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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 04 JUNE 2020 46 44
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Thursday, 4th June, 2020.
The National Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two O’clock p.m.
(THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER in the Chair)
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order Hon. Members, I am
reminding you to maintain the 1 metre social distance from each other.
*HON. SEWERA: On a point of privilege Madam Speaker. We have noted that many Hon. Members are not feeling well and some of them are not even coming to work because their medical aid is no longer functional. Is it not possible to work out something so that they can go outside the country to get treated as Hon. Members? I thank you Madam Speaker.
*THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you Hon. Sewera. If
you are saying the medical aid is disfunctional here, can it then be functional outside the country? Nevertheless, all borders are closed so where is it that you want to go for treatment?
HON. MADZIMURE: Thank you Madam Speaker. I stand here representing Kambuzuma Constituency. It has been almost a month since GMB last milled roller meal which has a subsidised price. They say it is because they are waiting for a price increase but it has now been a month and people who are suffering especially in the rural areas are too many. They are not getting anything in terms of money to enable them to purchase the expensive mealie-mea going for $200 and $300. I am requesting the Minister of Industry and Commerce who is responsible for the supply of goods in the country to come and give us a ministerial statement on why we are not getting the subsidised mealiemea and when we should anticipate getting that mealie-mea. People are not even getting the money that Government promised to give to the vulnerable in this COVID-19 era.
*THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you Hon.
Madzimure. We will ask the Government Chief Whip to relay the message to the Minister of Industry and Commerce to come and give us a ministerial statement on the availability of roller meal as you have requested.
*HON. KASHAMBE: Thank you Madam Speaker. My point of privilege is to do with the unequal treatment of Members of Parliament when they want to debate especially from that Chair. We have a Member of Parliament such as Hon. Temba Mliswa who is allowed to say whatever he wants, when he wants to speak and at whatever time. He even goes as far as criticising our Ministers or Leader of the House without being recognised. He even accused the Speaker of being corrupt but nothing was done.
Hon. T. Mliswa remained standing waiting to be recognised for a point of order.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Mliswa, please take
HON. KASHAMBE: Exactly what I am talking about. That is what I am talking about. Some of us are now not sure when to stand up or not, when to speak and not to speak. Even some of our ministers – I am not surprised if some are even scared to come to Parliament because there is no reprimand even if he does not speak accordingly.
Hon. T. Mliswa having stood up.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order Hon. Mliswa, take
HON. KASHAMBE: You can see what I am talking about. Even if we take the Hansard, it will show what I am talking about.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon Kashambe, please may you come forward. May you come forward Hon. Kashambe.
Hon. Mliswa, please take your seat. Hon Mliswa, you know the procedure.
HON. T. MLISWA: On a point of order – [HON. MEMBERS:
Inaudible interjections] –
Commotion in the House with Hon. Mliswa accusing an Hon. Member of having insulted. In response, Hon. Mliswa attacked the said
Member using some unparliamentary words.
TH HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER asked the Sergeant-at-Arms to
escort Hon. Mliswa out of the House.
Hon. Mliswa was duly escorted out of the House ‘I cannot be insulted and not be protected by the Chair’ and re-entered using the
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Mliswa, leave this
House! – [HON. T. MLISWA: Madam Speaker, you have killed this
Parliament. You did not protect me at all. You are being partisan in this Parliament. I was being insulted, you never even protected me. You did not protect me. Okay, you are here to protect. I am going out but I must tell you the bottom truth. You are certainly destroying this institution.
We come here to be respected, not for me to be insulted...]-
Hon. Mliswa was again duly escorted out of the Chamber by the
*THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, order Hon. Members!
Hon. Members, I think it is important that if we are chosen by people we should show a mature behaviour and that we are heads of families in our homes. We should not behave like street kids, it is not good.
*HON. KASHAMBE: Thank you Madam Speaker. My point of
privilege pertains to what has just transpired and it is exactly what I was trying to say. Here in Parliament, we have Members of Parliament like
Hon. Temba Mliswa who do not respect our Standing Orders rule book.
He stands up on any occasion and says whatever he wants, even to the
Vice President, other Members of Parliament and the Leader of the House. This is affecting other members such that they no longer have confidence to stand up and debate because your Chair cannot discipline or bring him to order. Also, other Ministers are failing to come to
Parliament which is hampering the business of this House to go ahead – [MDC HON. MEMBERS: Aah!] – because there is no one who reprimands him. If we look into our Hansard, the other time he said you were corrupt and nothing happened to him. So, as parliamentarians we see that you are not treating us equally. That is my point of privilege. *THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you Hon. Kashambe.
I have heard your complaint. I think we will sit down as Presiding Officers and the administration of Parliament. We will tackle the issue, investigate and come out with a position. Thank you.
*HON. KWARAMBA: Thank you Madam Speaker.
*THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Kwaramba, since
yesterday, the Speaker said that we will only have three points of privileges.
*HON. KWARAMBA: It is a point of order Hon. Speaker. As women Hon. Members Madam Speaker, we are not happy with what we have observed in Parliament. The way he insulted really touched us as women and we are not happy. So I am pleading with you to do something about the behaviour that we have witnessed here in Parliament. Thank you.
*THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have heard you, thank you.
As I said when Hon. Kashambe stood up concerning these issues, we
will sit down as Presiding officers and come up with a position after having deliberated on the issue. Thank you.
Hon. Members having been seated close to each other.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Members, please may
we observe social distancing, one metre apart from each other. We must lead by example, one metre apart from each other. Hon. Members from my left side, let us observe one metre apart from each other.
MARRIAGES BILL [H. B. 7A, 2019]
First Order read: Consideration Stage: Marriages Bill [H. B. 7A, 2019].
Amendments to Clauses 9, 10, 11 and 40 put and agreed to.
Bill, as amended, adopted.
Third Reading: With leave, forthwith.
MARRIAGES BILL [H. B. 7A, 2019]
THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND
PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Thank you
Madam Speaker Ma’am, I move that the Bill be now read the third time.
Motion put and agreed to.
Bill read the third time.
ZIMBABWE MEDIA COMMISSION BILL [H. B. 8, 2019]
Second Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on the Second Reading of the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill [H. B. 8, 2019].
Question again proposed.
THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND
PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): I move that the
debate do now adjourn.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 9th June, 2020.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND
PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Madam Speaker
Ma’am, I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 3 to 10 be stood over
until Order of the Day, Number 11 has been disposed of. I thank you.
Motion put and agreed to.
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON PRIMARY AND
SECONDARY EDUCATION ON SCHOOLS OPENING IN LIGHT
OF COVID 19 PANDEMIC
HON. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: Thank you very much
Madam Speaker. Let me thank the Leader of the House for giving me an opportunity to present my report on behalf of the Committee and to take over Government business. Madam Speaker, as I make this presentation, let me just start by expressing my disappointment on behalf of my Committee. The presentation we are going to make today was meant to deal with the crisis that we do have in this country which is the crisis around COVID 19 and in particular in the way it relates to the opening up of schools.
We have been doing a lot of work in trying to bring consensus to stakeholders and I think we were doing fairly well until two days ago when we heard an announcement from ZIMSEC that they were going to reopen schools for purposes of examinations. I believe that if we are going to have the Executive wanting us to move forward, we should always facilitate consensus building so that we do not have circumstances where stakeholders are speaking across each other like what we now have in this instance.
Let me present the second report of the Portfolio Committee and in this report we are specifically focusing on the schools opening in light of the COVID 19 disease. I want to tell Hon. Members that the first slide that will be put up is a slide of our young people because we believe that most of the time we do speak on their behalf and we do not hear their voices. We did get audio because they could not come.
Audio having failed to play.
I do not know what happened with I.T. The children could not come to our Committee given the problems that are associated with travelling. We tried to do virtual communication. In short we basically tried to find out from our people how they felt about the opening up of schools. I think we sit here and we say it is best for them, we do not know what it means psychologically for them. We do not know whether they are ready because it is another thing to take them to school but if they are not ready to be back at school because of this disease, then we have not done much.
Those are just pictures to show you the little people that we are talking about. Next slide and can I have the audios.
Audio having failed to play.
It is a pity. Anyway, we had audios of them speaking and it would have been very nice for you to hear because we got them right from ECD to A level. Generally, the message was the same. The message was we have not done enough to be able to settle their fears. Many of them were just scared, ‘kune corona’, so they were speaking in their own mother language so it would have been nice if you heard it in Shona, Ndebele and I hope we were going to get some of the Tonga ones but unfortunately we did not get those in time for us to be able to put them here. As you can see, technology has failed us.
The long and short of it is our kids are not ready, not ready not because of the physical but not ready because of the messages and just the fear that is around corona. I think we have underestimated the psychological effect that the COVID 19 has had on our little people.
You will find that it is ‘nothing for us without us’. I think what we have seen in all these consultations is no one has bothered to at least have a conversation with our little people and hear what they have in their minds.
Having said that, let me just explain to you what we were doing in terms of trying to do this enquiry. First we wanted to find out whether indeed Government was ready because we were coming from the point in which His Excellency, the President had made the announcement that they will be an opening of schools particularly in a phased manner where we were going to start with examination classes then move to other classes that are not necessarily examination classes.
We decided as a Committee that we needed to call the various stakeholders and have this conversation with them. The first stakeholder that we had a conversation with was ZIMSEC. We were supposed to start with the Ministry but they were busy so we brought in ZIMSEC. Basically, the long and short of it is that ZIMSEC said we are ready and we have examination papers, we are ready to go. We are waiting in this instance to get the go ahead from the Ministry of Education; which is why at the beginning I said we were very disappointed because on oath, they actually refused to give us the dates and said they believe that it is the prerogative of the Ministry to be able to issue the statement and to be able to give them an instruction on when it was ready. We were actually shocked when they were on television making the announcement. ZIMSEC said they were ready in terms of the paper work and the preparation but they also indicated to us that one of the problems that they were facing was that because of COVID 19, a lot of parents had not been to work kukiya kiya and therefore could not even pay for the school fees. So, a number of kids had not been able to pay for the examination fees, in particular, the examination fees for November.
We put that to them that we probably needed to think around like we did with rentals, to think around coming up with a Statutory
Instrument perhaps to ensure that we cover those parents that are not in a position to be able to pay for school fees. Then we had conversations with the Ministry. The Ministry indicated to us that they wanted the schools to open but they were also very clear to us that there are budgetary implications around the opening of schools. When we asked them to give us a figure of what this meant; the figure that they gave us for them to be able to do from phase 1 to phase 4, they would need 21 billion. You know Madam Speaker that this is something we cannot even begin to think about because it cannot be found. So in conversations with them, we then said let us think outside the box. What is it that you think we can do right now. They again, like ZIMSEC, said we need to move first with the examination classes, which is exactly what His Excellency, the President had also said. Even in that conversation, we were not sure how far they had gone other than seeing what the needs around it are. They were very clear about what the needs were that there were issues around water, sanitation, the PPEs for both teachers and for the school children.
You will find that in the report that we have put in our pigeon holes - we do not put reports anymore in pigeon holes, I hope it has been send to you digitally, I pray. We have tried to attach the budget that was given to us and the requirements that they indicated they needed.
However, they were still convinced that given about 3 to 4 weeks at the time that we met them which is about two weeks ago, they would have been prepared enough to move for the opening of the schools and that also included them training the teachers around how they will be managing the kids. As you know, COVID has brought us into the sphere where we not only teach but we also need to be kind of health workers to some extent. We had that long discussion with them, so to a large extend, they wanted to open, and they thought it was possible but they insisted that without extra money and they indicated that they needed about 3 billion at least for just the opening of the phase 1 of schools.
We called in the Teachers’ Union and in this instance let me say this again, this is why I am saying I am a bit disappointed by ZIMSEC. Usually our unions come to us complaining about their own issues, salaries; yet they did not raise those issues but we saw unions very united in this instance. They were very clear that they wanted the schools to open but very clear that they did not want those schools to open if it was going to put themselves and the children at risk.
One of the things that they said is that they actually have the numbers. They did not give us the numbers although later on they indicated that most of their teachers have co-morbidity issues and that putting them out there would actually be putting them at risk. So generally they were like, “we are very happy to do this but we have issues around our health”. In fact what you find me putting on right now is what they asked of us to say; ‘For us it is not just the masks, it is something that will allow for a child –when they are looking at me, to look at my facial expressions because some of our children have disabilities and can only understand us by looking at the facial expressions.’ So something like this shield would be the best for teachers but clearly that also had budgetary implications.
So for them, they were like saying, “we cannot proceed until we know that there are minimum standards that have been met’. By minimum standards, they were not asking for things that are outside this world – basic things. Let us make sure that there is running water, PPEs and thermometers for screening. In fact, they did not even raise issues of testing, they were raising issues that are at a very basic level for screening. When we looked at it, those things were not there and clearly we were not ready to proceed with that issue.
We raised with them though, that there are different categories of these schools. There are your private schools which are your more affluent schools; there are your Trust schools which are your boarding schools; there are your P1s, P2s and P3s. This is critical Madam Speaker because sometimes when we talk about opening of schools, we do not realise that schools are operating in very different circumstances. For example, if you see opening schools for St. Dominics Chishawasha – schools have not changed because the students are still sleeping in one dormitory and we know what it means around infectivity when people are sleeping in one big room.
