners implored the Joint Committees to consider legislation that protects health care service providers and third parties from liability where they provide reproductive health-care services or consent to provision of such services in matters involving persons below the age of 16.

 The Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care asserted that:

Ideally, individuals with the capacity to consent should be allowed to do so, no matter what their age. Assessment of capacity however, is rarely straight forward for adolescents. Capacity to consent requires the ability to communicate a choice, to understand the options, to reason effectively about these options, and to make an un-coerced decision... Active involvement of a concerned and capable parent is the best possible situation for sexually active adolescents… Parents are presumed to be competent decision makers. They have legal and financial duties to care for children including adolescents…

 The Advocacy Core Team further purported that the restrictions have resulted in a public health concern in matters relating to the increasing spread of HIV and STIs among adolescents, unplanned parenthood, illegal termination of pregnancies, and the perpetual vulnerability of adolescents, in particular the girl child. To buttress their case, the Advocacy Core Team presented the following statistics:

 The national teenage pregnancy rate was at 22%;

  • Studies show a general lack of comprehensive information and knowledge about reproductive health-care services (RHS) among adolescents and according to Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey, 2015 (ZDHS 2015), only 41% of boys and girls in the 15-19 age groups have sufficient knowledge or information on reproductive health;
  • Zimbabwe has one of the highest maternal mortality in the region and 15% of these are among adolescents and young people,
  • AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescents and is the cause of an increase of 50% in adolescent mortality giving negative RHS outcomes according to the World Health Organization (WHO);
  • According to the progress report on the 90-90-90 Global fast track targets on HIV, 48% of young people in Zimbabwe do not know their HIV status as they need parental consent. One of the key contributors to this outcome is the age of consent for accessing SRHR, HIV and AIDS services as there is no law that explicitly define the age of consent for accessing SRH services.

 5.1.9 Causes of Early Sexual Activity among Adolescents

The Advocacy Core Team attributed the causes of early sexual behaviour to:

  • Modern Food and Diet;
  • Peer Influence/Pressure;
  • Social Context; Technology-Internet,
  • TV and Globalisation of Western Culture;
  • Parental Behaviour—some parents are absent from their homes in pursuance of jobs while others subscribe to religious sects that promote child marriages;
  • Reduction in Abstinence Messaging;
  • Genetics – (may be subset of Modern Food and technology); and
  • “Coercion.” 

On the same note, the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care singled out poverty as the key driver to early sexual behaviour among adolescents in Zimbabwe. He therefore, emphasised that key issues to be addressed are the underlying causes of early sexual activity like poverty, school drop-outs and orphanhood.

Evidence Gathered During the Public Hearings

It is imperative to state on the onset that young women, adolescents and youths were mostly in support of the petition while older women, men and religious leaders formed majority of the resenting voice.

Key drivers of early sexual behaviour among young people

Submissions that were made during the public hearings also spoke to some of the issues that were presented to the Joint Committees during the oral evidence meetings with the Advocacy Core Team and the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care. These include the key drivers to early sexual behaviour among adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe and barriers that restrict access to the SRHR services by adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe. It was higlighted that the diverse nature of young people affects their sexual behaviour. The categories mentioned were namely: orphaned children, child-headed families, children on the streets, children in school, children out of school, children indulging in alcohol and drug abuse. The following is a summary of the submissions made in relation to the key drivers of early sexual behaviour:

Poverty

It was noted that economic challenges among young people in Zimbabwe and their diverse backgrounds were forcing them to eke out a living by selling sex (child prostitution).

Absence of social safety net for Exposure to technology-

Unguided use of technology was exposing children to sex related material on internet, for example pornography. Consequently, children were tempted to experiment on what they see.

Alcohol and drug abuse—It was submitted that Vuzu parties were rampant in Bulawayo and other parts of the country where adolescents and young persons were said to be indulging in sexual behaviour.

Communication between parents and children—It was observed that there was poor or lack of communication as parents either are too busy, absent (diaspora) or think it is inappropriate to talk about sexual reproductive health issues with their children.

Lack or inadequate information on SRHR—It was observed that young people fail to make informed decisions about their SRHR needs due to lack of or inadequate information about their bodies and risks associated with indulging in early sexual behaviour.

 Indiscipline—it was pointed out that deviant behavior by young people was leading them to making wrong decisions or choices on their SRHR needs.

Broken down families and social fabrics— It was submitted that families and societies were no longer as closely-knitted as they were in yester years, hence, children were now  vulnerable as they are exposed to abuse from some rogue elements in both the families and societies. The submissions that were made to the Committee also revealed that most of sexual abuse cases involving children, the perpetrators are parents, guardians, close relatives or pastors and most of these cases go unreported.

Early Puberty—It was observed that early puberty may be due to inorganic food or lifestyles. Thus, as children develop physically faster than their real age, it changes how they think about themselves and how people relate to them socially. Consequently, young persons were more likely to hang out with friend older than themselves who engage in risky behaviours such as early sexual behavior and substance abuse.

Peer pressure among young people—It was noted that in the absence of appropriate guidance, children were prone to give in to pressure and to conform to what their peers do.

Barriers in Accessing SRHR Services By Adolescents and Young People

Restrictive legal framework—Public Health Act requires that a minor below the age of 16 years be accompanied by a parent or guardian when seeking health care services. It was noted that this requirement makes it difficult for young people to access SRHR services, especially in cases where the parent or guardian is a perpetrator. Further to this, there is absence of a legal framework that protects the service providers in providing SRHR services to young people.

Unfriendly services—there were concerns that service providers had a judgmental attitude towards young people who seek SRHR services and information.

Cultural and religious beliefs—It was regarded a taboo in both African culture and Christianity in general, for young people to indulge in sexual intercourse at a tender age.

User fees—it was highlighted that young people did not afford the costs associated with accessing SRHR services.

Submissions in Support of the Petition

The Committee was informed that young persons in Zimbabwe should be permitted to access healthcare services without parental consent since facts on the ground show that children are engaging in sexual acts, yet it is culturally a taboo for a child to discuss sexual matters with a parent.

Children were already exposed to a lot of misguiding sexuality information from the internet and social media and it was better to give them comprehensive sexuality education  and avail Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services at their disposal to safeguard them from negative consequences of bad sexuality decisions and practices. Opening up access to SRHR services would help children make informed decisions about their sexual health and avoid health hazards such as unintended pregnancy, illegal and unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections. It would further promote awareness of HIV/AIDS status by adolescents and the young persons in Zimbabwe.

