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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 13 FEBRUARY 2013 VOL. 39 NO. 9
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Wednesday, 13th February, 2013.
The House of Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two O’clock p.m.
(MR SPEAKER in the Chair)
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- CHIKWINYA: I rise to ask the Minister of Finance that, considering that the nation is about to enter into a referendum on the new constitution, are there any funds allocated towards the programme?
- SPEAKER: Hon Chikwinya, that is not a policy question that you have asked but however, I will allow the Minister of Finance to respond since this is a question of national interest.
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE (MR. BITI): It is a tricky
question Mr. Speaker Sir. As hon. members are aware, the budget set aside USD$50 million for both the referendum and the elections, but as all members will also know, our budget is a cash budget. We eat what we kill, in other words we collect and then we pay.
Developments in the first two months of the year, that is to say
January and February, have been very depressing on the economic front. This also follows the developments of our budgets to the end of 2012. I need to say that to the end of 2012, the total revenues that we collected were US$3.495 billion against a budget target of US$3.64 billion. We had a budget shortfall in excess of US$70 million.
There was a marginal performance of our tax revenues. The bulk of our non performance had to do with diamond revenues where we only collected US$47 million against a target of US$600 million. Even on the tax revenues, the only reason why there was a marginal increase is that in December of 2012, the Government of Zimbabwe actual borrowed money for short gap financing of US$76 million, which we used to pay service providers that owed money to ZIMRA, like your NetOne and TelOne. The money immediately came back to us. If you discount this US$74 million, the underperformance on the tax revenue would have been US$30 million, that is, excluding diamond revenue and you deal with your normal tax revenue, the underperformance was US$30 million.
The reality of the situation in January and February is that in the month of January 2013, our targeted revenue for the month of January was US$294 million. What we collected was a mere $239.3 million - that huge shortfall between $294m and $234m. Normally, what happens is that, we have got our first salary date being on the 11th of the month to cover soldiers. We only had a mere $7m that we carried over from January to February, which means that the statement that we are living from hand to mouth is actually metaphorical as it is literal in the case of Government of Zimbabwe.
What we have done through the direction of the Principals is that we have embarked on a massive fund raising exercise that includes a request to United Nations for electoral funding. The Minister of Justice and myself, co-authored a letter on the instructions of the Principals that went to United Nations on the 4th of February 2013. I am pleased to report that on the 8th of February 2013, we had a response from the UN that is now inviting us to initiate the abc, that needs to be done in terms of that process.
We are also engaging in certain fund raising exercises which I cannot mention in this House but for the benefit of hon. members this may include the disposal of family silverware. This may include a look at potential additional fiscal measures – I cannot disclose which ones but the bottom line is that, it is a matter that the Government is versed with. We need time. This process needs time. We cannot prejudge the date of the referendum. It is a date of the Principals but what we can say from the Principals is that as Treasury, if we have to dispose of the constitutional duty that we have of looking for money, we need some bit of time.
I hope I have answered you adequately Hon. Chikwinya.
- CHITANDO: From the way you have said that the
Government is not getting a lot of money, is there any chance for us to host the UNWTO?
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE (MR. BITI): I think
unfortunate statements have been made in the media and let me make it very clear that Zimbabwe will successfully co-host the UNWTO Conference in August of 2013. Let me also assure hon. members that this is the position as far as the industry is concerned. What is required to host that conference is the following – we need accommodation. We have more than sufficient accommodation between Zambia and Zimbabwe. That is resolved.
The second thing that is required are meeting rooms for specialised meetings. We have got more than adequate facilities at Victoria Falls, in particular, at the Elephant Hills Hotel for the meetings.
The third thing that is required is the venue for what are called plenary sessions. At the present moment, Victoria Falls does not have that facility. The facility that hon. members are familiar with – the one on the first floor that you normally have your budget consultation, is not adequate. They have to construct a structure that can sit a thousand people. I can tell you that they are in discussions with a regional financial body to secure the $6.4m that is required for the construction of this facility. Our role as Government was to ensure that there was a guarantee. The guarantee came from one of our established banks to provide the guarantee to this International Financial Institution.
The fourth thing that is required now is the temporary or permanent structure to hold the opening ceremony. There is an agreement that we can either go for a temporary infrastructure and that will cost much less and this will be housed at the aerodrome of the Elephant Hills Hotel and not the golf course. I think it will be at the front of the hotel where there is that little helipad. This is where it will be housed.