When you talk of opening schools, do not always think about day schools where people are going in and where you are thinking we will do social distancing. It is a whole complicated process and we thought that in these discussions, no one was looking at the various contexts that people were coming from. Therefore, it was important not to deal with it each issue by issue but to deal with the context that we are dealing with because if you deal with the context, then you will have to deal with the fundamental question of, can you open schools for others and not open schools for the other? Can you say private schools because they are okay should continue and those that are in the rural areas and that are in the boarding schools cannot open? Clearly, there would be issues of injustice in that issue.
So we need to be very careful about what we are saying when we are saying, ‘Opening schools’, it is not generic. We need to be clear about what is going on. Those are the issues that we raised with issues around teachers’ unions. Like I said, I really want to thank the teachers’ unions in this instance because they were not selfish but were raising fundamental and key issues. I think it is important that we take that on.
Then to move quickly to the issues around our observations – the observations from the Committee’s point of view were that, whilst the teachers’ unions were very clear and the teachers’ unions please understand that teachers’ unions in particular, if you are talking about ZIMTA, it includes the headmasters and the Parents Associations. So you are including the stakeholders in general. We were very clear that we are not ready to open schools – that was the clear position that we had. We had a position that was coming from the Ministry that was saying, ‘we want to open’, but even the Ministry itself was not convinced that they were ready to open schools. So to some extent, we had divergent views but we almost had a middle of the road that was saying, ‘we are not ready’.
The Ministry indicated that they wanted to proceed with what is usually called the ‘June examinations’, and they were giving us reasons to say, well, because these children have been operating on a particular curriculum which curriculum is not the one that we are using now. so we need to get them to write those examinations. The unions were very clear Madam Speaker, that we should not be held to ransom by a curriculum. We cannot open schools because we are saying, it is an issue around the curriculum.
Like we said, we were very clear, having seen the budget and that the budget had not been given to the Ministry that even with Phase 1 in terms of the $3 billion – there was no response that says, it is going to be available. I understand from the Permanent Secretary that they were going to have a conversation today with Treasury and I am not sure how well that is going to go. The truth of the matter is that the money is not yet there.
Then down to our Committee recommendations; the first one is we are recommending that the dates that have been given for examination by ZIMSEC are not practical. So our position is, we are not ready as a country to proceed with examinations on the dates that have been set by ZIMSEC. In particular because of the things that we are talking about. Hon. Members in the Committee were even saying that it is not just rural areas but even urban areas themselves – there is no running water. We know that our young children are trying to sew and do masks - which is a fantastic idea in terms of the training but we also need to understand whether the standards have been checked. This is why we have the Standards Association of Zimbabwe –really, for us, any mask that somebody is going to wear has to be a mask that conforms with the WHO standards and conforms with the Standards Association of Zimbabwe which sets the standards of what is happening.
It is a good thing to train our children but surely, I do not think that we can rely on what our children are producing to be the ones where we say, ‘This is what we are going to use in schools’. It is supplementary and it trains them but it cannot be the PPEs that we are using for purposes of fighting COVID-19.
We also felt as a recommendation that I think it is important like the unions indicated to setup a proper task force that involves the teachers’ unions, perhaps Members of Parliament, Ministry of Health and Child Care to look at what we are talking about when we are doing the opening of schools. Like I said to you Madam Speaker, we are being too general and too simplistic with our conversations and we did not find that there was a fence that this is what we were going to be able to do. Then we said to ourselves, perhaps we are trying to bite too much at one time. The sheer numbers that we are talking about if we are going to get our children to school are too many.
We have legacy issues just like we had legacy issues around health where we had to take a long time to spruce up our hospitals and we are still trying to do so. We have legacy issues that we have around schools – so we are going to have a lot of things to do. Social distancing cannot work where you have a teacher to pupil ratio of 1:70 or 1:80 in a small room. It cannot work; it is not going to work. You would have to have an extra 10 000 teachers coming into the place for you to do proper social distancing.
So we said to ourselves, the option of not doing anything does not work either. We all cannot sit here and say because there is no A, B, C and D, therefore nothing is going to happen. We then said that in our opinion, our phased approach should be premised on what we are able to do. We think that it is possible for us to set aside the better part of the year 2020 as our year for dealing with issues of examinations and in that instance, you will find that we came up with an acronym that is interesting Madam Speaker. Can we rush to the other slide because you are not following me?
We have an acronym that we called S. I. T and S. I. T is an acronym that is basically saying we just cannot sit but it is an acronym that can also give us a particular strategy that we can use to deal with this opening up of schools. It basically means that schools in transit (S.I.T). What we are dealing with right now is that we have to come up with a transitional process. Something that says, what is in the short term? What is in the medium term? What is in the long term? So in the short term, we focus on examination classes only. Meaning that we proceed with what has always been known as the ‘June examinations’ but we do not do it during winter.
We know scientifically they are also saying the more people have colds, the more they have a chance of infecting others. Let us not do it in June but let us move them where it is a bit warmer, even if it means it is September for the June examinations. Let us use that as our pilot study to see how we are going to do the usually known November exams which we may still do in November, perhaps in December - it does not matter. Like His Excellency said at one time, the economy can be revived but bodies and people that have died cannot be revived. We can revive the schools, we have time to revive the schools. We cannot revive our little children when they are gone. So we cannot afford to do experiments.
Having said that Madam Speaker, there are countries that had tried to do this; South Africa tried to do this, they have stopped. South Korea tried to do this, they stopped. Children are not experiment tubes, let us understand that. Let us do it at a time that makes it sense. When it is warmer, we can go with our examination classes. Let us adopt the ZEC framework in running examinations. That may sound ridiculous but let me explain to you. When we do elections in this country, we literally have 10 958 polling stations. We have the tents and everything that goes with the institutional support. When we do these examinations, let us tell ourselves it is like almost like running an election. Let us look at our numbers. Let us do our examination centres polling station specific, because it is nearer for our children to go to a polling station and write their examinations. We can go and sit literally with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and they can give us the framework on what they do. For goodness sake, they are able to send ballot papers from Siyasothi or Tsholotsho and it has worked. In this instance it should not be a problem if we use that particular framework to run our examinations.
The institutional framework is there. The physical framework is there and we need to use that for purposes of running our examinations. All we need to do is to designate all polling stations as examination centres and we are done. That is what we are proposing for our examinations. We do the June examinations in September. The numbers are small, they are not big. Then we do the ones for November later on in November or December, depending on what our June examinations were supposed to have had.
SIT also, because we are dealing with issues of E-learning, Madam Speaker, COVID has taught us that we need to adopt a new normal. We cannot continue to do what we are doing. It may be COVID today; tomorrow it could be another pandemic. There are things we need to do differently and we need to start embracing E-learning. I know that a lot of us, the moment we hear e-learning we start having problems to say but where are the gadgets and where is the connectivity? Firstly, we said in terms of connectivity, if we do these polling stations centred where the tents are there, we can use them as our hot spots. A child can move from their house and go into that field and easily download and be able to get something because it is a hotspot. It is only 10 958 if we go with the ZEC polling stations. Surely, we should as country be able to create quick hotspots around those 10 958 so that there is no child that has no access to e-learning.
Right now, those that are at St Georges’ are continuing with Elearning. They are already far ahead but those that are in the rural areas have not been able to get it. Let us quickly do it. Our NetOne and POTRAZ should go on the ground and create the hotspots. Of course there are things that are to do with gadgets. Again, I think we tend to think in the normal. The gadgets should not be like phones. The children are not wanting these gadgets so that they can phone. Let us develop a gadget that just allows them to connect so that they are able to download whatever needs to be downloaded. Let us talk to friends of ours, the Chinese friends that are very good with technology. We should be talking around basic gadgets that we can use even those second hand phones they no longer use in those countries. We could use them to make sure that our children have access to the gadgets. First and foremost, let us ensure that connectivity is there because I know when connectivity is there, parents are able to connect to those issues.
Around the e-learning, one thing that we have been dealing with as far as the committee is concerned has been for example, Trust Schools, they have already organised themselves. They have gotten people that can provide platforms for e-learning. All they need is to apply to the Ministry so that it is seen that it is good stuff but also let us learn to charge those that have resources. For those that are giving e-learning at
St Georges’ and they are charging parents US$1 600 per term for elearning. For goodness sake, they can come and apply to the Ministry and we can license then and get some money from their applications.
That is the money that we use for those that do not have the resources.
I must say this, we have been saying this for the past month, but up to now there are people that have been trying to apply to the Ministry and it is not moving. Some of the things that we suffer in this country and with our Government is the lack of zeal, just inertia. Why should it be problematic to just set up a system where you do an application, just like we do for health? You cannot open a surgery without going to
Ministry of Health so that you are licensed to see whether you can do it. Why are we not doing it for e-learning and make a little bit of money around it?
Madam Speaker, in terms of your Committee that is what we came up with and in summary, no our children are not experiment centres. We cannot open schools right now. We are not ready. There are opportunities of doing it differently. We have given you the suggestions to do it. Let us move with that, even if we are to lose 2020, it is okay. No one child should be lost because we are trying to push them to read a, b, c, d. I thank you Madam Speaker.
*HON. MADHUKU: Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me
this opportunity to second this motion. What our Chairperson said is correct. Looking at the COVID 19 pandemic the world over, you will discover that when this pandemic started in Zimbabwe, the prevalence rate was low but now it has risen to 200 cases. We have also noticed that a lot of people are escaping from quarantine centres. A lot of people are crossing the borders illegally and they are getting into communities and these are carriers of the virus. People are normally encouraged to report such activities to the police. There is an upsurge in the transmission of new cases.
A lot of developed countries who encountered this pandemic before us, despite the fact that they are developed, school children are being infected. As one of the third world countries, we do not have enough resources. This might be a challenge for us in terms of controlling children and the transmission of the virus. The teacher pupil ratio is very high (1 teacher: 60 pupils in a class). This makes it difficult to maintain social distance. This means we should have at least three classes. For example four classes will give us 12 classes. We might not have enough space and teachers to accommodate and mann the classes. Examination classes may not be accommodated because of the subjects that are being taught at schools.
Opening our schools will put our children in a vulnerable situation. For example in boarding schools, some use bunk beds. For example a room which is supposed to accommodate two pupils accommodates four children and there will not be social distance. We need to look at this situation and determine what should be done.
Primary school children may end up exchanging masks in schools.
For us to rush and open schools might cause danger to our children. ZIMSEC is saying that they are ready – ready to what level? They changed recently saying that examination centres are ready but we have noticed that even schools that were not centres will be used as centres. At times children walk for 20 kilometres going to such centres. We are saying our children should go and write exams before solving such challenges on how they are going to write. For example in satellite schools which are not examination centres, children are supposed to walk for ten kilometres or more. This is an issue that needs to be looked at. It is not about writing examinations so that ZIMSEC generates revenue. This is not a business venture. We need to consider our children’s health.
This is a challenge – we understand that when children go to school every day, it is not necessary for them to have passes. Conditions might be relaxed because they will be putting on uniforms. Such issues have not been looked at; even the transport that is going to be used must also be considered especially in high density areas. This must be clear so that when children go to write their examinations, for example when they start at 0900 hours; they must be collected by buses and be at the examination centres on time.
We are not resisting the opening of schools but we need to consider all these factors. We know that a lot of schools have been teaching their children how to make their own masks in primary and secondary schoolS. Even in laboratories, there are teachers who have been using their scientific knowledge to prepare sanitisers for their children, but we need to consider the fact that most schools do not have money because tuition fees are not being paid. This means that schools do not have money to buy disinfectants. Where most Hon. Members come from, boreholes are not functioning. There is not enough water to supply to schools. We know that we experienced different diseases like SARS and what have you before, so for COVID 19 just like any other diseases like HIV and AIDS, we do not know where this pandemic is coming from. Maybe God wants us to see and experience his power. We are not saying grade ones, form fives and other classes are not supposed to be recruited next year come, but we need to be prepared so that when schools open, we are able to accommodate children.
We need to learn to live with COVID 19. When schools open, they must open when they are ready for our children. I thank you.
*HON. MADZIMURE: Thank you Madam Speaker. I want to
thank this Committee for their report which is very good. What I see is, it is futile that we can open schools now for our children to write exams because there are a number of reasons. Some of them have been articulated by the Hon. Chair and Hon. Madhuku. The issue at stake here is that there are children who were supposed to write but they were not able to register because of the disturbances by COVID-19. So we need to think of what is best for those children who were not able to register for exams. It is not only about registering for exams but it should be investigated whether the parents are able to pay the exam fees.
Secondly, families were unsettled with some parents running away from the cities for failure to feed their families. I heard about this from the Covid-19 team in Glenview and Mufakose where I was invited.
There is also the challenge of teachers who have relocated because of Covid-19. For students to write exams they should be prepared. Exam preparations were not done because of the regulations that we have. So for students and teachers to travel it became difficult. Therefore, it is most likely that we will not get good results if we force our children to write without adequate preparation. We need enough money for preparation just like we did for industry and what we are planning to do for our economy. We also need to come up with a budget for education which will look at all the children, especially those in remote areas who are not getting what children in the urban areas are getting.
Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga talked about erecting tents when we hold elections, so I think we can also do the same for the children. If we look at children in Mutawatawa, what should we do for them to prepare for exams? When I engaged education officials they were talking about education clusters. Those can be funded and provided with all the necessities needed.
Looking at donations, we should have a wish list which we give to those willing to donate so that we get exactly what we want. That is a challenge we have because we have children whose fathers do not have smart phones and they cannot use them for e-learning. So what are they expected to do then? In a certain area, those families can come together and they are put into clusters and given the necessary equipment such as the screens to enable them to observe social distance. Those with parents who can afford should be engaged and have an outreach programme to sensitise them on how we can help our children. We should not think that all children come from families that can afford to assist their children. Now parents have to monitor their children and assist them even if they are coming from work. They should find time to find out how their children are doing and help with their homework. All this has a timeframe. It is not simple for parents to help their children. Some parents are not even familiar with homework, so we should look at ways of helping them.
Some teachers are able to prepare material which can help children in a cluster. They should look for teachers knowledgeable in a certain area but in all this, the Ministry should also be involved while Government pours in money. We can say a lot of things but without money nothing will materialise.
The other thing we can do is to encourage innovation so our children can come up with simple ways of learning on the internet. The Ministry should encourage developers of such systems because we do not know how long this virus will be with us, so we should think ahead instead of being reactionary.
Then there is the issue of when our children should open schools.
We need a lot of money. The teacher who is speaking to each and every child is at risk; the nurse’s risk is not as great as that of a teacher. Our children will be in contact with the teacher and many other children coming from various homes, which means we should first of all test the teachers and even the guards. These PPEs should be enough at each and every school. At schools in the high density areas there is no water, so how do they maintain hygiene? All these things should be looked at before schools open.
Disinfecting schools should take place before schools open. It will be difficult for schools to maintain their places during this time. Schools are dilapidated, workers who are supposed to see to the maintenance of the school premises are not being paid because no one is paying them since fees are not being paid. So schools do not have money for maintenance. It is easy to destroy a school than to build, so we should look after our schools despite what is happening. Money should be channelled to schools for maintenance even though nothing is taking place because if we leave them like that after COVID-19 when we want to go back to schools, some will be totally damaged. We should maintain the facilities that we have. The workers who are supposed to be at schools should be there. Government should take this seriously.
They should view this as a challenge and so Treasury should allocate them money.
I have heard the Chair referring to the budget that is there. Luckily the Minister of Finance is here although he came late. Even if they are not approached by the Minister, I think from this report the Minister of Finance and Economic Development should take this issue seriously. He should know that the future of Zimbabwe can be destroyed during this period. When he is receiving donations he should also tell people that in education these are the things that we want so that our children keep on getting educated. We are being forced to go the technological way. Our children should research and this can only be done when we have put money into education.
I would want to thank you for this report because it is very good.
This is not a problem for tomorrow but today’s problem. If we are saying that we cannot open schools, it means that we are not prepared. We are not prepared because we do not have the money. We sit in this other Committee of African Parliamentarians Network against
Corruption where we hear these other trivial stories but we should reserve that money for our children’s education so that they have a good
future. Thank you Madam Speaker.
*HON. ZEMURA: Thank you Madam Speaker. We appreciate
the report that was presented by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Education. We support the report that was presented. We also say that COVID-19 is a war. During the liberation struggle, our children did not go to school then because people feared for their lives. Right now, we fear for our lives and the lives of our children and so we do not expect our children to go to school. When we feel that the situation has improved, then we will determine and make a decision on whether children should go back to school. Because of the prevalence rate of the transmission of the Coronavirus, and noting that this is a war which needs to be fought, we cannot send our children to school because we will be embarrassed in future when we reflect on what will have transpired after our children die of COVID-19.
What the Committee has written and their observations, particularly even fearing for the lives of the teachers and our children, we do not expect them to write the exams. During the war, children did not go to school but eventually they went back to school after the war. I would suggest that we wait and when there is a decline in the prevalence of COVID-19 then children can go back to school. We are being told here in Parliament that we should observe social distancing. School going children do not know that and might lose their masks. We need to sit down and engage each other noting that deaths due to COVID-19 are serious; we do not to tempt fate and test each other. Thank you Hon.
*HON. MUTAMBISI: I would like to add my voice to the report that was presented by Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga. My view point is that we need to wait a little bit. We cannot send children to school at the moment. Children use books when writing assignments and at the end pile their books together. This is risky. Let us also look at e-learning. Yes, it is a good initiative but it is not every parent who can afford to facilitate e-learning for their children. We know that some teachers might give assignments using on-line platforms but it is not every parent or child who can do that homework and send it back to their teachers for marking because of data charges. Parents are facing a lot of challenges.
It is difficult for many parents.
We also need to consider that other schools have feeding programmes and because of water shortages, this pandemic needs hygienic services. Government must have enough resources beefed in schools.
Let us look at the issue of masks. A student might have one mask but because of water shortages, if they reuse a mask without washing it or when playing, it becomes a risk. So I would like to propose that we wait. Instead of opening schools, let us look at such factors. We were told that during the liberation struggle schools were closed. The war that we are fighting right now is a challenge. If we allow our children to go back to school we might lose a lot of children to COVID-19.
Reflecting back, you discover that there are some people who graduated attaining degrees at the age of 70. Let us wait until such a time when we know that the prevalence of COVID-19 has gone down. Thank you.
*HON. NYATHI: I would like to appreciate the report that was presented by the Education Committee chaired by Hon. MisihairabwiMushonga. I noted the different contributions and noted that after a person has passed on, that person cannot come back to life. The challenge that I have noted which is of concern to Hon. Members is that a person only lives once. We might have vaccines and medication but it is expensive. If we allow our children to go back to school, they might face different challenges. We know that we have a lot of schools in our country and if one student is COVID 19 positive, this might expose other children, more than 600 to 1000 children at a particular school. They might also transmit that virus back to their homes and the community at large.
So, the idea that schools be opened early should be reversed or should not be implemented. We need to consider factors that might assist us when schools open. We are not yet ready to support as a nation, medical bills for those who are positive. Even centres which are attending to those who are positive also need to be resourced. So, we need to reflect on such issues because we might give a burden to our national fiscus from where monies are disbursed to different ministries.
Someone alluded to the idea that, if examination classes are allowed to sit for exams, we can copy what ZEC does during the elections; which means that our schools and the classes are not enough to conduct these examinations in time. So it is important that before approving this idea, the Minister for Primary and Secondary Education should come to this august House and give a Ministerial Statement on the preparedness of his Ministry instead of taking what would have been discussed in other fora and implementing it. The legislators should be satisfied first.
There are a number of things that we are required to observe when dealing with COVID 19 like washing hands every 20 minutes; is it possible for school going children to do that? We should not greet each other through handshakes because it is one way through which the virus is transmitted, we are also required to wear face masks; are our children able to do that? Looking at this august House, you will find that there are some Hon. Members who are putting on their masks but the masks are pulled down to their necks. So, are our children able to wear their masks properly because we are facing a pandemic which needs to be minimised. We will be increasing the spreading of a disease which we intend to reduce.
In other developed countries which have state of the art health care facilities, they are also facing this challenge and failing to contain this pandemic. So, I would like to offer the same recommendation that was proferred by the Chairperson of the Primary and Secondary Education
Portfolio Committee that schools must not open until we are ready. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
*HON. MUCHENJE: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am. I
believe that this issue affects every parent because this is a universal issue which affects every parent. I would like to thank Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, for presenting their report and the decision that was taken by their
Committee. Truthfully, the prevailing environment in Zimbabwe does not allow the opening of schools when adults are failing to go to work. If legislators are failing to exercise social distancing, what will happen to school children? Looking at boarding schools, our children will be expected to live in hostels sharing maybe one dormitory which accommodates 10 children. Will it be possible to observe social distancing? For primary school children, if you do not force them to wash their hands before eating their food, they just go ahead and eat. What about those in boarding schools? There is not enough water in homes.
In different homes, it is not every child who has been trained to use phones and some do not have internet data, not all parents are working. I would also like to add my voice to say that we are not ready to open schools. Most urban students travel to school in public transport and there is no public transport to ferry parents to work. What will be the situation like when schools open? The other point is that; right now there is not enough money circulating and this means that when children go back to school, parents might face challenges. They might not have enough resources during examination times.
In boarding schools, the facilities are not enough. Our own
Members’ dining is not working at the moment to prevent the spread of the disease, how about school going children.
So, we continue saying that schools cannot open at the moment because even adults are not going to work, they cannot get into town. How then can we sacrifice our children? How can we allow them to go to school? We only live once, we need to value our children’s lives as much as we also value their education. Even if we allow them to go and write their examinations, some will pass yes, but there are no jobs. I think it is better for them to wait until the situation becomes conducive.
They should wait and sit for examinations when the time is right.
HON. MUNETSI: Thank you very much Hon. Speaker. I just
have a few questions that I want to ask to those people who are saying they want to open schools. If they are able to answer these questions, then they can go ahead and open schools. Do they have enough classes to execute the teacher to pupil ratio so that they can maintain social distancing? Are the teachers ready to go and mix and mingle with pupils coming from everywhere? Have the schools been sanitized? How safe are our kids and the teachers? How about some schools which are being used by returnees and some returnees there are found to be positive with COVID, how safe are those schools for us to send our kids there? Is it good to experiment with one’s kids? Why is there a rush in opening schools when some areas or some industries where workers there are fewer than pupils at a school are still closed? Which syllabus do they want kids to be examined on, where was it done, which teachers taught, were the syllabuses completed? What do they want to examine them on?
Do you think a kid can spend the whole day putting on a mask when we cannot here, is it possible? If those who want to open schools can answer these questions then they can go ahead, I thank you.
*HON. KWARAMBA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I want to
debate on this motion that has been brought by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education. Schools must not open because of COVID-19. I am concerned about food. A lot of parents are in the informal sector. Now they are home, nothing is happened because of COVID. They do not have money to buy food for their kids. When kids are going to school, they need a lot of food and fees have to be paid. If pupils go to school in an empty stomach, they cannot concentrate on their studies. Given these reasons, I say we are not ready as a nation. Suggestions about e-learning are coming up but I still maintain the stance that we are not yet ready. Our Government does not have enough money for our kids to go back to school.
I was reading a newspaper where South Korea opened schools and after two days, the schools were closed again because the cases went up. If we rush to open our schools, we will face the same situation. I heard another Hon. Member talking about the liberation war. I was one of the people that participated in the liberation struggle. We stopped going to school that time but after the war, we went back to school up to degree level. So, I am saying there is no need to rush, let us be patient until the time is opportune. If people die, we cannot resurrect them for them to go back to school because school is attended by the living. Let us not rush to make decisions that kill people. I thank you.
+HON. MKANDLA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would like to
thank you for affording me the chance to add my voice and also to thank the Chairperson of this Committee, Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga and the seconder Hon. Madhuku. I am also a member of that Committee. In short Hon. Speaker, I also concur with others that we should stop opening schools for now. Firstly, is Government prepared for the opening of schools? Does Government budget allow for opening of schools? For example looking at the rural areas where I come from, there are very few classrooms. One classroom accommodates 60 pupils. In such a classroom, how can social distancing be maintained? I understand Government will employ more teachers; will those teachers take their classes under trees since there are few classrooms?
In addition, there is no furniture in those classrooms. Three pupils share one desk in rural areas. Furthermore, in rural areas, there is no water. They use blair toilets which in some cases are already full and students resort to bushes. Like what my colleague also alluded to, for young children, even if you give them face masks to use, do you think they will maintain them from home all the way to school? Even in this august House, I see some Hon. Members with their masks hanging below their chins. In rural areas, we are not able to resort to e-learning because most of the pupils in rural areas cannot afford those facilities because their guardians cannot afford the bundles needed.
I also understand that this coronavirus is very active when it is cold. Some pupils move long distances, barefooted without jerseys and they live with their old grandmothers. If they catch that virus from school, they will transmit it back at home to their grandmothers who are old, frail and may be diabetic. In short Hon. Speaker, lives of children, parents and teachers are more important. We need to ensure that first of all, we have adequate resources that include face masks, sanitizers and water. I thank you.
HON. MUSHAYI: Thank you Madam Speaker. I am going to
start by thanking the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga and her team.
Thank you very much for the report.
Allow me Madam Speaker to just share with you one of the conversations that I had with one of the persons from my Constituency. This is a Form 4 learner who is supposed to be sitting for her examinations in the June examinations. The questions that she asked me are, ‘Honourable, my school is a quarantine center and from my school there are returnees who have tested positive. I am supposed to be travelling from Kuwadzana to my school. What is going to happen in between now and then to convince me that I will be safe to go back to school?
Secondly, the girl said to me, ‘I am not even psychologically ready to go and write my examinations – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – So Honourable, why are they dragging me to go to school? To do what because I am not ready.’ I did not have the answers and we still do not have the answers. I would then ask that the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education should come to the House and tell us and the nation – the protocols that are going to be followed in terms of how schools operate because one of the other challenges is that boarding schools for example, also have day scholars. Even if the children go into school and they are tested, what do you do about the children who are travelling in and out of school every day? – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – How are you going to ensure that they are tested, make sure that they are going into a non sterile environment to sit for an examination and they are COVID-19 free?