It was submitted that upholding the Constitutional principle of “best interest of the child” first was critical since some young persons and adolescents were being sexually abused by their parents or guardians as well as close relatives. Therefore, restricting them to only accessing healthcare services with parental or guardian consent would present a conflict of interest for the perpetrator who happen to be the guardian or close relative. Consequently, the parental or guardian consent becomes an impediment to adolescents and young persons in such circumstances and may result in increasing cases of unwanted pregnancies, illegal and

It was also submitted that, the restriction on accessing health care services by adolescents imposed by Acts and policies should be amended to take into account the needs for access by children in child headed families and those that are on the streets. It was further submitted that Zimbabwe health systems should work towards achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 that seeks to promote good health and wellbeing by ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

Some members of the public submitted that promoting access to reproductive health care services for adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe without the need for parental consent would encourage young persons and adolescents to seek guidance on sexual reproductive health from the right platforms such as youth friendly corners. There were concerns that the current socio-cultural system  does not provide room for adolescents to discuss with their parents about sexual reproductive health as a result they tend to seek advice or guidance from wrong platforms that can be misleading.

The Committee was also informed that there was need to amend the Public Health Act and open up access to health to protect children living with disabilities who are vulnerable to abuse and face communication barriers with health personnel too.

 It was submitted that abstinence and morality messaging should continue but for those children who fail to abstain, Government should open up services and yet still prefix such assistance with proper counseling and removal of user fees. Only children that would need the services due to different circumstances are the once who should access services and it should not be mandatory.

Moreover, it was highlighted that health personnel responsible for providing healthcare services should be educated on the proper code of conduct that does not discourage adolescents and young person’s to access such services. There was need for a reliable toll free line to ease access to information. In addition, legislation that protects the health service providers should be in place to ensure effective service delivery on reproductive health care services for adolescents and young people.

Some members of public noted that SRHR is broad and is not just about sex, but covers other non-sex issues which are difficult to open up to parents like menstrual hygiene and other matters of puberty. Allowing children access to SRHR services would ensure that they get the needed help in every facet of SRHR.

Concerns were raised regarding adolescent or teenage pregnancies which promote the vicious poverty cycle involving school drop outs, child marriages and Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in society and which also condemns especially the girl child to suffering and sometimes death. It was felt that it was better to give even the so called naughty children a second chance in life and not let a sexual morality failure prescribe perpetual doom for their future.

Opening up SRHR services will help the children in need and will not promote promiscuity or errant behaviour, just like children who know where to get drugs of abuse but still choose not to use them.

Submissions opposed to the Petition

It was submitted that statistics showed that the national teenage pregnancy rate was at 22%. Additionally, Zimbabwe Demographic and Health survey in 2015 reveals that the highest percentage of teenage girl pregnancies was among 18 and 19 years of age. Of these, almost two thirds were in rural areas. It further reveals risk factors for teenage pregnancy as low level of education, living in rural areas and teenagers in the lowest wealth quintile. Against this backdrop, young persons and adolescents did not require access to sexual reproductive health services without parental or guardian consent rather they need access to education, opportunities of higher education and employment, improved protection from sexual abuse and information on reproductive health.

It was also submitted that Section 60 (3) states that parents and guardians of minor children have the right to determine, in accordance with their beliefs, the moral and religious upbringing of their children. Contrary to Section 60 (3), the petition seeks to take away the parents’ right to preside over the moral and religious upbringing of their children and a child’s right to belong and be identified with a family through values. Furthermore, the Criminal Law (Codification Reform Act) stipulates that a child below the age of 16 is not capable of consenting to sexual intercourse and it is an offense to have sex with children below that age. In their views, the petition seeks to encourage an offense that is prohibited by the criminal law of Zimbabwe.

It was further submitted that promoting access to reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe without parental consent was seen as a way to encourage young persons and adolescents to indulge in immoral behaviors. Thus, they underscored the need to revive social clubs or recreational facilities that will occupy young persons and discourage idle time that leads to sexual immorality.

The Committee was also informed that some services that were being advocated for by the petition such as access to contraceptives were viewed as harmful to adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe. They therefore argued that such reproductive health services should be rendered to responsible individuals and not adolescents and young persons who are still maturing. They also proposed that a comprehensive study be conducted to ascertain the long term effects of contraceptive use by minors. They further argued that the health system was currently struggling to provide contraceptives to women in Zimbabwe, hence there was no need to increase the number of those accessing contraceptives.

Zimbabwe was regarded as a Christian state and rooted in morality and in their view, the petition suggested that our trusted religions had failed, which they totally disputed and for them, getting back to the roots and Christianity was the solution. Accepting the petition was seen as tantamount to giving up on children. Teaching children abstinence and moral righteousness were the only solution to SRHR challenges that the petition seeks to solve. It was pointed out that disobedient children should not cause change of law or be protected but face the consequences.

They also pointed out that parental guidance and protection was an integral part of our Ubuntu and children will always need their Parents support and should never be left to run their sexuality before reaching adulthood. Taking away parents’ protection from children would in their view, have detrimental implications which would lead to an immoral society.

 In their view, opening up access to SRHR will result in more child exploitation, statutory rape, shortage of contraceptives, abortion on demand, rights without responsibility, collapse of family structure and spiritual bondages.

They advocated for the age of consent restriction to remain, arguing that the very fear of getting pregnant or sick would ensure that children abstain and remain safe; but once they get access to SRHR services on their own, they will be tempted to indulge.

     Joint Committees’ Observations

The Joint Committees made the following observations on the submissions received on the petition:

In spite of the diverse nature of adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe which brings about differences in their SRHR needs, they do not have access to reproductive healthcare services.

Although Section 76 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for healthcare services, including reproductive healthcare services for every citizen, the Public Health Act of 2018 restricts age of consent to access the same to 16 years.  Furthermore, there is no law or policy that protects the service providers when they provide the SRHR services to adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe.

Apart from the restrictive legal framework, culture, religion and the judgmental attitudes of the service providers act as barriers impeding adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe from accessing SRHR services.

The Education Amendment Act allows pregnant girls to be in school yet provision of SRHR services is restricted to 16 years.

Most young women, adolescents and youths who participated during the public hearings were in support of the petition while older women, men and religious leaders formed majority of the resenting voice.

While parents/guardians, culture and religion play a very important role in the upbringing of children, statistics have shown that adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe are indulging in early sexual intercourse when they are ill-prepared for the risks associated with such behavior, hence the petition to Parliament.

Some of the young people could not express their opinions freely in the presence of their elders and religious leaders during the public hearings.

There was an outstanding misconception that the petition sought to lower the age of consent to sex and promote mandatory distribution of contraceptives to all children.

