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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 14 JULY 2020 VOL 46 NO 54
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Tuesday 14th July, 2020.
The National Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two O’clock p.m.
(THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER in the Chair)
ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER
PRESENTATION OF THE 2020 MID-TERM FISCAL REVIEW
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order Hon. Members. I wish
to inform the House that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development will present the 2020 Mid-Term Fiscal Review on Thursday 16th July, 2020.
HON. MUSHORIWA: On a point of order Madam Speaker.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: What is your point of order?
HON. MUSHORIWA: Thank you Madam Speaker. My point of
order arises from your announcement that the Hon. Minister of Finance is due to come on Thursday to present his statement. You recall that several Members of this House have called upon the Hon. Minister of
Finance to come address the House on matters of the economy and the Chair has made a ruling on several times that the Hon. Minister was going to come to this House to answer questions from the Hon. Members of Parliament. You know the procedure when it comes to the mid-term statement that it does not entail the intensity of the questions that the Hon. Members would want to ask given the recent changes in the economy and a number of changes that the Ministry of Finance has been doing. My worry is that the Hon. Minister is disregarding this Parliament and is not respectful to the Chair. I think it is imperative that measures need to be taken to curtail such behaviour from Members of the Executive. I thank you.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you Hon. Mushoriwa. I
remember two weeks ago, if not three weeks, the Deputy Minister of Finance was here on Wednesday and the Minister also came on that Wednesday to answer questions from Members of Parliament. I think on that day you were not here.
HON. MUSHORIWA: No, I was in the House with the Deputy
Minister when he was failing to answer questions. I was one of the people that was questioning but the Hon. Speaker promised us that the Minister was going to come to this House.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you Hon. Mushoriwa.
On that day the Minister will combine the Mid-Term Statement with a general statement on the state of the economy.
HON. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: Thank you very much
Madam Speaker. I stand on a matter of privilege. Last week we were informed through our phones and through the social media that the coupons from Redan can now be redeemed at a cost of US$10. I think that is a problem in terms of it being unlawful. I think as Parliament since the coupons that we get as Members of Parliament are coupons that also come from Redan, I am calling upon you Madam Speaker to please engage with Redan, not only on behalf of Parliament but on behalf The generality of the populace because we think that Redan is doing something that is illegal. Those coupons were bought at the cost of US$20. So, it is not right and it is day light robbery and I do not think as Parliament, we should condone such behavior. I thank you.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you Hon.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga. Your point of order is very valid. I am being told by the Chief Whip that he had already engaged the Clerk on that matter and the Clerk promised to look into it. I am sure it is going to be solved.
Some Hon. Members having stood up to raise points of privilege.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Members, some of the
issues which you are raising can be raised under the One Minute Statement. I am taking the last point of privilege.
HON. MADZIMURE: Madam Speaker, I represent a
Constituency which has many people and quite a number of them are now worried about their health. Madam Speaker, nurses and doctors are going on strike and to make matters worse ….
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, Hon. Madzimure that
is not a point of privilege. That can come under One Minute Statement.
HON. MADZIMURE: Okay, let me make it A One Minute
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Okay, may you go ahead.
HON. MADZIMURE: Madam Speaker, I have said that nurses
are on strike, doctors are also on strike and we have got a spike of the pandemic. Madam Speaker, the spike requires aconsented effort by our front line works. Our front line workers must be motivated. The issue is compounded by the fact that we do not have a substantive Minister of Health and Child Care. I do not think at this time with this pandemic, we can move on without a substantive Minister of Health and Child Care. To make matters worse Madam Speaker, we have not been favoured with reasons why the Chief Executives of five major hospitals were fired. Is it because they failed in performing their duties, is it
THE HON. SPEAKER: It is now more than one minute. Some of those issues we can ask them tomorrow …
HON. MADZIMURE: There is no Minister to ask because there
is no substantive Minister.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKR: The Deputy Minister and the
Leader of the House will be here tomorrow, so you can ask all those questions – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – Order, order
May I remind Hon. Members that One Minute Statements are provided for in Standing Order Number 60 as follows:
‘A Member who is not a Minister may make a statement from one minute on matter of public importance. One Minute Statement shall be made until Twenty Five Minutes to Three o’clock p.m. on a Tuesday,
Wednesday and Thursday, and Twenty Five Minutes to Ten o’clock on
Friday’. Hon. Members who want to make their one minute statements have to observe this Standing Order.