We are in serious discussions with the industry in order to see what kind of structure we can put up there that can house two thousand people. That is the only thing that the Government can do. Those of you who are familiar with these temporary infrastructure, you will not even know whether it is temporary or not. Some of our companies and just to mention one of them, Rooneys, they actually have that facility even as we speak right now.
The other thing that we have to do is the issue of publicity. As Treasury, we are releasing some money. This week, I cannot mention the exact amount, but we are releasing some amounts for the extensive publicity to do with the hosting of this conference.
I also want to say that there are two Statutory Instruments that we have passed to facilitate the hosting of the conference. The first Statutory Instrument 124 of 2012 has to do with the importation of vehicles to be used by the tourism industry during this period. We have renewed that Statutory Instrument as hon. members will know. The second Statutory Instrument 119 of 2012 which deals with allowing the industry to import capital goods for the refurbishment of their facilities. This includes curtains, carpets, cutlery, refrigerators, linen for beds, flat screen televisions and everything that is necessary to transform those facilities into first class facilities. Those Statutory Instruments are alive and we are going to maintain them alive until the UNWTO is held.
There was another issue that was hampering the sector. COPAC owed the hotels $1.4m. I am pleased to say that we paid the hoteliers the sum of $1.4m through COPAC on the 20th of January 2013. Let me say that, despite Nicodemus statements that are being made in the media,
Zimbabwe will be ready to host a first class conference in August of 2013.
- MUDARIKWA: What is the national policy of Zimbabwe
in as far as the use of plastic money is concerned? Are we going to see a Statutory Instrument compelling all hotels in Victoria Falls to have facilities for someone to be able to use plastic money? Are we going to see the situation improve at Beitbridge so that everything that goes through ZIMRA will use plastic money so that we combat corruption that is happening in some of these Government institutions where revenue is collected?
- BITI: The issue of plastic money and a cashless society is the one that we have been battling with the liquidity challenges that we have in Zimbabwe and also the general shortage of coins and bills in Zimbabwe.
This is what we have done. As way back as 2009, we placed a duty free platform on the importation into Zimbabwe of all products of an ICT nature including mobile phone cards. That is why you saw them dropping from US$30, now you can get them for free. The importation of point of sale machines - remember when you have got your card, you need that point of sale machine. All those things are being imported into Zimbabwe duty free. We did that in July of 2009.
Notwithstanding this, Hon. Speaker, there is a significant resistance to the use of ICT plastic forms, e-commerce, e-money and ebanking. I want to give you my own personal experience. During
Christmas, I moved around mini malls including Sam Levy’s Village. I was very disturbed to note the serious non-use even of cash registers. I saw people buying televisions for US$2 000 and being given a receipt that is written in long hand. I also saw serious non-compliance with certain businesses run by certain of our friends from South East Asia, the Chinese.
There are serious issues of evasion and avoidance. The law is very clear, cash registers have to be there and fiscalised machines have to be there. What we have done with the cooperation and in consultation with the Central Bank, instead of legislating, Hon. Mudarikwa, we have negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the banks which was signed on the 30th of January 2013 which the Governor announced in his Monetary Policy Statement. That Memorandum of Understanding deals with the key questions of bank charges, minimum rate of interest and upper rate of interest. It also deals with the key issues of how to encourage a cashless economy.
What this Memorandum of Understanding also does is to lower the charges of using cash money. For instance, the withdrawal charges of taking your money from an ATM have been reduced and also the use of your card at a point of sale has also been reduced. The Memorandum of Understanding most importantly, now makes it compulsory for banks to issue a debit card to any Zimbabwean who has got an account in Zimbabwe. So when you open an account, you must be issued a debit card without applying which will not be charged, but ukazorasawo zvako, they are allowed to charge that. What we have agreed is that, for now, we will allow this agreement to hold sway but we will then review it to see whether it is working. If it is not working, the understanding is that we will go the legislative route which some of us are not very willing to do.
Mr Speaker, for now, any Zimbabwean must go to his bank and demand a debit card because a debit card is just a mirror of what you have or you do not have. It is different from a credit card which is contractual. A credit card is contractual, you have to apply and your Bank Manager has to say, are you credit worthy or not. A bank card is a constitutional issue. That is the position and we will review the situation. Business people must use cash machines, fiscalised machines, in particular our friends from South East Asia. Secondly, people must use these cards and we have made banks to compulsorily issue debit cards to serve us in Zimbabwe.
- GWIYO: Deputy Prime Minister, what is Government
policy towards safeguarding of the extraction of minerals so that they do not go for a song? This is in particular reference to the Essar crisis.
THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (PROF. MUTAMBARA):
I want to thank the hon. member for that question. The challenge is that when African countries achieve their independence – 1957 for Ghana, 1980 for Zimbabwe, 1994 for South Africa and so on, we were very quick in changing the political laws, that dealt with our human rights and our voting rights. Our political laws were changed but we did not change the economic laws in particular the mining laws. If we look at Ghana, the mining laws or the laws governing their resources, oil - they are colonial laws. If you look at Zimbabwe, the mining laws governing our minerals are colonial laws, the same applies for South Africa.
Therefore, the starting point hon. member is that our laws in this country are working against our interests. Our Mines and Minerals Act in this country is criminal. Unless and until we change the law, we are going to have problems where our minerals, our natural resources are not benefiting Zimbabweans. That is the fundamental problem and I am happy I am in Parliament, where laws are made. You and I have a duty and obligation to change the Mines and Minerals Act because it is criminal. It allows Zimbabweans to get the short end of the stick in terms of our natural resources. What are we saying? We are saying that, our laws allow us to give claims to companies for free. You give them a claim for free, they go to Australia with your claim, they list in Australia and borrow against your claim and they tell you that your claim is valueless in Zimbabwe while in Australia or Canada it suddenly has value.
We need to change our laws so that we can put value to the asset underground. The un-mined mineral has intrinsic value. What is that value? Our laws are not addressing that. This is the background behind the Essar deal. The Essar deal is a problematic deal but it was done within the laws of Zimbabwe. Those laws allowed us to give away our natural resources for a song. That is our number one problem.
Number two problem Mr Speaker is that sometimes we are blind, deaf and dumb, we are not smart enough – (laughter) – When Essar comes to Zimbabwe, when Zimplats comes to Zimbabwe, they come with 30 lawyers and 30 consultants and we have ministers negotiating as individuals with one friend or associate. What we are saying is that there is ignorance and lack of capacity by Zimbabweans – [laughter] – When we engage Zimplats, when we engage Essar, we need to make sure that we put our best foot forward. We bring our lawyers, our consultants and we get our act together, otherwise when we do not do that, we get short changed because of ignorance and lack of wisdom. That is problem number two that we have in Zimbabwe that when we negotiate, we are not very clever. We need to wake up as a nation.
The third problem Mr. Speaker is greed and more greed. This is the cancer afflicting the Zimbabweans involved in these transactions.
The danger is that a few individuals are given peanuts; crumbs and they sell this country for a song. We need to make sure that we mitigate and manage greed among our people and officials involved in these arrangements are paid peanuts, they are paid crumbs and they sell the country for a song. Mr. Speaker, if we do those three things, fixing our laws around minerals, build our capacity around negotiations and transparency, and remove opportunity for greed, we shall overcome. We must use independent consultants who can advise us vis-à-vis the outside people. Let us mitigate our greediness so that we do not sell the country for a song.
Without going to the details of the ESSAR deal in particular, I have given you a tutorial on the broader issues. These matters affect all the mining companies in Zimbabwe. Mr. Speaker, it is a South African problem, it is a Ghanaian problem and it is a Zimbabwean problem. Our natural resources in Africa are not benefitting us, they are benefitting foreigners or investors. We need to address this matter in Zimbabwe and build a Pan-African consensus on the solution. I thank the hon. member for that question.
MR F M SIBANDA: My question is directed…
The Hon. Member Dzingirai having entered the Chamber and hon. members started shouting Renco, Renco Manager, Renco Mine Manager.
MR SPEAKER: Order, order, Hon. Sibanda continue.
MR F. M SIBANDA: I direct this question to the Deputy Prime Minister, Prof. Mutambara. What is the policy of Government if the quality of work is below standard? I have observed the G5 Construction network in our roads, it appears to be poor. They are using sub standard machinery, rugs and sacks to spill material on the road. What should we do when we discover such poor quality of work?
THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (PROF. MUTAMBARA):
Mr. Speaker, it is a very specific question for the Ministry of Transport.
I recommend that the Hon. Sibanda puts that question in writing to the Minister of Transport. However, we believe that infrastructure is a key enabler of our economy, so, transportation, roads and rail are part of that infrastructure in addition to water, ICT, energy and other types of infrastructure. We believe in quality infrastructure, quality roads, quality rail networks and quality airspace facilities. Consequently, I want to assure the hon. member that it is our ambition and desire to build and design world class roads in Zimbabwe. I thank you.
- KANZAMA: My question is directed to the Minister of Finance. It is in relation to the remittance of funds to the Government by other diamond companies other than the Marange ones. I am referring to companies like Murova, River Range, Unki, Zimplats and Mimosa. We have never heard the media or the Ministry of Finance talking about how they are remitting funds to Government. Why is it that you are always talking about the Marange ones? Can you enlighten this House whether they are remitting funds regularly or not?