Despite the divergent views, there remained a unanimous agreement on the gravity of the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights matter as raised in the petition. However, it was on the solutions that the submissions would differ.

Considerable number of participants, especially those against the petition attested to lacking appreciation of the petition’s contents. A consequently, they had misconceptions from social media and other lobby groups thus; the committee had to intervene to clarify its mission more often. As is the case with most parliament hearings, majority of people in the grassroots did not get a copy of the document under discussion ahead of the meetings.

Despite it not being the core of the petition, there was an overwhelming support for harmonisation of ages of consent to sex and marriage at 18 years.

Joint Committees’ Recommendations

Flowing from the above observations, the Joint Committees recommend the following:

Adolescents are not a homogenous group of people, hence the MoHCC should provide case by case assessment of this diverse group in order to provide for their varying SRHR needs, especially the at-risk adolescents and young person’s by December 2021.

The MoHCC should amend Section 35 of the Public Health Act to provide SRHR services for young people under the age of 18 years and provide for the protection of the service providers by June 2022. Furthermore, service providers should be trained on how to provide friendly SRHR services to adolescents and young person’s by April 2022.

The MoHCC should embark on awareness campaigns on SRHR issues for young persons in Zimbabwe by August 2022.  The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and MoHCC should immediately ensure that pregnant girls in school access SRHR services without difficulties.

MoHCC should ensure that adolescents and young persons friendly corners are established where it is convenient for them to access the SRHR services by June 2022.

The custodians of culture and religion should not tire in strengthening their systems in the upbringing of children and should continue to preach the abstinence message in order to instill moral values in children.

The Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation should provide recreational facilities for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe in order to occupy themselves reasonably by December 2022.s

 The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development should allocate substantial budget to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare in the 2022 National Budget to enable it to provide the social protection measures for the vulnerable adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe in meeting their financial needs.

The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs should immediately expedite the amendment of relevant legislations to provide for more deterrent sentences to perpetrators of child sexual abuse or rapists or child sexual exploitation.

Conclusion

Despite the divergent views on the most appropriate course of action to take, it is evident that the issues that were raised by the Advocacy Core Team in their petition were lived realities in the communities of Zimbabwe. Adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe are indulging in early sexual behaviour and what drives them into this varies depending on circumstances. What is worrying are the undesirable consequences associated with this risk behavior, which the prayer of the petition attempts to address. It is, therefore, important for the Ministry of Health and Child Care to ensure that access to SRHR services by adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe is accommodative to cater for them in their diverse nature. I thank you.

HON. DR. LABODE:  I will start by putting a disclaimer that the report has no intention of discussing the age of consent to sex.  There was a feeling that the petition was about age of consent to sex and age of consent to marriage – the disclaimer is that it was not about that.  It was about a youth or an adolescent accessing sexual reproductive health services.

          I will touch on one of the challenges that we actually face but before I do that, I need to take all of us back to our Constitution.  Section 76 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe reads: “Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to have access to basic health-care services, including reproductive health-care services”.   We then go to the Public Health Act which says; “For the purpose of this section, informed consent to accessing health services means consent for the provision of specified health services given by a person with legal right to do so.  How do we then offer services?  We have decided that you must have a legal capacity and we know that legal capacity is 18 years of age.

How do we move to that when we have statistics like one in five teenagers are pregnant before the age of 18?  That, Madam Speaker means that, one in five young girls below the age of 18 are having sex, whether we like it or not. They are not being impregnated by demons, no.  They are having sex and they are getting pregnant and one in three girls find themselves in a child marriage before the age of 18 and we sit here in this Parliament and say we have got a law that is against child marriages.  They are getting married because they are pregnant.  They are getting pregnant because they cannot access health services.  The law says you cannot go and access services.  The same Constitution turns and says at the age of 16, you can have sex.  If I have sex, can I not get pregnant?  I will get pregnant, I will get an STD, I will get HIV and if I reach that stage, I may have to make a decision.  Do I keep this pregnancy and find somebody to marry me or do I keep this pregnancy and hope I will deliver safely which is not a guarantee or do I go for illegal abortion so that I remove that pregnancy.

Statistics show that we have very high rates of unsafe abortion and a very high incident of HIV among the youths.  Remember Madam Speaker that Zimbabwe is signatory to the SDGs 90, 90, 90, meaning that by the time we reach 2030, we would have achieved certain goals.  We had ensured that 95% of Zimbabweans know their status, 95% of Zimbabweans are on treatment and reduce mortality but the way we are heading because we want to pretend that these things are not happening, we have put ourselves in such a difficult situation.  Here is one, there was mention of religious and cultural issues.  It is because Zimbabweans, we are hypocrites.  We are burying our heads in the sand, pretending that the current epidemic – it is as if an epidemic of teenage pregnancies is not a problem.  It is a problem.  It is destroying girls’ and boys’ lives because if a boy who is 15 impregnates somebody you must marry them.  It is destroying their lives.  We hide behind our cultural values, yet if we look back, our grandmothers got married when they were only 14, 15, 16 years of age.  I do not know who is turning around saying it is a cultural taboo.  It is not a cultural taboo.  It became a taboo now.  When our grandparents were getting married they were young and so it is not a taboo.

We also hide behind religion.  I brought a Bible Madam Speaker to tell you that it is not true.  In John 8, when the Pharisees brought a woman who was adulterous to him and said, ‘this woman is adulterous.  According to Moses’ law, we must stone her.  Jesus knelt down and was drawing something and then he said to them, those of you who have not sinned, throw the stone’.  They all disappeared.  He is a good and forgiving God.  If there is a problem, we must deal with it.  Let us not hide behind the Bible.  In Hebrews, you find the first patriarchs.  Do you know one of the first patriarchs is Rahab?  A prostitute who served the people sent by Joshua to survey an area and she is in the Bible as the Patriarch of faith.  Why did Jesus not judge her?  Who are we?  The very churches we are talking about girls are getting pregnant in the churches and we want to keep quiet.  We want to pretend all of us to say this is not happening.  This is happening.  Children are having sex and we do not want to accuse anybody.  We are saying let us help them, that is what we want to do.

He also brought out the issue of poverty.  That over archs everything.  Poverty has laid separation of parents to diaspora leaving children here on their own.  That is where these boozy parties happen.  You leave a child in a nice house in town and when weekend comes, the friends say let us come to your house and drink and they start the boozy party.  The boozy party is about alcohol and sex.  They have lost the understanding of sex.  You have the media and a lot of children who have no parents and they open whatever.