I have a sister who is a teacher and I am going to be personal because these are the conversations that I have with my sister. She is diabetic and therefore she has an underlying condition. The first question that she asked me was, ‘Miriam, how do I go to school and remain safe when I am a Hostel superintendant and I am supposed to be keeping these children and when I am a hostel superintendant and I am supposed to be supervising? I have not been informed who is going to provide me with PPEs. I have not been informed how safe I am going to be. We have not been informed whether or not my school has enough thermometers. We have not been informed how schools are going to make sure that they check every other child and every ancillary member of staff and every member of staff …-[HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.]
She then gave me an example of her school – it is a school in
Harare actually. She said, ‘Imagine the girls..’ – it is a girl’s school, ‘the girls are queuing like this and we have only one thermometer and the thermometer collapses – it is not working. What do we do?’ Do we then say, ‘No, you cannot come in because we have not tested you?’ or we just take the risk and we let them in? She is a hostel superintendant, are we then giving her the responsibility of checking and making sure that the children exercise social distancing? She is the one who is going to do thermometers. What protection does she have? What guarantee does she have? What guarantee do the parents whose children are going into these schools have?
We are taking so much risk with children’s lives. Parents will be at home and the children will also have to travel either by ZUPCO, kombi or whatever to get to school. How are we going to guarantee the safety of the children who are boarding public transport, the drivers and everybody else who takes these children to school? I think as a nation we are not ready to be opening schools right now. We have to admit here and now and say that COVID-19 is our new normal. What are the things that we are going to do to make sure that we protect the safety of our children and ourselves because I am a parent and my child is going to go to school?
How risky is it for me to be able to ferry my daughter to school and make sure she comes back and does not bring the disease into the home since I do not have anything to test her with. I do not know whether this child who is coming from school is safe or not. Also at home we have old people who are more vulnerable – the moment we are having this heavy movement of people in and out, we are exposing everyone else around them to catching COVID-19.
Lastly, we have a problem of water nationally and one of the conditions is that you have to wash your hands under running water. In
Harare, for example, we have no running water in most of these schools. So if we are saying that they will be exercising sanitization, how when there is no water. This then affects the ablution services for boarders and this then affects where they are going to live in terms of hostels.
Ladies and gentlemen, Madam Chair, we are not ready to be opening schools at the moment. We have not put in place measures to make sure that we protect the lives of our children and the lives of the people who will be working i.e. the members of staff and ancillary staff. Can we come up with a plan first before we even think of opening schools. I thank you.
*HON. CHIKUKWA: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am. I
would like to add my voice to the report that was tabled. I want to say that I spoke to a student who is going to be writing her ‘A’ Level examinations this year who said that if we were to be engaged, I would propose that we open schools in September during summer because if we are affected by this pandemic, this will not only affect us as students but it will also affect our teachers.
So I believe that we need to engage and agree. We know that teachers may want to contribute to this subject. They may want that we follow a particular syllabus – this syllabus was created by people and it should be tailor made according to what parents are proposing. I thank you.
*HON. SVUURE: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am. I would
like to reiterate the same position pertaining to the opening of schools. A lot of things have been said. This pandemic is a new pandemic that we do not have much information about and we do not know when it is going to end. We cannot use our children as guinea pigs so that we test what exactly is happening.
We have noted that COVID-19 positive cases are escalating. A number of speakers have stated the same point that we cannot experiment with our children’s lives because a life lost cannot be revived. So for those who make decisions regarding the opening of schools – it is important that we take note of what Hon. Members are saying. I am saying this because I know that we are going to be blamed or history will judge us because we do not know what will happen if we allow our children to go to school.
For example, if this pandemic affects children at school, it will spread from the school to their homes. I am supporting what other Members have said. We cannot experiment with our children because we do not know what the outcome will be. I thank you.
HON. MUTAMBISI: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. S. NDLOVU: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 16th June, 2020.
COVID-19 PANDEMIC, PRICE INCREASES AND AVAILABILITY
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC
DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Madam Speaker,
thank you very much for the opportunity to address the august House on an issue which was raised by Hon. Nyabani of Rushinga Constituency regarding how we are responding from an economic point of view in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we are dealing with the rampant price increases and how we are attempting to make more cash available. Madam Speaker, I think it is fair to say that the world - as Zimbabwe and all nations face an existential crisis in the sense of trying to save lives, but in the sense of trying to save economies and livelihoods. Both of those issues are facing an existential crisis and we are doing our best to deal with it.
Our approach as you know is a two pronged strategy in the main, has been to save lives in the sense of focusing on prevention and we have spent our budget on that. Secondly is to save livelihoods, to stimulate our economies so that we can carry on our path of supporting productivity. We had agreed on that roadmap during the 2020 Budget. We said year 2020 is a year of productivity, job creation and trying to improve competitiveness and investment that comes with it, but all that has suffered from the COVID-19 shock.
Madam Speaker, that was not the first shock. The first shock was the climate change shock of Cyclone Idai and the drought. We thought we had seen enough and there was the effect on electricity and now comes the COVID-19 crisis. We have had quite a battering as an economy, unlike most economies. What you will see as the case globally is a decline in economic growth in 2020, lower than the expected 3% that were projected.
The channels of transmission of this slow down Madam Speaker are various. First of all, it is through the tourism sector. Members of the august House will agree with me that the sector has suffered the most. There are no tourists. Planes are not flying, the industry is virtually shut down. So there is need to support it. Secondly, it is the manufacturing sector, in the sense of the impact on global supply chain because China is the factory to the world - even the drugs that purportedly come from India actually originate from China and India puts them together. It is the factory to the world.
When the pandemic started, that immediately caused the global supply chain to slow down significantly. Also the global economy including China and others are the destination for our exports, especially hard commodities in the mining sector. Those also will be impacted and we have seen a slowdown in demand and a fall in prices. That again will impact our mining sector and other related sectors, but I must say that there is a bit of a silver lining on the tobacco sector. We have seen firmer prices averaging just over $2 a kilogramme compared to about $1. 75 same time last year and better deliveries but we have to also weigh the impact of a more decentralised tobacco buying system that we have put in place this year. May be that is a silver lining from COVID.
So there is an upside there, but equally there is another upside or silver lining from global oil prices which have been declining much due to fall in demand and also the unavailability of storage capacity. There was a moment when producers of oil will pay you to take the oil away. It is a very interesting situation. I have never seen negative prices in my life. In my previous life, I used to teach these things on derivatives and oil futures, but I have never seen negative oil futures. Only COVID-19 can bring us such, but there we are.
Net oil importers or petrol importers such as Zimbabwe obviously benefit from this kind of situation. Madam Speaker, were it not for the low global oil prices we would have seen higher domestic fuel prices in domestic currency due to the weaknesses in the currency, but this has not been the case. This has not been as rampant. The SME sector – our informal sector has been affected Madam Speaker. Naturally we have to do something about that. Equally the agriculture sector is linked to other sectors but I am pleased that those who are involved in the winter wheat programme have been forging ahead. It is pleasing to see that they are planting as fast as they can, and that farmers are signing up to the programme. It is not surprising therefore that our stimulus package of $18 billion is focusing on these various channels of transmission of the crisis such as the $3. 2 billion we have set aside for the winter wheat programme and about $2. 9 billion set aside for the summer Presidential
Input Scheme Programme, both of which will now be more productivity oriented in terms of what we are trying to do to raise productivity and push the economy so that it recovers. The programmes such as the pfumvunza system in terms of the small scale farmers are being promoted and equally for those who are commercially oriented, they need to pursue agricultural methods that are climate-proofed. We need to see some irrigation schemes supporting that productivity before we extend any loans to those type of farmers.
Turning to the mining sector, we have set aside a billion dollar facility that will support the sector, especially the gold sector which is export oriented. Here we are looking at raising resources from abroad so that we can extend them in US dollar terms because we know that this is a US dollar export industry. For the SME sector, we have set aside ZW$500 million again in the form of facility to support this sector. For the tourism sector, we have set aside another ZW$500 million to support the sector. For industry in general, we have above ZW$2 billion to support the sector.
I must say that those kinds of facilities are in the form of guarantees, not a direct facility from Government but a guarantee to banks. Banks are more comfortable to extend working capital to the companies in the various sectors because that is what companies will be having trouble in terms of accessing working capital. We stand ready to support them. We have made good progress in agreeing on the terms with the Bankers’ Association as late as yesterday, we met them to finalise and fine tune the amounts before the guarantee is finalised.
However, I must hasten to say on the agricultural sector support there has been movement already. We know that about $1.8 billion has already been extended to farmers who have signed up to the winter wheat programme. Again focusing on saving livelihoods is focusing on cash transfers, our target to the one million households who need support. So far our data base has taken us to about 200 000 households and the Ministry of Social Welfare would build this data base because they have to verify that whoever is in that database really qualifies as being vulnerable. So that process of verification takes a bit of time but we will get there. We are determined that every one of those individuals receive their $300 per month that we have promised and there is a budget set aside for this. We know that there is a sizeable portion of beneficiaries who are real SMEs and not just merely heads of households. In brief, that is our stimulus package as we respond to COVID 19 – it amounts to about 9% of the gross domestic product and we are determined to make sure that it works.
We have not forgotten that we needed to also improve access to certain key imported goods – we have relaxed import duties on these. Corporates have been generous in making donations to the Government task force. We are making sure that they get tax rebates. I know ZIMRA has already given rebates in the last couple of months to the tune of half a billion dollars to such corporates.
I mentioned earlier on about the facilities that banks are accessing from the central bank on the back of a guarantee from Treasury then for on lending to farmers and other businesses. We are making sure that this facility has an affordable interest rate. The lending rate should not be more than 20% and this is commendable that we have been able to reduce the cost of capital.
I am sure you are wondering how some of these resources are being sourced. Of course, we are reprioritising budgets and making sure that we speak to our partners who have been very generous. So far they have pledged almost US$150 million equivalent which is coming into the economy. They have been very helpful - all the bilateral and multilateral have come on board; World Bank, African Development Bank and other global funds. Bilateral partners include EU, US, UK, Japan, Sweden, China and these have been generous. We are very pleased with this support.
We are also aware that local authorities have been having challenges in collecting their dues because businesses were closed or there was economic slowdown. We stand ready to support them. One area that we have focussed on is one of water provision – whether it is water treatment resources; we have been able to extend those through
IDC to Chemplex for them to clean our water in the capital city – Harare and Bulawayo being the big cities. In Bulawayo, we have invested a lot in boreholes. We have good value for money in Bulawayo. For the
$10.6 million that we extended for borehole drilling in the Nyamandlovu Aquifer, we have managed to raise raw water output from three million mega litres per day to 10 million and this is remarkable. The efficiency is just amazing. We will also drill more boreholes on both sides of the aquifer because they are lucrative for water outputs.
We have very smart engineers there. They are really impressive. Initially I knew that there was a very big bill for the Minister of Finance to meet in terms of getting water out of Insiza Dam but they came along and said let us just fix a few valves. I know that alone will more than double the water output from that dam because it is just in terms of fixing valves and not investing the sort of money we thought was needed.
Finally on this package, we also want to give an impetus on foreign direct investment and so we are launching this Victoria Falls stock/securities exchange. The idea is that this exchange will sit below the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange as a subsidiary and companies operating under this exchange will be able to bring in their foreign currency and invest in our economy. We are targeting foreign companies so that we re-drive the mantra that ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’. We are just finalising the rules and those should be published shortly.
I now turn to the issue of inflation specifically because Hon. Nyabani was very specific about prices and inflation. I would like to zoom in on that. Inflation has been very high. What happened is that just before COVID 19, businesses went to typical speculative mode which is, if you expect demand to fall and you are a retailer in business; you are expecting a lock down and it is announced – the first thing that you do is to raise prices because you know that for a while you will not be selling much and that is what unfortunately happened. We had that COVID impact on prices which has not been helpful at all.
Secondly at the same moment, the parallel market started moving up and again as usual. There is that high correlation between the parallel market and our pricing system in the retail sector which kicked in and prices again shot up. It was because of these two reasons that you saw a sharp increase in inflation. As a mitigatory measure, we spoke to industry and we asked for a price moratorium. We had a handshake but they have not been able to follow through. Perhaps they have got their own pressures. I still urge that if we could have another handshake, it would be helpful and assist Zimbabweans to have this price moratorium while we go through this difficult time.
On the currency front, I think it is fair to say that part of the reason for the movement in the parallel market which is linked to pricing is through to the regulatory environment. I really commend the central bank for what they have been doing in trying to deal with the illicit behaviour that you see in the financial sector especially in the usage of mobile money platforms, or rather the abuse of mobile money platforms. They have been very tough and I think that has been very helpful indeed working with the financial intelligence unit.
It is important that there should be regulation of mobile money platforms. Our regulation environment like elsewhere in the world was never geared up to manage mobile banking platforms. We were very good at managing banking institutions and the moment you have a banking platform led by an NMO or network operator, what tends to happen is that central banks are kind of left in a limbo. They do not know how to regulate because they only know how to regulate banks. They end up creating a trust account to manage that gap between the network operator and the banking sector and that is when you are able to keep your tabs on them.