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I
think it is a very important question. I want to thank Hon. Kanzama for that. I think if you looked at the 2013 Budget, I made the point that the resources and commodities of Zimbabwe must sweat for the country. It includes not just the new commodities at Chiadzwa and Marange but also the other mines in the country. If you recall in the 2013 Budget Statement, we proposed a number of things that included backwards and forward linkages. Forward linkages include the issue of beneficiation.
Why should our platinum for instance be processed in South Africa? Why can we not have a processor here in Zimbabwe? In fact I was speaking to the Chief Executive Officer of Mwana Africa who actually assures me that Bindura Nickel has got a processing capacity to process what has been produced at Zimplats, Mimosa and Unki. I hope that the Government can move to direct that the processing is done.
I also referred to what I called backwards linkages. This deals with the issue of procurement. Mining houses are major, major consumers of goods and services. If you look for instance at our imports bill, we spent in 2012 about US$2.2 billion through the importation of services. I am quite sure that many of those services are actually domestically available. I think it is critical that mining houses procurement be actually done domestically.
Mr. Speaker, we also recall that we spoke of special linkages of mining and in the Budget Statement I made the point that the problem with mining is that whilst it is high value, it is low impact. Why can we not have mining models that are both high value and high impact? I gave the model of Zimplats for instance which is both high value and high impact. Why cannot mines build universities, build roads, airports and so forth?
On the issue of revenues, the mining houses that you are talking about Zimplats, Unki, Mimosa, even the other sectors of the mining sector. It again touches the issue that the Deputy Prime Minister was talking about which is the issue of our mining legislative structure. We have got the Mining Act which for all intends and purposes was actually crafted in 1923 and its model is based on extraction. You just extract whether it is gold, copper or platinum and you export it in its raw form outside Zimbabwe. The only obligation of the mining house is to pay taxes. Yes, the likes of Zimplats, Mimosa, Unki and Metalion are paying taxes to Government of Zimbabwe in the form of corporate tax which is very low and it is 25 percent. In-fact, the effective mining tax in Zimbabwe is eight percent, which is the lowest in the region. Our tax law has got so many expenditure and rebates. This is one of the reasons why we are coming up with a new Income Tax Act. We are removing about 34 Schedules that offer incentives, protection or rebates to the mining sector. They also pay royalties and royalties have been the key instrument that we have been able to extract rent from the mining sector. By any standards, our royalties are quite high because we have 10 percent for gold, 15 percent for diamonds and so forth.
I think there is need for an urgent overhaul of our taxation models. Other countries like Australia, are toiling around with the issue of an additional profit tax. The mines at Marange are paying these taxes, the royalties and corporate. The Mbada, Anjin and Diamond Mining Corporation (DMC) and the Lebanese outfit is also paying corporate tax and royalties. These are dues that are collected by the Zimbabwe
Revenue Authority. The bone of contention lies with the dividend because the difference between ZimPlats, Unki and Mimosa with Anjin, Mbada and DMC is that we own 50 percent of these companies.
Since we own 50 percent, we are also entitled to 50 percent of their income at gross level, not profit and that is a universal model. If you go to Botswana, they collect 82 percent from every dollar that is mined because they use the gross model. The reason why we do this for the diamonds is that they are so tangible and in the case of our diamonds, they are largely alluvial. The capital that the investor puts is unlike that for Zimplats where you need $400 million to start mining because you can start diamond mining with your shoes – [Laughter] – It is a 50 percent on the gross because there is minimum investment that is required. If you roughly calculate and say 50 percent on the gross plus, let us say, an effective 15 percent on diamonds, then add minor taxes, the VAT plus 4 percent tax on non residence; we should be getting at least 75 percent on the dollar, but we are not getting that. On royalties last year, we got $47 million but listen to this; diamond exports last year in 2012 were $711 361 262. I have got a breakdown here of mine by mine: Mbada Resources $293 323 000, which is almost $300 million. Automatically, we ought to have gotten at least $150 million but globally we got $47 million. Marange Resources got $64 million and automatically we were entitled to get $34 million. I then come to Anjin Investments which is one of the biggest culprits. They got $200 million and the Diamond Mining Corporation got $91 million. There is another company which I do not know, but they keep on sprouting like mushroom, that is DTZ, that got $1.2 million and Volks Industries got $500 thousand. Drizing Mining, I have never heard of it, got $388 thousand. So the total diamond export is $711million and we got $47 million. We should have gotten at least $300 million because it is 50 percent of the gross and will be put together with what comes through ZIMRA and your tax. So we are being ripped off.