They open an SABC and what do they see there?  They see people shaking their backs and say John Vuli igedi nansi i-stoko and you expect children to be normal when they come out of there.  They also continue doing the John vuli igedi. Zimbabwe has good policies.  I told you we are hypocrites because while the law says you cannot access services without your parent, if a child of 14 today in Zimbabwe went to the National Family Planning Council and said they wanted contraceptives, they question them.  Are you married?  If you say yes you are given.  If you say no, they say are you having sex.  If you say yes they give it to you.  We like doing things behind the back.

We lack bold men and women who can stand up and say let us change the law.  That we cannot do but we are doing these things.  Go to National Aids Council, because of the challenge of young children becoming positive, they decided to put a policy which is contrary to the law.  It says, ‘If the service provider should be the one to assess your maturity to be able to understand or to be tested…’.  That maturity which is being used in family planning and other places should be what we have in our documents, in our Constitution and in our Act.  Indeed the child decides to go and have sex on her own.  She does not consult anybody.  Because she decides, when she has got an STD, allow her to decide to go and get treatment or when she decides to have sex, allow her on her own to go and get prevention.  We tend to feel that our children are too young and I understand that I am a grandmother and a mother.  I understand exactly how people emotionally feel but let us face the fact and that we need to do.

Zimbabwe is also a signatory to a lot of international commitments for global solutions.  We have the ICPD25.  The ICPD25 is a document which is in the custody of the Minister of Finance. It was signed by Prof. Mtuli Ncube.  This document is Zimbabwean specific commitment for a sexual reproductive health.  It was presented in Nairobi on behalf of Zimbabwe.  It was yours truly, Hon. Kwaramba and Hon. Priscilla who went with this document.  The Minister could not go because it was the time of Budget.  Ideally, other countries, the document was presented by Ministers and Heads of State.  The document is very clear.  It says, Zimbabwe shall endeavour to ensure that the adolescent access, comprehensive, information and quality timely service.  That is what we said.  We said this yet we knew we have this animal called Section 35 in the Public Health Act.  We need to deal with that.  We know what we need to do but we just do not have the guts or we are thinking that there is a sin somewhere. I do not think there is a sin, we are helping our children.  If we present such documents and this document is what brings into the country the US$16 million that buys contraceptives for Zimbabweans. As a country, we do not put a cent.  The US$16 million came from these commitments.

We had to defend this in Nairobi, to say that is what we are going to do.  When they were asking us - how are you going to do it when you have got this “chimutemo,” we said ‘no, we will go and amend so that we get the money’.  So, please let us start now doing the right things properly.

I wanted also just to refer to some documents.  The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council has a strategy.  The strategy is very clear.  It just says we shall offer. Meeting the sexual and reproductive health and rights needs of the young people is a challenge in Zimbabwe.  Despite several recent initiatives, youth friendly reproductive and sexual services, the youths still cannot access the available services because of the law.  If we actually pass a law that says anybody below the age of 18 can access health services, they will then go “kuzvikoro” to say once you start sex, you should do this.  They cannot do it because what they are doing right now to give the youths some contraceptives is actually just trying to be humans to protect these youths.

There is this Zimbabwe National Family Concept Plan.  I thought I should bring this to this House because it is important for us to understand that the $16 million we were getting is part of the 167 million pounds that Britain and other countries were putting into UNFPA to purchase contraceptives for African and Asian countries and probably Central America.  Our share was $16 million.  However, that $16 million was not calculated properly because one of the ingredient we need is a variable.  You were basing your calculation of your needs on the people who are 18 years up to 50 years yet we have the 18 and below who are also consuming illegally from that load.  So, it is important that we are helping the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council which is a Government entity to calculate properly if they have the right law.  It is what we intend to do because the British Government has decided to actually withdraw those donor funds.

It even becomes more important for us to be able to argue that we now have an increased number of people who will need contraceptives; please do not abandon us.  To that effect, as a technical working group, we have written a letter of appeal to the UK Embassy here in Harare asking to say, we are in the process of amending Section 35 to include the youths.  It will mean that we are not ready for the extra burden that is coming on our load.  What I am saying is that there is a lot of work people are doing around this issue which we are not supporting.

 Youths are considered as adolescents and Zimbabwe in the Global Fund which we submitted, it says we shall leave no one behind.  We shall ensure that the youths get treatment. Can we get the treatment when Section 35 says no?  You cannot.  It is only those who have got parents who can take them to the private sector and can access the health of the people.  We even developed as a nation, a National Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive.  When we are out there, we shine “mufunge.  Tinenge tine madocuments ese awa.”  This document was developed with youths and the sector ministries.  In this document, it is very clear that the youths shall be supported to access health services and health information.

We went on and did a fantastic thing by passing the law of comprehensive sexual education.  Also, as part of that, we decided to retain pregnant girls in schools but what happens to a 13 year old, 14 year old or 15 year old who is pregnant who now needs to go and access health services?  The clinic nurse will say, “uchiri mwana mudiki,” go and bring your parents.  Maybe they are even in a boarding school or somewhere but if this girl is given that mandate or if we give them that authority, the girl will go and be seen by the nurse.  I am standing here and saying, I strongly believe if we could amend Section 35 of the Public Health Act, we can reduce teenage pregnancies by 75%.  They will automatically go.  It is just that the adolescents cannot access these services.

THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MAVETERA):  You are left with five minutes Hon. Dr. Labode.

HON. DR. LABODE:  Thank you.  As I stand here personally, I am asking the Minister of Health and Child Care to bring the Public Health Act and amend Section 35 to include a section that says, “any child who is below the age of 18 and is sexually active, when they get to a hospital and say I am sexually active, every other question should go.”  That child should be given what she needs.  Thank you very much.

           (v)*HON. KWARAMBA:  Thank you very much Hon. Speaker.  I would like to thank the previous speaker Hon. Labode.  Adolescents should have knowledge about sexual health.  They should be taught what it is all about.  We are not saying they should be taught about sex at a very tender age and we are not saying we should reduce the age of consent.  What we are saying is; children must be taught at that young age, let us say 12 years.  They should know their rights so that they know as adolescents if they sleep with an older person, they fall pregnant.  They should be aware of the consequences.  We have 5000 girls who fell pregnant.  If only these girls were taught and made aware of the consequences, they would not have fallen pregnant.  It should be their own consent knowing what will happen after the action they would have taken.  This is why we are saying children should be taught about the consequences of indulging in sexual activities.

          Girls try to terminate pregnancies because they do not feel the consequences.  Sexual health services should reach these young people.  All those girls who fell pregnant during the Covid pandemic should be given an opportunity to go back to school.  According to the current Health Act, when those who are pregnant go to the hospitals, they should be in the company of their parents.