We have got that kind of situation in Zimbabwe and Kenya where the telecoms companies are the leaders. In our case it is Telecel, NetOne and Econet. In other countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, the mobile banking systems are bank led, which means that the central bank has a better handle on the regulations. Here in Zimbabwe, we have to play catch up in our regulatory environment. We hope that at some point we will bring in some new rules to fine-tune the regulatory environment so that we can bring sanity to the use of our mobile banking platform which has been very helpful in this cash shortage situation. We have this challenge that the regulation is unable to keep tabs of what is going on in the face of a currency volatility situation.
I can assure you that we are committed to fiscal discipline. One thing that we do not want is what happened in the past where physical indiscipline was leading to inflation. High budget deficit which has been accumulating over years then end up resulting in issuance of excessive treasury bills which are then monetised in the financial sector and then that leads to growth in money supply and puts pressure on the exchange rate and inflation. So that is a thing of the past. We want to make sure that we keep our budget deficit under control and also as you know we have also made sure that we stop using the RBZ window. The whole of 2019, we have not used the RBZ overdraft window. We are staying far away from it and we want to live within our means and do some borrowings where we can but even the borrowings are well managed. I can assure you of that; so we are making sure that on the physical front we are not the problem.
On the monetary front, we have noted the drop in the growth of what we call high powered money or M-zero in the first quarter of the year and that is positive. It means that growth in money supply can be managed successfully. We want to make sure that stays like that and it does not add to the volatility in the weakness in the parallel market, in the exchange rate which then feeds to inflation which is the subject of our discussion. I think it is always worth emphasising that in the medium to long term it is always productivity and import substitution so that we can put less pressure on the currency by producing more and exporting more and raising our productivity so that we can grow our economy. You will find that our stimulus package is focusing on that and dovetails with what we pronounced in the budget for 2020.
Then specifically on cash shortages, what we have done is to continue to supply more cash into the economy. Recently, we introduced the ZW$10 note and then we will soon introduce the ZW$20 note. The target pronounced by the RBZ is ZW$600 million worth of cash into the system. The way we are doing it is responsible. Basically, banks are buying this cash. We are swapping RTGs balances for cash so that we do not increase the amount of money supply in the economy because increasing that money supply due to the cash injection will certainly lead to inflation and we do not want that. We want to ensure we keep managing this cash injection programme. The one thing that we know continuous to be a pain is the issue of the cash-in cash-out premiums that ordinary citizens continue to face but that obviously has to do with cash shortage. I will say the entrepreneurship of those agents who are involved in this business, the level of entrepreneurship which has not been helpful and supportive of our ordinary citizens, we want to increase the quality of regulation as well around these agents and the central bank has been doing that. So we are doing our best to make sure we get back on the path of productivity.
We grow the economy again but also make sure that we take advantage of other opportunities that the COVID-19 crisis has unleashed. I have never seen this kind of focus on the health sector and health sector facilities. It is just amazing. We have all become miniministers of health, the entire Cabinet. I am joking I hope my colleagues will understand. We are all onto some health something. I go and tour Wilkins Hospital, Ekusileni, Mpilo and even went into a testing laboratory. Ordinarily, I would not have gone there but it is only because of that crisis that you see what needs to be done such as upgrading of these facilities and we are all making sure that we are upgrading them. That is positive; you can imagine the companies that are involved in upgrading these facilities. Suddenly they have more business, so there is an opportunity that we should see and explore as we deal with the pandemic.
Just look at what the universities have done – they are now making sanitisers and masks. I have seen them myself. Today I just forgot to put it on, the blue one made from the University of Zimbabwe and it is amazing that we have all this potential. The schools are also included. I was listening carefully earlier on whether schools are opening or not, our high schools are making sanitisers and masks. This is remarkable because the Fashion and Fabrics Department suddenly saw an opportunity and got everyone into a mind of productivity, and that is very positive for the country. On that note, I thank you Madam Speaker
Ma’am and thank you colleagues for listening.
HON. RAIDZA: Thank you very much Madam Speaker. I have
few clarifications from the Minister. The first one is with regards to the assistance that the Central Government is giving to our local authorities. We had a debate here in the House on one of the reports that we presented for local authorities but we are finding out that many of the quotations that the local government is bringing to central government for funding are always huge but when central government goes on the ground with independent engineers they find that the work that needs to be done actually requires far less money than what they would have requested. What is your Ministry doing to make sure that there is no potential financial prejudice regarding this issue?
Secondly, the limits that were put in place by RBZ on the Zipit, the one of $2000 and $100000 - are these limits not going to create another arbitrage opportunity again on the demand of cash especially from some of these unscrupulous companies that always ensure that if you block their way in this way they will come up with another opportunity? For example this $100k, with the inflation that we are having we realise that it is a small amount but are they not going to punish again the consumers by demanding cash instead of other forms of payments? Why are these people not being arrested so that as a nation we can see the criminals bringing this suffering to our people are dealt with. Why are they not arrested but instead you try to come up with some interventions to curb their illegal activities? Is it that we do not have a law that supports you to do that or as Parliament we need to enact a law that supports the arrest and dealing of these kinds of criminals? By introducing the new money that we saw in the market, why are we not seeing reduction in queues in our banks? They seem to be getting longer than they were. Why are they not becoming shorter since the introduction of more cash in the market? Thank you very much madam Speaker.
HON. MASENDA: I would like to ask the Minister about the tobacco farmers. Do you have a viability policy meant to cushion tobacco farmers from the severe loss they are incurring by exchanging their US$ to the fixed rate of ZW$25 whereas on the parallel market it is 1:70/75? I am a tobacco farmer myself and I went to buy in preparation to sow seed because the 1st June is sowing time for tobacco. Tobacco seed is priced at US$25 at the research station. I did not have the US$25 and so they converted the US$25 to RTGs and I paid for a packet of 5 grams RTGS$1 750, which gives me the rate of US$1 to RTG$70. The farmer walks out of the bank short-changed given 1:25. How much more do I need to pay for the tobacco?
It is a painful situation and I would like the Minister to explain whether there is a way that a cushion can be provided. In the past, tobacco farmers used to be paid what they called export incentives. Is this anything that you have in mind to encourage tobacco farmers because what I see happening is that tobacco farmers are going to give up growing tobacco as cotton growers did in the past. It is not viable to exchange your dollar for US$25 yet out there all the parts, inputs such as chemicals and fertilizers are being priced at a parallel market rate of US$1:RTG$70 or even $75. I would like the Minister to seriously consider giving at least a relief on the tobacco growers because it is indeed discouraging to do that kind of thing.
As a result of this, what is happening where we come from, there are illegal tobacco merchants that are coming to buy giving a rate of say US$1 to RTG$50. The farmer will say it is better off, even if I make a loss, to sell off my tobacco for RTG$50. Therefore the Government is going to start losing from the tobacco that is being side marketed. It is indeed a very painful situation. Hon. Minister, if you could perhaps give us a guideline on what is happening.
*HON. NYABANI: I want to start by saying that we have Bureau de`Changes in the country that are supposed to change money but you find money changers in the streets and they are not even afraid. Minister, can you not put a Statutory Instrument so that those people are prosecuted because they are the ones who are making the rate go up. Can you not put a law so that these people are prosecuted and we are left with legal exchange houses? Our monies have become useless now. If it is not possible, then we should come up with ways in this House.
HON. P. MOYO: The Minister is trying his level best under the circumstances to arrest runaway inflation. Let me draw the Hon.
Minister back to 2007/08/09 and so on. Inflation was in quintillion. Even a country which was in war never experienced such inflation. Today we are slowly going back to 2008. You may put a Statutory Instrument and so on, and try to arrest the people that are selling money in the streets, that will not work.
I am requesting the Hon. Minister to sit down carefully with his colleagues in Cabinet and adopt the multi-currency system. This country Madam Speaker, is in serious problem. People who are earning say
RTG$6 000 or 7 000, it is US$30 nowadays. So I humbly request the Minister to seriously consider this country to use the multi-currency system. That is the only ‘messiah’ for our situation. We may try to do whatever trick but there is no trick that you can do even if you print a $100 bond, it will not solve the problem. The problem will persist.
I do not have many words to say as I can see he is also in serious trouble to try and arrest this kind of inflation. It is not his fault but they have to sit down and consider using the multicurrency. We love this country. This is the only country that we have and if we run it down with our hands, honestly we are leaving a very bad legacy and we will be a laughing stock tomorrow. Thank you Madam Speaker.
HON. NDUNA: The first point that I need clarity on is the issue of the millers versus GMB and Government on issues to do with subsidy on roller meal. It is rumoured that there is a catch-22 where they have to sign new contracts with you, Government and them in order to access the grain from GMB in order that we continue to have mealie-meal at $70 or a little bit more but according to the dictates of the new agreement. However, it is rumoured that you have not sanctioned the new agreement.
The second issue; I want to applaud you for the disbursement of the devolution funds which devolutions funds have seen the rejuvenation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the health institutions, as per the Abuja Declaration. Our budget is supposed to see to it that about 15% goes to the health institution but the monies for devolution that you have apportioned to the local authorities have seen a lot of the rehabilitation of the health institutions. I am quite alive to you applauding that as well.
Be that as it may, I ask that the amounts because of the inflationary pressures be expeditiously given to those local authorities, and if there is means and ways of you monitoring through us on the amounts utilization. We are on the ground especially yours truly, is certainly on the ground trying to see that money is put to good use. I want to go further and applaud you to say for 25 years, we have never filled a 3 mega litre in Chegutu West Constituency. We have always had 3 mega litres where we are treating 10 mega litres because of perforated, disused pipes and dilapidated infrastructure. Because of this money, we have managed to put in new pumps, mend our tank and we are now realising some inflows and outflows from that three mega litre tank into the community which we have never had for the past 25 years. So I want to applaud you for that.
The third issue Hon. Minister, I want to applaud you for sidestepping the middle men in terms of the gold incentives which you are now giving to the producers. What you have been doing earlier was to give to the middle man or the buyer of the gold as opposed to the producer. I come from a place that has ubiquitous amounts of mineral wealth and they have seen the benefit of this incentive. I am sure if you look at Chegutu and Kadoma deliveries to Fidelity, you are certainly going to smile all the way to Fidelity because there is an upsurge of deliveries to Fidelity because of your recognition to the gold producer as opposed to the gold buyer.
Hon. Minister, there is the issue of the Food for Work Programme. We have youths out there and a population in my Constituency, 6 724 aged between 15 and 35, they have no need to get food for nothing, they are on a list of the Food For Work Programme but that programme has been stalled because the money is not coming or the food for that work is not coming. It is my clarion call, hope and fervent view that you expeditiously disperse the monies for such programmes so that our people get what they want using what we have.
The last one, I would have wanted to debate on the education sector, but you have come in with a gold finger mentality. You have added another avenue to the debate that was ensuing before you came in. I make a clarion call Hon. Minister to you; aware that gold is the only tradable commodity as we speak. Five percent…
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Nduna, may you please
raise points of clarity.
HON. NDUNA: These are points of clarity Hon. Speaker.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: No Hon. Nduna. If you look at
what you are raising, you are raising issues to do with gold which are not in line with what the Minister presented. The Minister presented issues to do with availability of cash, COVID -19 response and I am sure that is what you need to be in line with. Let us ask questions of clarity pertaining to what the Minister presented.
HON. NDUNA: Madam Speaker Ma’am, the difference with me
is that I propose solutions, I am not a ‘cry baby.’ I am asking Hon.
Minister if you can get the issue of – get 5% of the gold deliveries to Fidelity and direct that to the education sector in particular for e-learning purposes aware of the COVID 19 pandemic so that our children in our rural sector can go to school…
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Nduna, you are now out
of context. Thank you very much. Order, you can now take your seat.
HON. NDUNA: Thank you so much Hon. Minister for getting these solutions, now you can go ahead…
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Thank you very much for your
HON. GANDAWA: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am. Thank
you Hon. Minister for the address you have given us. I appreciate the efforts that the Minister has come up with, particularly in conjunction with the Reserve Bank, the slowdown in the velocity of cash movements both in terms of value and transaction numbers.
However, Hon. Minister, what I need to understand is; what other interventions have you come up with in terms of mopping up excess liquidity from the market. I also noticed that equally pushing up is the parallel market exchange rates which is equally affecting the value of our local currency. Secondly, I want to understand on our price moratorium, how receptive is the industry to this idea? I understand you once had a meeting with them, how receptive are they to that call? Lastly, I was not too sure if there is a leeway to improve the retention for our tobacco farmers from the current 50:50? Thank you.
HON. PROF. M. NCUBE: Mr. Speaker Sir, thank you for the questions from the Hon. Members. I really thank them for their contributions, questions and requests for clarification. Basically, looking at the first intervention regarding the assistance to local authorities, where there is a feeling that from time to time we see big bills and large invoices, quotations and requests for budgets; what are we doing to make sure that we do not end up falling into the trap of paying for exorbitant services and demands? Actually, we do check these demands and requests to make sure that we do the right value for money audits and make sure that there is sufficient competitive bidding process to make sure that we get value for money.