Hon. Deputy Prime Minister, you spoke of Zimbabweans being
stupid, if ever there is evidence of our stupidity, it is on this issue of diamonds. Some people are getting rich and so forth because of these diamonds.
*MR. MAZIKANA: My question is directed to the Minister of Education ….
- SPEAKER: Order, order. Hon. Mazikana with due respect, we do not work on assumptions and taking issues for granted because of the serious nature of the question that you perhaps want to ask, I will suggest that we get a microphone for Hon. David Coltart, if they are there or you use the other permissible language.
- MAZIKANA: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I will direct my question to the Minister of Education, Culture, Sport and Arts who was born in Zimbabwe and – [HON. MEMBERS: Laughter] – MR. SPEAKER: Order, order, order.
- MUTOMBA: Mr. Speaker Sir, I would like to ask the
Minister of Finance that on our roads, we are seeing quite a number of new structures of tollgates beside old structures, could the Hon. Minister of Finance inform this honourable House whether Treasury has released some money to pay for what seems now to be a shoddy job that was done? Could he tell us whether that money was paid, is Treasury going to get a refund and who is going to pay for that refund?
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE (MR. BITI): Honourable
Mutomba, the tollgates that you see being constructed are not being funded from Treasury. It is the Ministry of Transport’s issue and I believe the road fund, (ZINARA) is funding the construction of those tollgates. I am not sure under what kind of contractual arrangement, whether it is BOT or Triple P, I cannot say but what I can confirm is that Treasury is not funding the construction of the more permanent tollgates in the country. ZINARA is our money but directly, we are not funding them.
ZINARA is a Statutory Fund which Parliament created through the
Roads Act. So, we are not funding it directly as Treasury but, I think ZINARA is doing that. I thank you Hon. Speaker.
- D. SIBANDA: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Mutambara.
I wanted to know Deputy Prime Minister, is there any Government policy in regard to the miracle money which we are seeing in the newspapers these days?
- SPEAKER: I am failing to appreciate the import of your question Hon. D. Sibanda but if the Deputy Prime Minister feels comfortable to respond, he may do so.
THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (PROF. MUTAMBARA):
Miracle money – once you say miracle money, you are talking about miracles and you cannot have any reconciliation between science and miracles. There can be no reconciliation between financial laws and miracle money. Miracles, by definition, do not respect or obey science; do not respect laws of physics and laws of finance. Once you accept the notion of miracles, there is a violation of science. There is no compatibility between miracles and science. There is no consistency no accommodation between miracles and human laws.
So, any attempt by anyone to say there is reconciliation between miracle money and banking laws, is futile and is an unmitigated manifestation of ignorance. In so far as we are concerned as
Government, we operate on the basis of laws and science. We are in the field of science and human laws. The preachers and the pastors can talk about miracles but in so far as running the country, we drive the country on science and on laws, not on miracles. Miracles must remain in the church and they are certainly not part of the national political economy of Zimbabwe. I want to that the hon. member for that question.
- CHIMBETETE: I would like to ask the Minister of
Education, Sport, Arts and Culture. Minister, could you please update this House as to why the pass rate for our 2012 ‘O’ level examination was so low, when you had 171 000 registered and only 32 000 passed with five subjects?
THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION, SPORT, ARTS AND
CULTURE (MR. COLTART): Thank you Mr. Speaker. I am
indebted to the Hon. Member for asking this question because it has been a subject of a lot of debate. If you may allow me Mr. Speaker, to use this opportunity to trace some of the history of ZIMSEC and the examination pass rates.
When ZIMSEC was set up in the mid 1990s, it was decided to replicate the Cambridge ‘O’ and ‘A’ level system. It was recognised that ‘O’ levels would be directed towards children with an academic bend. In other words, our ‘O’ levels had an academic orientation.
If we think in Biblical terms, in Corinthians, it talks about the body having many different parts. There is an arm and a leg and they are different, but each part of the body plays its function. The deficiency of having an examination system which is focused on children with certain talents namely academic talents is that, it does not cater for those children who are more practically orientated. That was a deficiency recognised by the Nziramasanga Commission in 1999.
It said, as good as our education system is, it is academically orientated and it excludes children who are practically orientated. When the ‘O’ level system was devised back in the 1990s, it was understood that the optimum pass rates of all the children writing ‘O’ level would not be more than 25%. In other words, it recognised that we are actually only catering for about half of our children.