          Also, health personnel should be trained on how to handle the young people who would have fallen pregnant.  If adolescents visit health centres to get themselves tested for HIV, let them be tested.  If the health personnel assist these adolescents who visit health centres without the company of parents, you would find that there will be consequences to them for assisting the young ones.  They are actually afraid of getting arrested.  The law should have a leeway to allow for that provision because these things are happening.  Our children are indulging in sexual activities.  For child headed families, what will they do?  Are they being blocked from accessing such services?  That law which says children should be accompanied by an adult to a health centre should be removed because some are child headed families.

          There are some sections of the law that we are not following. We are saying children should be taught and trained on sexual health. When children have been exposed to this education they should have an opportunity to make a choice of their own and they will be knowing the consequences that they are exposing themselves to when they go on and sleep, have sex and fall pregnant. What we are saying is these SRHR issues should be taught to children so that they know the consequences.

What it means is what we drew ourselves to follow - we cannot achieve it. It is a tall order for us. So what we are saying is our children are sleeping with older men at a tender age and so they should know so that they are able to be safeguarded because you are equipped with information. They should be able to make a choice because they have been taught so that they know the consequences if they proceed with certain actions. They should be taught on Sexual Reproductive Health Services so that they know the consequences. I support this petition. SDG 3 says we should not leave anyone behind. Let us walk with them because they should never walk alone. Thank you.

           (v)*HON. P. ZHOU: Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to contribute to this issue. I would like to support what came out in this report that was given before us which was read out by Hon. Size and supported by the Chairperson of this Committee Hon. Labode. Allow me to say what was said by the advocacy core-team - we heard it from where we held meetings. We saw that what they mentioned was true. We went around to 22 centres in this whole country. The advocacy core-team asked Parliament to say some of the laws that are aligned to SRHR be looked at. The focus was on the rights of children under the age of 18.

          All the children who are referred to as adolescents should have access to sexual health care education with regards to SRHR such as HIV testing or how to prevent pregnancy. They should know all this information. This is very important for their good and even their private parts. Those are some of the things they should know and they should have access to such information. Other children might want to know about their periods. It is very difficult for children to talk to their own parents. Their uncles might be far away but still they want to know about this information. How then will they know the laws that are there? It is our desire that these laws are reviewed so that children have access to sexual health information or even services from health centres despite their age.

          So, the main objective of reviewing these laws is not to promote sexual behavior which is bad.  Even if Section 17 and 71 of our Constitution gives everyone an opportunity to have access to health services, but when it comes to age, that is where the issue is and being accompanied to access health care services. These have caused a lot of problems in the lives of those who are young to this day. Children of today are different from us. We grew up without knowing pornography or watching it on line but today’s children, because of influence from their friends, are watching a lot because of social media.

          We should show that we are organised and enable these children to learn the reality of what is happening, not to allow them to learn from their friends - of which they might be learning something which is very toxic. Let us look at the law of National HIV Testing and Guiding. These laws looked down upon the children on their rights. They should be reviewed instead. Children should be open and free, despite their age - whether it is a boy or a girl. All of them should have access to sexual reproductive health services. We ask those who are going to be assisting these children to be taught and made aware of what they are expected to do so that they do not blame these young ones when they come forward seeking these sexual reproductive health services.

          This area needs serious attention. So Parliament, let us come together and find a sustainable solution.  It is our desire to see the Ministry of Health reviewing this law. The oppression, the segregation and the discrimination you get when you are seeking sexual reproductive health, especially children of the young age, those laws should be reviewed. They should be allowed to get assistance. They should not be harassed or interrogated. The way the generation of today is growing is totally different from our generation - it is a different dimension. A lot of girls are getting impregnated and in their efforts to come and get rid of the pregnancies, get rid of their own children and have problems. You find that a young girl will have a baby. The baby is young and the mother is young.

          THE TEMPRORARY SPEAKER (HON. MAVETERA): Hon. Zhou your network is not consistent and we are losing you but now we can hear you clearly.

          (v)* HON. P. ZHOU: In some nations - the law protects the children from harassment and discrimination when they seek sexual reproductive health, that is the way to go. Even some children who are asked to bring a parent or a guardian to access these health services, it is impossible because some of them are orphaned.  Where will they get that someone?  If a child has a itching private parts, parents may quickly react.  We kindly request that the laws be reviewed to allow adolescents to access these health services.  It is very important for them.  Those who are assisting them should be conscientised to the fact that these children have rights.  It is even proper to include this information to the school curriculum so that the children learn at a young age what is expected of them and the consequences when they take certain action.

          We are not encouraging children to engage in prostitution.  Children should be able to get help because even if we deny it, children are engaging in sex and getting impregnated at a very young age.  Boys are impregnating at a very young age.  It is improper for grandparents to send their children as well as grandchildren to school.  It is very important that we assist these adolescents to get access to SRHR health services.  Those in the Health Services Department should be trained in proper Public Relations skills to understand how to handle such situations.  It should be a weapon to equip them so that educationally, they know what steps and direction to take.  It is also important for them to know what to take and even to condomise at that young age.

          Children are doing a lot of things behind our backs and that is the reality.  We should have legislation instead, that ensures the safety of children.  We cannot afford to have a lost generation.  I thank you.

          (v)HON. TOFFA:  Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am for affording me this opportunity to add my voice and support to our joint report as Portfolio Committee of Health and Child Care and the Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS for the age of consent to accessing reproductive healthcare and services by adolescents and young persons of Zimbabwe.  Madam Speaker Ma’am, I would like to first of all thank Hon. Saizi for articulating our report in a very good way.  I would also like to thank the seconder, Hon. Dr. Labode for giving examples and the position that we are in as Zimbabwe.

From the onset, I would like to recommend that we amend the 2018 Public Health law.  Madam Speaker Ma’am, as was earlier alluded by Hon. Dr. Labode, it is important that we make sure that people understand that we are talking about the access to health for young people and adolescents.  Most of what I would have liked to say has been spoken to but as we amend the law, I would like, as a Government, to align to the reality that is there in our communities.  One thing that we must be alive to, inasmuch as the adults, churches and cultural leaders were against access to health rights; it is important for us to know and for them to know that whether we like it or not, those children are engaging in sex with or without their permission.

These children then get infected by STIs and the current law, as stated by our report, does not allow children to access health and health facilities at the clinics and doctors without their parents.  So as we know in our culture, society and country, there is no way that a young child can actually go to the parent and tell them, ‘Mom or aunt, I have got an STI or there is something wrong with me because I indulged in sexual intercourse.  Can we go to a clinic?’  What then happens in most cases Madam Speaker Ma’am is that the children who come from poverty stricken/aligned areas or homes suffer the brunt of going through all the trauma of going through pregnancies.  Whilst the children from affluent families, church leaders, traditional and community leaders are then taken privately to doctors and hospitals and go through procedures of safe abortion.  The poor young people then will go to the neighbourhood old grannies where they get unsafe treatment and abortions.