We become even more thorough now, having realised that this is quite rampant and we try to make sure that it does not happen. I gave examples of certain quotations for budgets on infrastructure development and we had to request further services with the engineer who was able to help us bring down the bills which would otherwise have been paid had we not sought these services. So, we remain vigilant, I can assure you Mr. Speaker Sir and Hon. Members.
On the Zimswitch Instant Payment Interchange Technology (ZIPIT), here we are putting new limits and trying to curb the abuse of these large limits in the past, we have made them smaller to curb the abuse and their use in the parallel market. These smart people will not circumvent these new rules and still carry on with their activities. While we remain vigilant, we will try our best to make sure that it does not happen. You can imagine that someone could have different accounts under different names, small ones indeed but when we add them up, they come to something larger.
So, again we have to look out for this and make sure that we minimise this kind of abuse. Of course, the Hon. Member was very strong that, we should arrest these people, I agree with that. Let us make sure that the law and the enforcement is tougher. We will make sure that this is the case. This is also the simple point raised by Hon. Nyabani that the law must take its course. I agree with this enforcement, it is very critical to make sure that there is discipline in the market.
Why do we still have queues with new money pouring into the economy? It is still not enough. At the moment, our cash in circulation is about 4% of Gross Domestic Product. In other economies and in the region, it is about 10%, or even below half. So, it will take us a while to get up there. You know with Zimbabwe, the moment you announce that I am going to bring in a lot of cash and do this, the rates start misbehaving and people take positions. So, sometimes we have to send a kind of mute message in terms of what we are trying to do just to manage expectations about excess liquidity getting into circulation and into the economy. We will get there, our target is still the 10% of cash in circulation as the percentage of GDP but it needs to be gradual and we need to do it prudently using this swap method between RTGS liquidity and cash.
Let me turn to the issue of tobacco farmers, which has been eloquently articulated by two Hon. Members who feel that tobacco farmers are being prejudiced. They are at the moment on this 50:50 rule, 50% foreign currency and 50% local currency. The exchange rate on the foreign currency is 25and it is fixed, they are feeling that they are being prejudiced and the request that we move and make sure that there is some kind of incentive to make sure that these farmers feel it is worthwhile to go back into tobacco farming.
All I can say is that I have listened and as Government we are listening but that is the rule at the moment, we have a fixed exchange rate of 25 and it is a 50:50 rule, but we have listened to this plea, we are not deaf at all. If I may remind you on what happened last year, the Members of the House said Minister there is a problem on Tabacco floors, when where you last there. So I said I am going to go, they said the two percent tax is hurting farmers. So the following day I went there and I confirmed that and we instantly removed the 2 percent tax for the tobacco farmers. Again,1 I have listened to this and I will make the necessary engagements with the Central bank and within Government consultations and see where anything can be done. I want to refer to
Hon. Nyabani’s question on arresting these illegal traders which I agree
There is a very clear proposal from one Hon. Moyo who is urging the adoption of the multi-currency system. I just want to say it is a proposal and proposals are what they are, they are proposals but let me remind you - in the past, I think we thought we had a multi currency system which excluded domestic currency; that is not true. The truth is from 2009, we had a domestic currency called RTGs, what happened back then is we were able to sell confidence. We all agreed that RTGS balances are in exchange rate of 1:1 to the US dollars. So we had always had a domestic currency since 2009. Now, we have it as well, I hope with that proposal he is not suggesting that the Zimbabwean dollar need to exit, it cannot. You cannot afford to have hard currency only and no domestic currency. No economy can develop without a domestic currency, you need that.
Through you Hon. Speaker but I have to address my colleague just for a meeting. Hon. Moyo if you will allow me to deviate from the rules. You cannot have a situation where your macro-economic walks on one leg, on fiscal policy only and there is monetary policy. The moment you go back to hard currency, you have to scrap monetary policy. Your Central Bank is not run from Harare it is run from elsewhere, by those whose currency you are using and you have no control over the value of that currency. Suddenly you lose competitiveness and we lost so much competitiveness during the use of the US dollar in the main although we had RTGs balances that we were also using to a point where I recall that we had to introduce import duties so that we do not get too many goods, especially from South Africa and we were de-industrialising. We had to do that to protect our industry, why, because our currency was not competitive. The reference currency was not competitive.
What has happened Mr. Speaker Sir, in the last 12 months, I challenge you, I challenge all Hon. Members, it is not even a challenge, I encourage Hon. Members through you Mr. Speaker Sir, just go to any one shop and ask the manager, how many new products are on the shelves which all have come in, in the last 12 months. I did that, I counted 40 new products. So we are doing import substitution and that is the impact of the domestic currency. When you have a weak domestic currency, what it does is it encourages import substitution because it makes imports more expensive; that is a positive thing.
For those companies that are exporting, they get more in domestic currency and that is what redefines competitiveness. So you find that export growth is more positive, you just can increase in export growth and then also companies can also import substitute. I just want to say to my colleague Hon. Moyo that you need a domestic currency which is weaker than the US dollar, but it must be stable. So our debate really is about currency stability and not about whether it should be there or not. It is there, we should keep it, we have always had it, but we did not recognise it. I can go into that history since 2009 and explain at some point in the future, so keep the Zimbabwe dollar but let us stabilize it and that is what we are doing as Government.
Hon. Nduna asked about the roller meal subsidy. I am quite aware of the challenges that the subsidy has presented that we need to improve targeting. We are aware of that as Government, some of the beneficiaries should not be benefiting. I am also aware that some of the roller meal is finding its way across the borders and it is leaking, they are enough smart Zimbabweans who find ways to make money from this subsidized roller meal. He refers specifically to a contract with GMAZ - we are in discussions; contracts get negotiated and renegotiated, and we are doing exactly that. We work very well with the suppliers of maize and we are working on that, we will get there.
Of course the availability of roller meal has also been impacted by the availability of maize in the first place and that is also a challenge, we have been importing. We cannot import fast enough, COVID made it harder. We also noticed that the prices in South Africa started falling, which is where most of the maize was coming from. If you look at the futures markets on the South Africa Futures Exchange prices started declining. Initially we were averaging $350 per metric tonne and noticed that in the market in South Africa, prices are dropping to below $300 per metric tonne. Naturally you have to renegotiate and that process takes time, you lose supply of maize. So that is what has been partly bedeviling the availability of roller meal, we will get there. We are pleased that the local purchases are increasing and local farmers are beginning to deliver at GMB and they have received this early delivery incentive of 30% and we hear that there is some joy. We hope that they can do it faster.
Hon. Nduna also referred to the issue of devolution funds which are being spent on health institutions. I agree with him and thank you for applauding us, we have determined that we really upgrade our health institutions and try to meet that Abuja target but we will also expedite the release of these funds. He also talked about the use of these funds for upgrading water infrastructure, pipes ignition in Chegutu. Again, that is an area of focus for us. We have said that these devolution funds this year, we should target water infrastructure and health infrastructure and agree with him that it is making a difference. Let us all make a difference. There was reference to gold incentive and the formula which now has been changed from 55/45 to 70/30, so 70% hard currency and this I agree, will stimulate the gold deliveries to the producers even further rather than supporting the middlemen, it is usually men so I will stick to middlemen.
On food for work, this is an urgent matter that I know Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare is ceased with to make sure that that programme begins to work and work properly. Young men need to exercise, better still if they are doing it for free food building the roads or whatever they have to do in their communities, this is a good thing and I will pass the message on, but also make sure that there is robust debate on how to accelerate this food for work programme.
The idea of setting aside 5% of gold receipts to finance education and e-learning, all those are interesting ideas, of ringfencing resources to target a specific issue. I think it is fair to say that we now have a digital divide caused by COVID-19 as far as the education sector is concerned. The private schools can afford e-learning facilities and so forth and those in the poorer schools, mainly Government or other schools cannot. So we have that digital divide now and that needs to be closed – we recognise that closing that is key. I listened very keenly to the debate about opening of schools and I will not make a contribution – I am here to listen from the Government side.
We are trying and as you know, we have now launched radio programmes. Those of you who are my age or older – we grew up on radio lessons which I enjoyed thoroughly. I remember we even did a book on King Solomon’s Mines and when I think about it, I even hear the voice – it was so soothing. It was done by an expert and the theatrics in terms of sounds in the background were most amusing and captivating. I remember everything about those radio lessons much more than I did from the ordinary books at that age. So, we are trying our best but we know that the digital divide is an issue that we need to deal with.
Then from Hon. Gandawa who spoke about why are we not
mopping up excess liquidity. I agree with him that the Central Bank is working on a corporate bond issuance programme so that they can target those with excess liquidity and issue bonds that are attractive. I think often the issue is, are the yields attractive enough for those with excess liquidity and that is what needs to be cracked. I know that they are working on it – these targeted corporate bonds are key to mopping up that liquidity that is how it is done. I think that we will succeed. I will stop here and thank you Mr. Speaker.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MUTOMBA): Thank
you very much Hon. Minister for your articulation – well articulated.
May I have another round of questions raising areas of concern?
+HON. S. NDLOVU: The question I would like to ask is, what is Government or the Hon. Minister doing in connection with the madness of high prices of commodities? This is especially with reference to the high prices for cooking oil, mealie meal and bread and things are very expensive. People would want to know what Government is saying
about all this.
We are lucky today that the Hon. Minister is here to answer these questions because people want to know what is going on. There is no stable price as it is each dealer has his own price. Today, I am told that the price of bread is now ZWL$40.00 from ZWL$30.00 and the price of sugar has gone up. Hon. Minister, everything has gone up, how are people going to survive? People are going to die. I thank you.
HON. K. PARADZA: Hon. Minister, we need clarity in terms of who is funding Command Agriculture. Is it Government or private money?
Why am I saying that? I am saying that because right now all those farmers who had delivered their maize to the GMB have been garnished. The figures that they are using to recover the money are just outrageous. So farmers who harvested something this year and sent it to the GMB have no money to talk about and it is because we do not know what the bank is doing in terms of pricing of the inputs that we have. So we need that clarity Hon. Minister. I thank you.
HON. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: Thank you Mr.
Speaker Sir and thank you to the Hon. Minister. I just have a few issues for clarification.
The first one is that you came to this House, I think just before we went off on COVID-19 break, to speak to us around what you were calling a floating rate, but it then did not become a floating rate because you maintained a fixed rate. I remember at that time I raised a question on what you were going to do with the issue of the fuel cost. Clearly when you look at your fixed rate of 25 and how much the value of the dollar - not even on the parallel market but realistically – it really is running around 1:40. How do we sustain this. because all we see is the arbitrage that is happening with it?
For example, I know that there are people who deliver fuel at my house when I call for it and they are selling it at USD$1.00 per liter. Clearly, they are not importing it from outside. They must be getting it from the fuel pump so that it then makes the extra, because in real terms you are probably selling your fuel at about Twenty cents. Is it sustainable to maintain that?
The second one is really clarification on why Government is not using certain processes to be able to get hard currency because we do not have hard currency. I will just give you an example. Your medical aid insurance has an option of charging in foreign currency at a reasonable cost but they tell us that they have not been allowed to do so except for corporates. So if I am an individual trying to get insurance in forex I cannot not get it and yet that is money that you could immediately get.
Your insurance for cars is exactly the same, they are still going on the Z$ and we know that it is not sustainable.
In terms of inflation it does not matter how much you pay now, if your car is involved in an accident, you will not be able to repair it at the cost of the ZWL$. Why are we not approving this so that at least we can start mopping out some of the foreign currency that is there? This is also the same with funeral policies. Why are we holding back? We now have a Statutory Instrument that talks to multi-currency but we are not using that multi-currency so that we can mop up the money that is there.
Testing for COVID-19 at private hospitals – again this is very concerning. We have CIMAS and other private hospitals that are testing. Rapid tests are going for USD$25.00 or USD$30.00 and PCR USD$75.00 – we do not know the agents where they are getting, whether they got them from you or they are theirs but surely if I am going to test at USD$75.00 why is Government not charging VAT on these? If this person charges me USD$70.00 at least USD$5.00 in hard cash could be coming to Government.
On procurement, what are you doing since you have now kind of suspended with your new regulations? You have suspended PRAZ in terms of issues of procurement. What is the alternative regulation that you have put in place? I see you are shaking your head. What used to happen with any form of procurement was it would go to PRAZ. What we understand in the last Statutory Instrument that you put in is you indicated that because we are going through a pandemic, we cannot follow the same regulations that we used to follow as defined in the Procurement Act and in the regulation. The question is, what are the alternative regulations that we are now using for purposes of procurement? I think that without an alternative regulation, then we have a problem.
On e-learning, we could be getting money from e-learning because private people are charging USD$1 600.00 per parent per semester, that is at St. Georges. These people are just doing it and not giving a penny to Government. We are getting no cent from it. Why are we not pushing for the licensing so that we can get money from this thing?
Lastly, again Econet is milking it every minute. Now they are selling airtime in USD$, you choose that you can get it in US dollar. Our own NetOne is not creating that facility. Private sector makes money,
our own companies cannot use the same system that is there. The summary of this issue is, why is Government hesitant to use the systems that are there to be able to get forex that we need because we have so many opportunities of making money in hard currency that we are not, which is why the private sector then comes in and we complain that they are taking money from us yet we are just not thinking outside the box.