You cannot apply science to it – which child is academically orientated or practically orientated. But, in countries throughout the world, you can in essence say that, there is an almost equal balance between children who are academically orientated and practically orientated. So, our educationists have always held that 25% pass rate is an acceptable rate to aim at. If we consider the historical pass rates in ZIMSEC going back to 1995, you will see that in most years, we have been below not just 25% but we have been below 20%.
In fact, if we study the pass rates between 2000 and 2008, we will see that in 2000, the pass rate was down at approximately 13.7%. Because of the chaos in the education sector, it dropped as low as 9.78% in 2007. It rose slightly in 2008 to just over 14%. If we are to graph the progress since 2008, we can see a steady improvement in the pass rate. In 2009, it went up to 19%. In 2010, it dipped down again to 16%, went up to 19.5% in 2011 and dipped by 1.4% back to 18.4% this past year.
Mr. Speaker, from those statistics, these are not my statistics but they were supplied to me by ZIMSEC. You will see that far from seeing a dramatic rate in our pass rate, it is within the norm and in fact, we can see that there has been a steady improvement in our pass rates since the commencement of the Inclusive Government. Are we satisfied with this drop of one percent – no, but we should not just look at the ‘O’ level
results in isolation.
We also need to consider for example, the Grade Seven results which have improved both in terms of quantity and the pass rate since
- And, the ‘A’ level pass rate has for example Mr. Speaker, risen from 67% in 2009, to the 82% of this year. What hon. members need to understand, and this is the one silver lining in the attention given to this, is that the education sector remains in crisis.
The education sector in real terms has been underfunded for two decades. Since late 1980s, we have not invested in education like what we did in the first decade after independence. That situation was compounded by the chaotic situation that prevailed in the education sector, especially between 2005 and 2009.
Let me give you a few examples. In 2007 and 2008, we lost 20 000 teachers. The textbook: pupil ratio dropped to 15 is to 1 – fifteen children sharing one textbook at least. In 2008, educationists tell me that we only had 27 full teaching days that entire year and the tragedy is that we now have a batch of children going through our education system whose education has been impaired.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, the critical years of any person’s education are between Grades 1 and 4. Those are the years when every child learns the basic concepts literacy and numeracy. If you miss out on most concepts, especially in Zimbabwe, we have had a policy for a long time which was not to hold children back but to allow them to proceed to the next grade. If a child fails grade seven, he will proceed to form one. That has been our policy but the problem is that those deficiencies in a child’s education are never addressed. The ultimate tragedy is that we now have many children who are in form one and two who have very low literacy rates. Those are being affected in these pass
We are doing much within the education Ministry and I will respond to the debate to elaborate. We do not have time today to do that elaboration but we are working on a variety of programmes. We have out of school programmes which will draw children whose education has suffered during those times of chaos back into the system.
In conclusion, I would just want to assure hon. members that whilst this is a very serious situation, I do not come here in any way complacent or trying to justify. The amount of this hype around this alleged dramatic drop in the pass rate is not actually borne out by the facts and on the contrary, the education sector is stabilizing and plans are afoot to restore excellency to education in Zimbabwe.
- MADZIMURE: It is a fact that one of the biggest contributor to the dramatic drop in the pass rate was the chaos at schools. Schools would be closed willy-nilly for the children to attend meetings and bases to be put at those schools. We are going for elections again, what measures have you put in place to make sure that places of education are left for the education of our children?
- COLTART: There are three broad policies that we are implementing. The first one is that I have an open door policy with the three teacher unions. They know that if any teachers are subjected to intimidation or threats, they have a direct avenue to my office and our policy over the last three years has been to respond immediately. I am pleased to say Mr. Speaker, in this regard, for two years now, we have not had any threats leveled directly against teachers and I hope that that will continue. All hon. members have got a role to play.
Let me just digress for a moment. We can show clearly that where teachers are intimidated, they want to move and that has resulted in qualified teachers moving out of rural areas to urban areas or safer places. The people who suffer are children in those areas. So if hon. members in this House however turn a blind eye to this conduct, the people they are hurting the most are their own Constituency. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that schools are peaceful zones for our children; that is number one – very clear lines of communication.
Number two relates to legislation; I am in the final stages of new education regulations. We have consolidated all the education regulations over thirty years and we have introduced new provisions that are designed to buttress this policy that schools should be non partisan, political free zones in our society. I have also spoken very directly to teachers; teachers should not engage in partisan political activity in schools. They have a constitutional right to do that outside schools. They should not indulge in that conduct within schools and these regulations make that very clear.