          Madam Speaker Ma’am, I remember in the last Parliament, as Members of Parliament, we went to Msasa Project.  When we went to Msasa Project, we saw young children as young as the age of 10 years old.  The following week, they were brought to this very Parliament and sat in that Gallery.  The children were impregnated by very close family members such as fathers, brothers and uncles.  In Bulawayo Madam Speaker Ma’am, there is a Safe House what used to be a hotel which is now a home.  At that home, when I went, it was towards winter; I went there to donate some winter clothing.  I thought it was an orphanage, only to be surprised that it was a safe home.  I was met by young children and I did not think for a moment that those children could be parents.

          To my surprise Madam Speaker Ma’am, when I asked how many orphans they had, the proprietor of the institution explained to me that this was a safe home for children that were abused and mostly if not 99.99% were abused by family members.  Madam Speaker, if we amend this law and also introduce awareness and education in schools, it will help these children understand, may be to speak at an early age, tell their teacher, go to clinics and hospitals early before it is too late for them to be treated.

          As we went around as a Committee, we realised that the young people were not given an opportunity to speak out.  What would happen in most cases would be that the church leaders and community leaders would organise themselves in front and make sure that they would stand up and speak out against the access to sexual reproductive health rights for youths and adolescents.  This will intimidate the children. I am bringing it up again not because I want to repeat but because I would like to recommend that in future when we are doing public hearings on issues that concern children and adolescents, we also make sure that we have a platform where young children and adolescents are free to express themselves.

          I also had the opportunity to attend a club because there are some clubs in high schools around the country but I do know that there are some in Bulawayo. I went to Ihlathi High School in Sizinda where there is such a club at the school and I was taken by surprise to see that young people could actually speak out. They knew what affected them.  They spoke on situations of poverty and what they were going through in their homes.

          Madam Speaker, it is very important that we do give the young people their space for them to be heard.  I noticed that we are actually doing this in the regional platforms like SADC PF. I know that we have had presentations from youths and they have pointed out categorically that there should be nothing for them without them.  Also Madam Speaker, it happened at the SADC PF meeting where the Members of Parliament that were there, most of the members in both Committees are older people, they were sort of intimidating these young people.

          One of us stood up and actually spoke and this is an example that we have actually given on how old our parents or mothers got married back in the days. The example that was given there is; can each person in that meeting write down the age of the oldest sibling’s age from the family and subtract it from their mother’s age.  We wanted to find out if most parents were over the age of 18 by the time they gave birth to their first child but that was not the case. After that, Members of Parliament realised that their approach was wrong and realised that what the youths are going through now is not new.  It is not because of social media and internet but it has been there since time immemorial.

          Madam Speaker, if our parents then had been given education such as SRHR, I do not think we would be where we are today.  If SRHR education is imparted to the young people, it enlightens them and gives them an opportunity to realise their dreams, wishes and aspirations.  So Madam Speaker, in short, I would like to reaffirm my position that as the Joint Committee on Health and HIV & AIDS, that we recommend the amendment of the 2018 law.

          (v) HON. MOLOKELA-TSIYE:  Thank you Madam Speaker I thank Hon. Saizi for moving this motion and reading the report on behalf of the Committee and its Chairperson.  I also want to add my voice with regards to the report.  I will start by noting that as Zimbabwe we really value the right to health. In this particular context, we are signatory to a lot of international conventions where we have committed ourselves as a country.  To that end, we need to make sure that we do not just attend these international conferences but we should also make sure that we domesticate observings of these international conferences and protocols and also make sure that the people of Zimbabwe on the ground benefit from these international commitments that we are part of.

To highlight some of the few, we are a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals of which SDG No. 3 clearly talks about the health to all ages.  In this particular context, adolescents need to be protected by the Sustainable Development Goal No. 3 that Zimbabwe is fully part of.  We are also part of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Article 16 talks about the right to health for all people including adolescents. We need to make sure that we action that in terms of the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe.

Also, in Zimbabwe we are part of the Maputo Protocol which is the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights from a women’s point of view. Article 14 talks about access to SRHR among other issues.  In Zimbabwe, we are supposed to uphold this on the ground. We are also a champion of the Convention of Elimination and Discrimination against Humans and in this particular context as Zimbabwe, we need to protect the rights of adolescents for women and girls with the context of the right to health. Also as Zimbabwe, we have the 2013 Constitution.  In that same Constitution as a country we speak about the right to health being one of the most important rights.  In terms of section 76 of the Zimbabwean Constitution, we seek to protect the right to health for all citizens of Zimbabwe and that includes adolescent women or girls and young people in general.  So from that context, we need to realise that the right to health is a very important right that we need to defend at all costs as people of Zimbabwe.

Coming to the petition that was submitted to the Joint Committee that made us do the public hearings, I just wanted to highlight that one thing I learnt from the public hearings in response to the petition is that there is a big gap between morality and reality, because most of the people who were opposed to the petition were highlighting the moral aspect of the process, while those who were supporting the petition were highlighting the reality on the ground.  As a Parliamentarian, I really feel that when we are addressing this petition - when we are addressing this matter, we need to separate the two issues.  The issue of morality must be addressed by these organizations: religious leaders, traditional leaders, by everyone who is concerned about morality. If that process is done properly, then we will not have this problem in the first place.  So I think this is a preventative approach to say that if we believe there is more support to be done, then these problems that we are facing today as a country will not be happening.  If the churches are preaching to the young people and they are staying away from sex, they are practicing celibacy or abstinence, then we would not be having this debate.

On the other hand, we have the issue of the reality on the ground that in spite of the champions of morality, there is still a growing concern that our adolescents are being exposed to sex. They are being exposed to all sorts of issues and more importantly, they are being denied access to sexual reproduction and health services.  So in my understanding as a Parliamentarian, I think it is important, especially as a Member of the Committee for Health and Child Care, to ensure that the current policies of this country, the current laws of this country are changed in such a way that they protect our adolescents, they protect our young people and in that context they enforce their right to health.  So if you check the reality on the ground - just this week, I read a report that in Mashonaland Central province they have a big problem of teenage pregnancy.  In 2019, they reported 738 teenage pregnancies and in 2020 they had an increase, they reported 730 cases of teenage pregnancies. Then this year, and it is just five months into the year - they already have 288 cases of teenage pregnancies.