*HON. MATAMBANADZO: Thank you Mr. Speaker for giving
me this opportunity to debate on what the Hon. Minister said in order for the country to go forward. I wanted to look at bank centres for gold.
Since we were born and even after independence Fidelity Printers and Refinery has been there. It is a Government company and has operated since the Smith regime through to Mugabe and now is in His Excellency
President Mnangagwa’s period. I have not heard of any wrong that they have done. You have said they have to buy gold for $45 and it has to be fixed at that amount. You then gave another company licence to buy gold which has not even started buying it. You gave another private company an exporting licence to compete with Fidelity at $45, thereby competing with a Government company. There was another company which was given a licence to buy and export gold and they have exported gold which has not been recovered by the country. It just went away. Are you not creating a war as a Minister with the way you pegged the Fidelity buying price at $45? That has affected Fidelity. You asked them to give people incentives and now you have removed them a day before yesterday. We are looking up to this company. It is a company which has a printing machine. They put features on our money and it has a very strong hold which is well equipped but the company which you have given a licence does not even have a vault.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the price of $48 versus $45, is it not going to cause inflation and price hikes in shops? People will increase prices of commodities such as mealie-meal and bread will go up because you are now misusing foreign currency. As a Minister, do you think these measures are adequate enough? Are we going to succeed, I only want to understand from you Minister.
HON. TOFFA: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I have a few points of clarity. Hon. Minister spoke about setting aside $2 billion dollars for the winter wheat farming. How much of it has been disbursed? My second point of clarity to the Minister is to do with water in Bulawayo. The Minister spoke on water in Insiza and also drilling boreholes on either side of the aquifer. I noticed the last time when the Minister came down to Bulawayo, they said there was no water crisis in Bulawayo yet as a matter of fact, there is a water crisis in Bulawayo. Residents are going without water for as long as up to a week. To compound this issue, right now we are in the COVID era and in Bulawayo, we are having outbreaks of diarrhoea. The Hon. Member of Luveve Constituency had a number of cases of diarrhoea and there are other constituencies in Bulawayo that are suffering from the same problem. Without water we are heading for a disaster in Bulawayo. Mr. Speaker Sir, would it not be wise for the Government to declare Bulawayo water crisis a national disaster seeing that the Minister of Finance is having problems with raising foreign currency to assist the local authority? I think that it would be a good idea that Bulawayo water crisis is declared a national disaster. In that way we can try and get foreign and local funding. I was reading somewhere where it was being spoken to the fact that if we declare Bulawayo water crisis as a national disaster it will deter investors, but I put it that if we declare Bulawayo water crisis investors that want to invest in Bulawayo will see that we want to do something about Bulawayo. That way it will bring in investment and you will get foreign funding coming in to help Bulawayo resuscitated. I thank you Mr. Speaker.
HON. MGUNI: Thank you Mr. Speaker for giving me this opportunity to talk. I would like to thank the Minister of Finance for his Ministerial Statement. I have noted something from his Statement. Last year we had a budget and a workshop. After that, we came and debated the issue but now looking at COVID and all the plans that we had, is the Minister now aware that some of us come from Region 5 in Bubi District in Matabeleland North? Region 5 is a dry area and we have boreholes that have dried up. Dams are also drying up and all our people are going to be wiped out. I was thinking that looking at the period that we are in, the period of COVID and also looking at climate change, for life to carry on after COVID when we look at all the programmes that were there, looking at the infrastructure like dams and roads – all those things have stopped. We are going to face more deaths now due to the effects of climate change especially in Region 5. I have also noticed that we spoke about COVID, prices and other issues, I want to differ from what others spoke about. If we continue to use the US$, we are not going to succeed. It was alright whilst we were using multicurrency. If we look at other countries like Zambia, their economy is doing well. We should not allow people to use the multi-currency system because people are trying to drive us to use the multi-currency system. We are not exporting. We are actually importing more than we are exporting, so if we allow people to use the US$ we are going to have a sky rocketing inflation every day.
Lastly, I would like to talk about people’s current salaries. The money that we are earning currently as Hon. Members here is not enough to buy fuel to go to constituencies and come back. Fuel is being sold in US$ and if you convert your salary to US$, you find that your money is nothing. The Minister should remember that we have projects that we have to complete. People are suffering and we will end up being assaulted by people in our constituencies. A lot of people are not working and some of them are not even working at all. Some do not have grain to eat. The Minister should not forget that we have a budget and we also want those items that were in the budget to be fulfilled. I thank you.
HON. MADHUKU: I just want to find out from the Hon. Minister whether the use of foreign currency in transactions is not giving any loopholes. How do you effectively monitor and control the use and circulation of those foreign currency transactions that are done especially at filling stations? We have noticed that fuel is always available when it is sold in forex but when we use the RTGs it is not available. I have also noticed that in certain big shops there is a queue at the till when buying in RTGs and a separate one for US$ but the till slips they receive from there is for RTGs. I think there are some
unscrupulous deals that are being done there. Why are they allowing such a situation? This means that the money is not banked. How do we account for that because as Government we need that foreign currency? As far as I am concerned, there is no accountability.
*HON. P. ZHOU: I would like to thank the Minister for coming and giving us this Ministerial Statement. I would like to notify the Minister that we want him to be present every Wednesday for question time. We have serious issues to discuss with you especially relating to our economy, food in particular. People are dying of hunger. This hunger is now prevalent because our money is now worthless. Whenever a new currency is introduced, people are happy but when the new notes were introduced, people were not happy because they knew that the money was going to be worthless within a short time. When that new $10 note was introduced, we just saw it on the streets. When you get into the banks they tell you that they do not have money and they are waiting for the $20 notes.
Things are now difficult. There is hunger in the rural areas. The prices of commodities are too high and people cannot afford. Can we not implement price controls - $1 000 cannot buy anything. You cannot budget with it. My child went to university in Mberengwa to do research – he used $700. It was not enough for him to return. We had to send him more money on his way back home. Where can we get all that money? I am a farmer and have got workers that I have to pay. I have to pay 35 permanent workers and I have to pay $1 700 and 75 casual workers. I do not know how to pay them. If you reduce the numbers, you cannot manage the farm.
After harvesting you find that the money will be worthless. We are not even making profits from farming. If I want to repair my tractors, the bearing costs US$10-50. When I want to buy something, it is charged in US$ but I am being paid in RTGS; US$10 is $700. If I get my salary of $7 000 here and divide it with 700, I get US$100.
Sometimes it will not be US$100. If we are affected as Members of Parliament, what about those people in rural areas? Life is difficult Hon.
The black market which is affecting us is now even at OK and TM shops. Why are we allowing them to do that? We are legislators, where are we failing? How can we fix this Minister? You are the one who sit in the Cabinet, how can we fix this? Please help us Minister. You are the one who sits in Cabinet, so bring the law to us so we can look at it. Minister, my plea or my wish is, I do not know how I can express it but in the rural areas, the people are saying we are not working or doing anything for them. The moment they saw me in my constituency and I told them I was going to work, they said go and tell them we are dying of hunger. To survive Covid-19, people should be well fed. We are not doing any meaningful work to get money but just working around our households but life has become so tough. Minister, people are dying of hunger. Everything has become burdensome. Transport is very expensive and unaffordable.
I was very happy about winter wheat because they did very well. Inputs came in time and CBZ told us how much fuel each person would get but it is just a figure. Minister, we just got a bit of fuel and we are unable to plough and plant. As I speak, my tractor is parked. I want to beat the deadline but there is no fuel. Things are not well in terms of hunger. People are hungry. I will stop here but let me just reiterate that people are hungry and people are crying. This applies to everyone, those who work and those who do not work. Things are very expensive.
HON. MUNETSI: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for giving me this chance to speak. The other time Government bought a drilling machine which was said could drill up to 1000m. I have not seen it yet. Do we have it in the country? The second thing is you never spoke about how you are going to control corruption. There is a lot of corruption. Why is money in the street? It is corruption. The reason why all these people are complaining is because if you go to Mozambique, you cannot go into a shop and bring out a US$. They will tell you to go to a Bureau-deChange and get meticais. Why can we not do it here in Zimbabwe?
Where is the problem Hon. Minister?
HON. MUSAKWA: My question to the Minister is that under this Covid-19 era, a number of countries had stimulus support from the IMF where they got money at very competitive rates. We were excluded because of the arrears that we have with the World Bank and Africa Development Bank. If I recall, one of your major tasks when you assumed office was to work on arrears clearance strategy. How far have we gone and what is militating against this because if we access these concessionary funds, that will go a long way in boosting our current account reserves and mitigating some of these forex challenges that we are facing. I need a comment from the Minister.
HON. NYONI: Thank you Mr Speaker Sir. I will be very brief. The first thing is on the currency stabilisation. Nothing has been mentioned about cash. We see these money changers carrying cash around but nothing will be done to them. My suggestion was that perhaps the Minister, since the RBZ is under his control, if there could be some legislation that only allows somebody to carry say up to $20000 and anything more than that should be forfeited because all the money that is supposed to be in the bank is in the streets. Secondly, the Old Mutual Implied Rate. We know that the rate of exchange is fixed. Interbank is 1:25. However, most of the trading is done on the informal market and then the OMIR – this Zimbabwe exchange rate – so called Old Mutual, is by comparison of the price of shares of insurer Old Mutual on the London and Harare Stock Exchange. However, there was one time that the stock market banned Old Mutual from trading but then you will realise that this OMIR, when these shops do their pricing, they just google on the internet and peg the prices against this rate. I thank you.
HON. PRO. M. NCUBE: Thank you Hon. Speaker. I also thank the Hon. Members for the comments and questions. I think it is good that I needed to be patient because they are raising very good questions and I appreciate that I held back a bit. Thank you for stopping me as well. I wanted to jump at it.
Firstly, I would like to address the Hon Member who spoke about the sky rocketing prices. This madness that we are seeing in the price increases on a daily basis and also the parallel market going up; what I would like to say is that we are trying to arrest these price increases and we are also trying to investigate those who are doing that. Furthermore, we are seeing to it that the money changers are arrested and those using mobile platforms are arrested and made to pay fines. That is what the RBZ is doing. We are really trying but it is not easy because if people are used to doing something, it is not easy to stop them. We are however really trying. I am sure you have also noticed that every time we arrest people and we close their accounts, the rate goes down and that shows that there is something not right that they are doing. That is what we are trying to investigate.
Another Hon. Member enquired about who is funding command agriculture and we are noticing that the price of inputs has gone up and farmers have been shocked by the high input prices which are squeezing their profit margins. This is the second time that I have heard that farmers are not happy about this. I must admit that personally, I was not quite aware as you know the agriculture programme is run as a project among several departments and Finance tries to ensure finances are available, then agriculture and now we have the banks.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Minister, maybe if I
could add one other point that maybe you left out. It is the issue of interest being charged by the banks on the money that will have been borrowed.
HON. PROF. M. NCUBE: Thank you Hon Speaker for adding
that. On interest we had agreed with the banks that the interest should be kept. There is actually a rule that we put in place. I shall certainly follow up on that with the Central Bank just to make sure that the rule is enforced. I do not know what is going on there but I think on the cost of inputs, generally this should have been revealed upfront to farmers. One can understand of course we are in an inflationary environment. Maybe it is not easy to reveal all the costs and declare them upfront contractually but it then comes as a surprise later and then the margins are squeezed when you compare the producer price, the buying price compared to the price of these inputs. This is something that we need to fix. I will engage my colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Shiri, the Central Bank and the banks that are involved to see what can be done to assist the farmers. We do not want to be importing maize. The maize is here and if we do not solve this problem, farmers will be forced to side market and we will not get maize into GMB. It will then impact our strategic reserves building ability and that is not a desirable situation. We do not want that so I really appreciate the Hon. Member for raising that issue.
Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga raised the issue around the rate that we announced a managed float but because of Covid-19, we then fixed a rate. This is causing a lot of arbitrage especially in the fuel sector and some of the fuel is found in the parallel market. There is a parallel market for fuel as opposed to the other currency. We are aware of this arbitrage. The issue of the fixed rate is a transitory issue as we try to deal with Covid-19 and its impact on the country’s liabilities. We will deal with it in the fullest of time once we feel we are out of the Covid-19 red zone.
The Hon. Member also talked about why not even introduce the medical insurance and hard currency and companies allowed, why not do so for individuals including car insurance. You see, we have to be careful about how we balance the use of this hard currency as well. It is very important that we should promote domestic currency. The reason is that 80% of Zimbabweans do not really have direct access to foreign currency in USD, it is only about 20%. Yes, some of that 80% receive remittances from abroad in hard currency but this is survivalist receipts just to keep them above water but really in principle 80% of Zimbabweans do not have hard currency. We always need a domestic currency which has to be promoted. So we have to strike a balance every time to make sure we do not undermine the domestic currency as well.
She also raised a very interesting idea which I was salivating on as a tax collector. It does not mean I will do something about it but I was salivating nonetheless, which is that we should be charging VAT on this exorbitant testing cost and expenses cost like $75 for a PCR test. It is very high and maybe we should be collecting taxes from it but look, it is a proposal, it does not mean I will rush and do it but I was salivating indeed.