The third and final thing is the point that I raised yesterday in Cabinet; that is to make a plea to all political parties that in the run up to the referendum and elections, as far as possible, we should hold the referendum and elections if possible and I stress if possible, outside the school term. As we know Mr. Speaker, schools are used as voting centres and teachers are used as electoral officials. With that far too much distraction in our education system in the last 12 years – I think we all need to give support to that and as far as possible exclude certainly our children and our schools from the electoral process.
- MUZA: Hon. Minister of Education, we agree with the
response but there are issues which are internal as regards the line of authority from the grade zero level up to form six. When pupils are writing examinations; say for the past ten years, we approach ZIMSEC for past examination questions and possibly model answers accompanying the respective questions that were put forward to pupils. Up to now, there is no model answer which anybody who is serious in revision can refer to. We have established a quality council within the institution of learning. Why for example do we not have that domain addressed to enhance performance on the face to face attention by the teacher and the pupil?
The second issue is where we are, for example using last year when the examinations were about to be undertaken for both ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. We had a disturbance because the institutions had not fully prepared in terms of resources to make sure that there is smooth voyaging from the start and finishing time of examinations. The marking exercise must begin and end, what is your institution doing typically to address such issues? We can have instances where examiners…….. –[HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections]-
- SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can you finish up your question?
- MUZA: My question is; what is the Ministry doing to address that issue so that examiners will not end up venting their emotions on the marks allocated to students? Even those who would have passed will be failing.
- SPEAKER: Order! Hon. member, that is not a supplementary question. Actually, it is quite substantive, but anyway since I allowed you to continue, I will allow the Minister to respond.
- COLTART: Thank you Mr. Speaker and I also want to
thank the hon. member for his elaborate question. It seems as if there are three parts to the question. He spoke about past papers, the conveyance of papers to examination centres and thirdly he spoke about spiteful marking. I will address those three.
Firstly, the issue regarding past papers, I think it is a very good idea. It is not so much of a policy question but I give an undertaking to the hon. member that I will raise it with the ZIMSEC board. There will undoubtedly be past examination papers Mr. Speaker. ZIMSEC is in the process of converting to computers and electronic communication so that that might facilitate putting these papers on the website or internet and schools can access.
The second thing relating to the distribution of the examination papers. There was one incident last year, I presume that you were alluding to that, where a Headmaster of a school in Matabeleland North lost papers.
The problem that we face regarding ZIMSEC is that Government has deliberately tried to keep ZIMSEC fees down - if you write
Cambridge ‘O’ level, for example, you will pay US$40.00 per subject.
What Government has agreed is that we pay US$12.00 for a ZIMSEC subject but you will see from that, that ZIMSEC charges almost a quarter of what Cambridge charges, which means that ZIMSEC cannot run its operations as effectively or as efficiently as it would like. Ideally Mr. Speaker, ZIMSEC should have a fleet of vehicles and in that way, it could ensure that it delivers the papers direct to Examination Centres, but because of these financial constraints, it has not been able to do that.
As a Government, we have had to try to balance the two – in the interest of making them affordable on the one hand, so that your poor, especially rural parents, can afford to pay for ZIMSEC examinations against the need to make it run more efficiently. I believe that we have established a reasonable balance. Last year, I think, we had one major incident like that but if you think of the fact that we have got eight and a half thousand examination centres and hundreds of thousands of children writing those examinations. I think that we have to all agree that they did a reasonable job in the circumstances.
Your final point regarding spiteful marking - I do not believe that this is a fact, with respect Hon. Member. We need to recognise the high caliber of teachers that we have in this country. I am a Lawyer; I am not an Educationist by profession as you know. So, I did not know much about our education system prior to taking office, but what I have learnt in the last four years is that, we have a unique body of teachers in this country. They are summed up in one word, ‘passion’. As we know, the vast majority of our teachers work in very difficult circumstances in the rural areas and the vast majority of them actually deserve our praise. They are found at their posts, we have relatively low incidents of abuse in this country and as demonstrated in these results - we are still turning out a very good caliber of students.
I would question that our teachers or the vast majority of our teachers would engage in spiteful marking just because perhaps their payment has not been made on time. If the hon. member has specific examples of this, then I would encourage him, Mr. Speaker, to write to me and we will investigate that and deal with it if we find it had some basis.
Questions Without Notice interrupted by MR. SPEAKER in terms of Standing Order No. 34.