This is a very big statistic and it is a huge concern to me.  As a Parliamentarians, we need to protect our adolescents, we need to protect the girl child.  Can you imagine being pregnant and you are a teenager and you are supposed to be at school?  So in health care we talk about prevention being better than cure and it is very important for us, as a country, to respond to the situation on the ground by making sure that we stop the process that is happening right now where a lot of our children are being exposed to sex and are being denied access to health care services including SRHR.  It is important for us as a country to ensure that our policies and our laws are changed and adjusted to respond to the situation so that we prevent such cases because they are growing on the ground.

We know that we have changed the education laws to ensure that our pregnant teenagers or learners are now allowed to attend school while pregnant but that is a reactive strategy.  You first allow a girl child to get pregnant and then you want them to attend school and be exposed to stigma and all sorts of social issues.  What we should be more concerned about is to make sure that they do not get pregnant in the first place, that they continue attending school because unfortunately, the girl child is the one that is affected more than the boy child.

So it is important as a country to ensure that we change our policies and laws to accommodate preventative strategies and SRHR services that our young people, our adolescents are being denied are actually prevented in nature.  They help our young people to have difficult decision and make sure that they do not go to a stage where they have to face pregnancy, abortion which is mostly illegal abortion, where they have to face maternal mortality.  Our maternal mortality rates seem to be rising and one of the causes is teenage pregnancies.  We need to protect our children, we need to protect our girl child.  Also we need to protect them from STIs, HIV and Aids.  So, to ensure that they do not get to that end, we need to make sure that our policies and laws have changed.

I would like to support the report on two key aspects.  I think the first aspect is to say that we need to lower the age in which our teenagers or our young people can access health care services or SRHR services and in my view, we need to reduce that to at least 14 years.  At least a form one child should be allowed to go to a clinic to access health care services, SRHR services, at secondary school because we all know in Zimbabwe that by that time they are sexually active.

Also the fact that health care workers are still bound in responding to cases on the ground when lives are at risk, when teenage patients come to the clinic to the health care services they are bound by policies and laws, we need to change that to ensure that each case is decided on its own personal facts so that front line health care workers are allowed to make decisions and save lives and protect lives from unwanted pregnancies, STIs and illegal abortions and so on.  So we need to ensure that we change the law to allow health care workers to take care of their responsibility.

In particular, we need to ensure that section 35 of the Public Health Act is amended immediately to be made more realistic in implementation.  We want to make sure that we protect the teachers of our young people, of our adolescents.  We want to make sure that they have a future, they have careers and are not forced into early child marriages and access to health care and SRHR services to make sure that we reduce the statistics.  We need to make sure that access to health is enjoyed by every Zimbabwean including our young Zimbabweans, teenagers and adolescents especially the girl child.  We must not leave anyone behind.  To that end, I support that the laws and policies should change to accommodate, more flexibility for a health care service delivery for adolescents especially for the girl child.  Thank you Madam Speaker.

 (v)*HON. MPARIWA: Thank you Madam Speaker.  Firstly, I want to thank Hon. Saizi for presenting this report on the petition raised on the accessibility of healthcare services for children.  I also want to thank the Chairperson for the Health Committee, Hon. Labode.

Madam Speaker, the report has brought out a lot of things which are being done by our children.  Hon. Labode explained very well issues that are happening; she even quoted examples from the Bible and other written sources which talk about the issues of children’s rights to healthcare.

Every person has got rights, even children have their own rights, they are there and they are written.  Children must be well informed on where to find some of these things, for example, where to access condoms or contraceptives to prevent them from unwanted pregnancies and diseases. However, there must be an agreement to say children must use contraceptives.  We may deny the fact that they are engaging in sexual activities but that is the truth on the ground.

Madam Speaker, during the COVID-19 lockdown, more than 5 000 school going girls fell pregnant.  Therefore, I agree with the report and what Hon. Labode said that our kids are indulging in sexual activities.  We must find best ways to protect children’s rights and their healthcare.  Children must be educated on steps to be taken in the event of unwanted pregnancies as well as how to prevent them so that they continue with their education.

In terms of safe sex, our children do not have access to enough information.  They do not know the repercussions of these early sexual activities.  The aunties and grandmothers who used to play the advisory role are no longer there. Therefore, it is now the duty of sisters and parents to educate our children.  The 5 000 girls that have been spoken about clearly proves that a lot of children are engaging in sex.

In conclusion, I suggest that there must be radio and television programmes which educate these children about sexual reproductive health and awareness programmes on abstaining from sex.  For example, I have given these programmes names such as Dandaro revananasikana vechidiki.

Sexual reproductive health must also be taught in schools especially to those classes with adolescent girls.   Written material should be availed to schools teaching about children’s healthcare. Children’s Act Chapter 6 talks about the rights of children, however, a lot of pieces of legislation on children’s rights are scattered in different Government departments.  However, it is ideal for all these laws to be housed in one department in order to protect children.

Madam Speaker, there are practical examples in Samora Machel Avenue where you see these little girls carrying their own kids asking for help in the streets.  The age of these children clearly tells you that these children never fell in love but it was abuse and forced marriages.  If the girl child is protected, we will not find them in the streets or in forced marriages.  I thank you.

(v)HON. S. BANDA: Thank you Hon. Speaker for giving me this opportunity to also contribute to this debate.  Firstly, allow me to thank Hon. Saizi for coming up with this topical motion and Hon. Dr. Labode for seconding it.

Madam Speaker, I want to go against the tide.  When God was counting the number of Israelites, God never counted the children. He left the children out and said the war and other things are for adults.  So, I fully support the comments coming from the Church.  What we are now trying to do is to teach sex lessons to children before time which I am completely against.  It is uncultured and unheard of.  We are becoming less Africans and less cultural.

Madam Speaker, at this rate, we are opening the flood gates to say children, go ahead and do whatever you are going to do, nobody will ask you.  Your parents have got no rights over you.  You are now independent, you can have as much sex as you can, and condoms are readily available.  This is totally unacceptable – I cannot even express myself.

Whilst we appreciate that indeed some of the children are going into SRHR issues.  If you look at the studies they are showing that 108 of 1000 girls between 15 and 18 years are the ones involved in sexual activities.  So, we are looking at 10% of the adolescents, those are the ones we are referring to.  Of those 10%, only 10% said they do not know about condom use or contraceptive. Again, of those 10%, 23% said, they were not aware that they would fall pregnant.  The other 19% of that 10% said we got into early marriages.