Then she also mentioned that we seem to have suspended PRAZ, no we have not. We still have PRAZ. We said that because of the need to procure urgently, quickly and so forth, we needed an expedited process. Really this is about having an expedited process because we want to procure quickly. We have not suspended PRAZ at all. It is there and in force, and it is supposed to do its job to make sure that we curb corruption.
She also talked about other opportunities for raising resources from the e-learning activities from private schools that are charging US$1 600 per semester. I am listening carefully to all these opportunities and that some mobile companies are now even selling mobile airtime and fuel in USD. All these are opportunities for raising revenue. Again, I am listening very carefully to those suggestions and I will evaluate that.
I move on to Hon. Matambanadzo who asked about the licencing of other gold buyers other than Fidelity who may even be offering higher prices per ounce of gold than Fidelity and therefore, might actually squeeze out Fidelity which is our own Government entity. I will look into this issue. The way you articulated it also got me thinking and I will certainly look into it and see if indeed there is a danger but you could find that some of these entities are actually licenced by Fidelity in the first place so they ought to deliver to Fidelity because Fidelity is basically the sole buyer of gold. I am not so sure how then this pricing is determined but I will investigate and find out to make sure that Fidelity is supported and we maximise gold deliveries for the generation of foreign currency which is much needed.
Another Hon. Member raised questions on the winter wheat programme. They were very specific and said how much has been disbursed so far. We have disbursed Z$1,8 million and we have another Z$1,2 million or so to go but that is what we have so far done. We are also aware that there is a limited time-bound programme for winter wheat. If you go beyond that, then you are too late. It is important to disburse faster and also to make sure that the farmers register faster as well to access resources.
On Bulawayo, where the Hon. Toffa mentioned that we made a comment when we visited Bulawayo, I did say or one of us did say that Bulawayo has no water crisis. No, we never made such a comment. We said that Bulawayo’s water crisis can be solved if we apply our minds and employ good strategies. In fact, that kind of thinking was what made us believe that we do not necessarily have to declare water disaster but for us to just get on with the job of fixing Bulawayo water crisis and we are doing it. I have said that the water production has gone up from 3 million to 10 million mega litres in one shot, just out of the 15 or so boreholes that we have drilled and we are going to drill some more.
I also mentioned the raw supply of water that has increased from the Insiza Dam just by fixing a valve. It is those engineering mechanical things that we need to do and you find that in Bulawayo, if we do everything that is possible to do very quickly, in the next few months Bulawayo will have a water supply for the next one year without trouble at all. So, we felt that declaring a water disaster might be a bit premature. We know there is a crisis but let us get on and do it than to cry foul. That is the spirit about that.
Another Hon. Member asked about whether the Covid-19 prevention and response mechanism is not derailing the programmes that we set about doing in the budget. Is there no risk of abandoning our projects? I would say yes indeed, the Covid-19 crisis put pressure on our roadmap as enunciated in the budget but we are determined to get back and also determined that whatever we are doing for Covid-19 does not just address Covid-19 but problems in general. If we think about what we are doing in the health sector which is really that we have accelerated the health sector intervention and gotten our hospitals to scratch to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, but we were going to deal with it anyway but at a slower pace. That is what it has done shifting resources in that way in terms of speed but we are determined to get back to our programme. We do not wish to abandon some of these infrastructure programmes, be
they for dams or roads. We will make sure that we will try to get focused on those.
The Hon. Member also did argue very eloquently that we must always be very careful about yearning wanton use of the hard currency of the USD all the time because it kills competitiveness and we should be learning from our neighbours Zambia and Mozambique where their currencies are coveted and are loved by the users. If you have got USD and you want to use domestic currency, you go to a Bureau-de-change and change. It should be like that here and that is what we would like to do but I guess it takes time for people to appreciate their own currency. We are alive to that and we will keep on promoting and supporting our currency but also making sure that it is stable. It is easier to love something like that when it is stable and can preserve value. So we are working on it. We are aware that 80% of Zimbabweans do not have access to US dollars, so we need a domestic currency and we are determined to stabilise it. The Hon. Member mentioned the issue of salaries that have been eroded by inflation, it is an issue we are aware of.
Again, we know that we are getting into that time of the year when most employers need to do something about cushioning employees, we know that we will get into that season to try to ameliorate the erosion of salaries by inflation.
One Hon. Member mentioned that the use of free funds may be causing some of the problems we are facing. When you go into the shops and pay in US dollars, you do not get your till-slip in US dollars, it is in RTGS and then you wonder if the US dollars are being banked. I also wonder too, I have become alive to that problem. I went shopping and I thought the same thing happened to me, so I am going to deal with it to make sure that we close that hole. I agree with him that we need to close those loopholes.
However, I must say this, when we allowed for the use of free funds, it was to deal with a problem that we could see arising due to COVID in order to give citizens flexibility to use their free funds knowing that we do not have enough cash in circulation. What it does is help us manage money supply growth because you can shove in more Zimbabwean dollars and then we have this perception that they are printing money again and then money supply is going when in fact it is not. If you allow people to use what they already have in their pockets, under their pillows and in their bank accounts, in US dollars, it manages money supply because already that money is in circulation. That is what we have been trying to balance and manage when we allowed for the use of free funds. However, it also creates other challenges and we need to close the loopholes.
The question from Hon. Zhou was not a real question, it was a well-articulated speech. I thank you for your words; you said I should come to Parliament more often; ndicharamba ndichingouya, ndigouya – [Laughter.] – I will come more and more often. However, your words were on point. You mentioned that we have all these economic challenges; we recognise that and that is what we are talking about, it is about those challenges. We will do our best to help our people and our economy. You mentioned inflation and the issue of salaries which have been eroded because prices have gone up, we will continue working for our people and keep discussing about lasting solution for dealing with the economic challenges. I thank you Hon. Member.
The other Hon. Member asked about drilling machines and so on. Yes, there is a programme for acquiring drilling machines that will go one kilometer for ZINWA. You asked me specifically but I will have to consult my colleagues in the right ministry on this one in terms of the stock of their machines. However, I can tell you that I think our work speaks for us, we are working very hard to make sure that we can drill as many boreholes as possible right across the country. In rural areas and in cities, we are capacitating ZINWA as well as DDF to do exactly that.
In terms of the number, I would like to check and then come back to the Hon. Member.
Another Hon. Member asked about the support from the IMF, what is happening to the arrears clearance programme, where are we? That is an ongoing conversation with the international financial institutions. We are pushing hard to make sure that at least during this troubling time of Covid, we are able to make progress in terms of arrears clearance. We have two options as I have explained previously in the past. One option is to talk to the creditors themselves about debt forgiveness and even giving us bridge loans and facilities to clear the arrears and then move on to the second phase and restructure the bilateral debt with the bilateral partners. That is one approach and we are looking at that.
We are also considering Plan ‘B’ which is that, we seek a facility from a friendly lender and we just borrow basically in order to meet the gap for what we owe to the African Development Bank (AFDB) and the World Bank. It is a lot of money but I think we have to bite the bullet at some point to borrow that money so that we can bridge that gap and be able to clear the arrears for the AFDB and the World Bank who are the preferred creditors; I am using some technical language here. However, if we do not clear them, it is not easy to borrow money, for any bank to borrow money so we need to clear these preferred creditors first.
You know what, this is a year we have just been reeling in drought and we are now in COVID, imagine if your Minister of Finance told you that ‘I have just borrowed $500 million and I am going to use it for a bridge loan to clear the loan of bank from which we borrowed so many billion dollars. Borrowing money to pay off when people are hungry, they need medicine and when COVID is upon us. Those are the choices, so you will find that on Plan ‘B’, I have held back and pushed Plan ‘A’ a lot more because I know that the messaging will not work. It would not be the right thing to do, to borrow money to pay off people instead of feeding people Hon. Speaker Sir.
Another Hon. Member asked about, I think it was the last one on the list, he asked about the money changers and doing something about it. I guess this is a question which is very vibrant in the House, it has been asked in different ways. We are dealing with it; the other day I was very pleased when I saw that the Central Bank had acted on this young man who was flashing his new Zimbabwean dollars and he was brought to book to make sure that this kind of thing does not happen. It is not encouraged that this should happen and also what they are doing in clamping down on other errant behaviour, we need more of it. The Financial Intelligent Units have become more active of late and that is pleasing in terms of dealing with this kind of behaviour.
On the Old Mutual implied rate, the Hon. Member read out what this means; what happens with that rate is – basically you compare the price at which Old Mutual is trading on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange with the way it is trading in London for example and use some fancy models, finance and economics. Then those two prices somehow are meant to reflect the rate at which a currency ought to move in either direction, up or down - in our case it has been down. They also try to use that to predict where inflation should be in the future of our country.
I am fully aware of that methodology.
Let me say two points about it; first as a former academic, the methodology is flawed, severely flawed. However, if people believe it, then they act on it, they do not have to know that it is flawed, they just have to believe it. It is called herd behaviour, they all herd to what they say and say ‘it must be alright.’ However, the methodology is actually flawed because the way a currency moves; I am sorry I have to do one second of this so that you understand where I am coming from – the way a currency moves in the short term is what we call the interest parity theorem, which says that the movement of currency will be determined by the differences in the interest rates in one country compared to another country. So, they have taken that and extended it and applied it to shares. The methodology is completely flawed. So, that is one thing but if people believe it, they believe it, but it is not right.
Then there is the issue of fungibility, where again we are aware that it is not only at Old Mutual that certain investors were using these shares that are fungible for illicit behaviour. I should not say more on that because there is an investigation going on from the regulator and when we decided to suspend the shares, it was really in line with that investigation. Let me not say too much about it but you can see what I am saying. When a suspension happens, it does not mean that you then kill these so called implied rates because this is just a calculator calculation. There is a formula, a spreadsheet and it gives you a rate, so you can just do that regardless of whether anyone is trading on the back of it or not and transferring shares from one register to another, which is what fungibility means. So there it is, it is flawed and it is unfortunate that people believe in flawed methodology, there should not be. If they please, I ask them to take my advice and desist from following a methodology which is flawed but it is a hurtful for our economy. On that note thank you Hon. Speaker Sir, appreciate all the questions and comments.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Before you leave the floor
Hon. Minister there was a question that was raised by Hon. Paradza regarding the issue of whether the Government is actually financing Command Agriculture. Who is financing Command Agriculture?
HON. PROF. M. NCUBE: Mr. Speaker Sir you were listening.
Actually, I had written it down then I switched to the cost of input. It is a good question. The financing of Command Agriculture is a partnership between Government, the Central Bank and the bank. What we do as a first step is to offer a guarantee as Treasury, as Government to banks for them to on-lend to farmers. What we are doing there is to making sure that banks then do not worry about defaults from farmers by seeking collateral from farmers, they ignore that and just rely on a Government guarantee that is to facility Command Agriculture.
You then get to a point where having disbursed the liquidity earmarked for agriculture in a bank, they need more liquidity because there is more demand. We are then able as Government to also extend liquidity for on lending to farmers. So far this has not happened, what has happened is that banks have been able to us their own liquidity on the back of our guarantee through the Central Bank to extend liquidity to farmers; this is a good thing.
In the long run you want commercial agriculture to be funded by your private sector institutions and this is a transitional process towards that. There are banks though, in answering to Hon. Paradza’s question that does not require a Government guarantee. Let me be specific because these are agreements but there is one bank that does not require the Government guarantee they just wanted to be part of the ecosystem of Command Agriculture, they have been allowed to do that and they are lending money at commercial rates. The borrowers are very happy to borrow at those rates and they do not need a guarantee, they feel the high interest rates are able to cushion them against the fall, besides they have got rigorous processes for screening borrowers and they lower their credit risk from these borrowers by choosing the right quality of borrowers. I thank you very much.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Thank you very much indeed
for the way you have actually responded to the issues that were raised by Hon. Members. I think you might have noted your presence in the
House is highly appreciated. May you move for the adjournment of the House – [HON. MEMBERS: Mota, mota, mota] – He will respond to that next week, procedurally, maybe if he has one or two words I will give him the floor.
HON. PROF. M. NCUBE: We are working on it Hon.
Colleagues, I must say colleagues when I speak about cars. We are working on it and frankly to be honest - what has been a challenge for us is multifold. If you recall we had agreed in Victoria that we are going to put in place some letters of credit in order to access the cars. We did a first round, maybe half of a second round and did not even complete. We then ran into the demand of forex for importation of grain so we were squeezed. Now that we are seeing some deliveries from local farmers I think things will improve.
Now we are stuck in COVID and we need to import PPEs, medicines and so forth. We have been unlucky in the sense that we have had these two competing needs for forex and certainly citizens when they see us in shiny cars when they are looking for medicines and food - I think our priorities should be clearer than that. You can be sure we are working on it and I think the situation will improve, I see the tobacco sales are also improving. All that helps, when we see more forex coming in - we will reinstate the facility again and import more cars. We are working on it, please bear with us. We just have these demands then we have to prioritize and see what should come first.
On the motion of THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE), the House adjourned at Twenty One Minutes past Six o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 16th June, 2020.