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITH NOTICE
VIP HOUSING SCANDAL
- MR. CHEBUNDO asked the Minister of National Housing and
Social Amenities to explain to the House the status of the VIP housing scandal of the mid 1990s where Government officials and politicians were reported to have illegally benefited and (a) Make public the Commissioned Inquiry Report led by Mr. R. S. M. Hoza and confirm whether culprits paid back loans improperly advanced to term; and (b) Provide statistics of the current national public houses; and (c) Clarify whether there are still public houses occupied by non-government and civil service employees at the expense of bona fide employees.
THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL HOUSING AND SOCIAL
AMENITIES (MR. MUTSEKWA): Mr. Speaker, Sir, indeed a
Commission of Inquiry was commissioned to look into the VIP housing issue that occurred in the mid 1990s. However, the detailed findings of the Commission were never made public that time and have not been made public up to now by the convening authority.
What is on record is that the then Ministry of Public Construction and National Housing compiled a comprehensive debtor’s schedule which it handed over to the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office for debt recovery.
The Hon. Member, Hon. Chebundo, can also acknowledge that the issue dates back to some 23 years ago and it is my honest belief that it might not be of any value at the moment. However, I thank him for asking that question because I think, it is pertinent.
The stock of ‘National Public houses’ – commonly referred to as Civil Service housing is 6 551 country-wide. However, there is an ongoing verification exercise on Government stock currently underway.
Civil service housing is either in the form of pool or institutional housing. Pool housing is allocated to any civil servant on rental basis and is meant to cater for cases of transfer and new recruits to the Public
Service. Institutional housing is constructed within a government institution and allocated to civil servants working for that particular institution on rental basis.
Mr. Speaker Sir, this is the last part of Hon. Chebundo’s question. Former civil servants are expected to vacate civil service housing on retirement or when they leave the service but other cases of noncompliance are handed over to the Civil Division for eviction. To date,
22 cases have been handed over countrywide to the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office for these members to be evicted.
- CHEBUNDO: My question is based on the statement that he made that it is almost more than 20 years now since that event took place. Given that we still have some of the people who were mentioned then and that was within the same government that we have today. Also bearing in mind that the country is trying to move forward with a clean sheet and do away with corruption. Even the President and the Prime Minister are on record against corruption. We build our future basing on the past and present. Why then should we turn a blind eye on something that we use to pay for the country as we go forward? I think it is very valuable that we look into that Mr. Minister.
- MUTSEKWA: I certainly do appreciate the concerns raised by the Hon. Member. I am equally concerned but it is also a fact, as I have stated in my earlier response that the convening authority at that time 23 years ago, chose to make a commission of inquiry. They did not also make it public. Even myself as the present Minister of National
Housing, I am not aware of what that particular commission established. I am, however, informed that the culprits that were established through that commission were subsequently handed over to the Attorney
General’s Office, so that they are asked to pay back the loans or the monies that they had swindled from the public funds.
I am equally concerned and I must stress that and thank the Hon.
Member but unfortunately, 23 years ago I was not even a Member of Parliament. I condemn what happened during that time in the strongest terms. All I can assure the Hon. Member is that this particular issue will not happen under my leadership. I thank you.
- KANZAMA: Minister you have given us reference that the matter was referred to the Attorney General for recovery of the amount owed. In view of the fact that it happened 23 years ago, how do you intend to recover this money particularly in this case where we are in the US$ era? How is the money going to be converted and I do not know how to explain it for those owing to understand?
- MUTSEKWA: Let me thank Hon. Kanzama for that
question. The response to that particular issue Hon. Member was that at that time, and I am talking about 23 years. After the commission of inquiry was commissioned, as a result of that commission, members who then owed the state money were handed over to the Attorney
General’s Office, so that they pay back to the state. It is not as if this is being done today. So 23 years ago, those people were asked to pay in the currency that was obtaining that time.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE: I request, with the leave of the House, that Order Numbers 1 to 7 be stood over until Order Number 8 has been disposed of.
Motion put and agreed to.
RESTORATION OF THE BILL TO AMEND THE SECURITIES ACT
ON THE ORDER PAPER
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE: Pursuant to the notice I gave
yesterday, I move that the Securities Amendment Bill which seeks to amend the Securities Act Chapter 24:25, the Collective Investment
Scheme Act Chapter 24:19 and the Asset Management Act Chapter 24:26 that will provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, which was superseded by the prorogation of Parliament be restored on the Order Paper at the stage which it had reached in terms of Standing Order No. 131. I so move Hon. Speaker.
Motion put and adopted.
On the motion of THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, the House
adjourned at Quarter to Four o’clock p.m. to Tuesday, 19th February, 2013.