However, the moment we say put up a law which baptises everything, I do not think we are doing what is right.  We will actually be majoring in the minor.  During COVID-19 lockdown, 4 959 girls fell pregnant; what it speaks of is that these children did not have things to do.  If they had things to do, then the statistics would have gone lower.  Hon. Molokela referred to about 730 something.  So, we are looking at 350 000 adolescents, if 730 become pregnant and then we say let us throw away and give adolescents the freedom to do whatever they want to do, I do not think that is proper and at the end of the day parents are no longer deemed to be necessary.

The children are going to disobey their parents; what is wrong that when my child falls ill, I escort them to the hospital to get whatever remedy is necessary in my presence so that I know what is happening to my child than for things to be happening behind my back?  I will then be surprised to know that I am now a grandfather of 5 because these children will be doing whatever they feel like.

Madam Speaker, there are issues of rapists. I think the law has to do with rapists and that does not necessarily mean that we need to give our children free reign to just go and look for condoms. So we are actually supporting the giving of condoms and having sex before the age of consent. We are doing is encouraging pregnancies to happen. Whereas if there is sort of a limit like what is currently the case, you find that there are sort of some inhibitions. Otherwise, what we are trying to do is; we are saying now let us really have pregnancies fully blossom and this increases the number of children who are coming from these relationships.

I am not in denial but I think parents are the focus for families and have to be respected. I clearly do not support what the petitioners are seeking. There is the issue of reality and morality. Honestly, when God came to destroy the world it was because of disobedience and nothing else so reality may be there but we need morality which will make us not be disobedient. Very soon, we are going to end up not having many things like now we have got a prayer so why should we pray because God is against all this.

There was a reference to say when the Israelites were going to Jericho they were saved by Rahab the prostitute. Yes, Rahab was just one but even other prostitutes that were in that area were destroyed. She was just serving a purpose. The moral purpose that we are serving here is to do the right thing and what is right is we need to throw away this petition. We cannot allow our kids to go against God and then clap our hands. Let them do it and then deep inside they will know what they are doing is wrong but we cannot honestly clap our hands and say well done for something like that.

There is a question to say 80% of Zimbabwe teenage pregnancies above the age of majority, indeed 22% of the teenage pregnancies are below but we are looking at 80% of what. So, we are trying to fix a law for a very few people that I think I am totally against. That is my comment and thank you Hon. Speaker for giving me this opportunity.

(v)HON. NDIWENI: Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me this opportunity to contribute to this petition which was brought in by Hon. Saizi, seconded by Hon. Dr. Labode. We are an African country and being an African country we have our norms, culture and beliefs. It is not everything that happens in –

HON. DR. KHUPE: My point of order is that Hon. Ndiweni is not well dressed. He does not have a jacket.

THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Ndiweni, you are not dressed properly. You are supposed to put on a jacket.

(v)HON. NDIWENI: I am dressed properly. Who is saying I am not. Is it because I am opposing this petition?

THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: You have to wear a jacket – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections] – Order!

(v)HON. NDIWENI: Thank you Madam Speaker. I was saying we are an African country and we have our own customs and beliefs. It is not everything that the western world sees as right that we should take down our throat.

Madam Speaker, let me just give a typical example. How many thieves are throwing in jail in this country? Do we have to throw away laws like we are throwing away thieves into jail because we have 7 000 thieves then we have to change the law and say stealing is now legal. Do we have to do that? I am agreeable that children who have no guardians or parents, we should make a provision for those exceptional children so that institutions, be it children’s home, hospital or school, if there are people who can help them and take them as their guardians so that they teach SRHR, not to open floodgates.

Let me go back to the trip that we made throughout the country Madam Speaker. People were against this petition, 90% of the people were against this petition. The only people that were supporting this petition were hired people who followed us from centre to centre and we raised these issues with the           Committee. We saw them and I have got pictures of people that were been given money. These were the people that were going from centre to centre supporting. In Karoi for example, people were so hurt because the people that were supportive of that petition were people that do not come from Hurungwe. We said no, we came to Hurungwe so that we hear views of the people from Hurungwe. If we go to Chinhoyi, we go hear views from the people of Chinhoyi. There was almost pandemonium in Karoi and Chinhoyi because people realised that the people that were supportive of this petition were people that were hired to support the petition.

We should always analyse some of these things Madam Speaker. We should not just force them down our throats as if we do not think. We have our culture. Let us maintain the law as it is. Let us twitch it where it is possible because if we realise we have kids that have no access to health services and have no guardians, and that was the only bone of contention that there are kids that have no guardians and have no access to health services. So let us look at that particular group of children and have them have access to health services and not open the floodgates and say all children. If they are going to access health services at the age of 12, what stops that kid when they are at the clinic to ask for oral contraceptives because now they are independent to do that? Where is the guardian?

If all the people that are supportive of this petition, if we had changed the laws when they were young they will be dead by now because they have been protected by these laws. These laws have helped us for us to become Members of Parliament and adults; it is because of these laws that were protective of adolescence exposure. A child who is not mature cannot make a decision on healthcare and say I can make my own decision without a guardian or parent.

I personally and the majority of the people of Zimbabwe were against this. So I am surprised why people are saying this was supported. Wherever we went, 90% were against the petition.  Where is this support coming from?  Let us be careful and let us not be used.  Some people are coming with money to try and change our laws.  In the western world at the moment, there are children that are having babies at 14, but have support structures.  They want our children to also have babies at 14 – where do we get the support structures.  This is just a minority of children that are digressing from the norm.  Let us find ways and means of correcting the tiny minority rather than changing the law to suit a tiny minority.

I have given you an example Madam Speaker that you cannot change a law and say stealing is now legal because we are having so many people stealing, murder is now legal because we are having so many people murdering and we have to accommodate them.  What kind of society will that be?  Culturally, we are a Christian nation, for goodness sake.  Our Constitution says Zimbabwe is a Christian nation.  Where will our Christianity be if we adopt such diabolical laws that are going to allow our children to have access to contraceptives or condoms and as a parent I sit back and say, oh that is their right? These rights are going to lead us into hell and doom.  Let us maintain the law and see where we can adjust the laws. Yes, we have a problem but we adjust the law and not throw away our values that we had and these protected our society.  Suddenly we say this is done in other countries, let us adopt it here; I am totally against and I am speaking for 90% of the population in Zimbabwe – they are totally against this petition.  I thank you Madam Speaker for allowing me to voice my opposition to this petition.

          HON. SAIZI:  I move that the debate do now adjourn.

HON. DZUMA:  I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume: Tuesday, 8th June, 2021.

On the motion of HON. T. MOYOseconded by HON. DZUMA, the House adjourned at Twenty-Two Minutes to Seven o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 8th June, 2021. 

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