HON. MUSHORIWA: Madam Speaker, few days or weeks ago, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development advised
Zimbabweans that for registration of new vehicles one ought to pay in
US dollars. Madam Speaker, I think in a country where the majority of Zimbabweans earn their money in RTGs, it is wrong for a Government that purports to represent the people of this country to allow a Department in the Government to charge in foreign currency for a service. I think that decision needs to be reversed because it is against the general public of Zimbabwe. I thank you Madam Speaker.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. TOGAREPI: Madam Speaker, I move that Orders of the
Day, Numbers 1 to 29 on today’s Order Paper be stood over until Order of the Day Number 30 has been disposed of.
HON. MUPONORA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON LANDS,
AGRICULTURE, WATER AND RURAL RESETTLEMENT ON
THE 2020 ZIMBABWE COTTON MARKETING SEASON
HON. WADYAJENA: I move the motion in my name that this
House takes note of the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Lands,
Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement on the 2020 Zimbabwe
Cotton Marketing Season: The Farmer’s Experience.
HON. MUPONORA: I second.
HON. WADYAJENA: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am, I will
start with the foreword;
The fundamental role that agriculture plays in Zimbabwe’s development has long been recognised, with sustainable development of agriculture being viewed as a key source of both industrial growth and structural transformation. Propelling this sector and empowering contributors along its value chains requires strong political commitment; and as officials elected by the people of Zimbabwe to protect the Constitution and to represent them, we are tasked with crafting policies that tend to our current local conditions but that are also forward looking, and consider the global context. This report, therefore, speaks specifically to the goals of our national development blueprint, Vision 2030, which articulates improved agricultural productivity and the movement of Zimbabwe to an upper middle-income economy as key goals. It also considers the emerging functions of agriculture in a globalised world of increasingly integrated value chains, climate change and rapid technological and institutional innovation.
Specifically, this report looks at the current experience of the Zimbabwean cotton farmer, in the face of inability to access funds from cotton sales, dwindling cotton production, and a disintegrating local cotton industry. It hopes to shed light on existing challenges within the sector, and the ways in which policy intervention can shape the current fortunes of the industry itself and the thousands of families that presently operate within it.
Recent reports of growing disaffection and despondency of cotton farmers emerging from the Cotton Producers and Marketers Association of Zimbabwe require a serious and measured but swift response given the value placed on cotton as a national strategic crop in the face of the threat of food insecurity. While a broader and deeper examination of the policy framework is required, short-term interventions are needed to halt further deterioration of the sector as well as any circumstances that materially disadvantage close to half a million Zimbabwean cotton growers.
It must be noted from the outset that this report is by no means an exhaustive examination of the industry; it serves as a stopgap measure to address pressing concerns as expressed by farmers. It goes without saying that with the shocking decline in national output of seed cotton, a cohesive stimulation strategy for the industry is indeed required but can only follow a more comprehensive study, and the participation of the entire stakeholder universe.
The Cotton Producers and Marketers Association of Zimbabwe approached the Parliamentary Committee for Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement with two primary concerns.
Current Inability to access Funds on account of Bulk Line
In the first instance, between 2009 and 2016, Zimbabwean cotton farmers were always paid their full amount in United States Dollars cash for their produce. This model was changed following the adoption of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy where farmers were coerced to either open bank accounts or electronic wallet accounts. Opposed to this new method, many farmers felt they were either threatened or blackmailed by those in positions of authority, and following a serious mobilisation exercise, they grudgingly opted for electronic wallet accounts because of the long distances to the nearest bank and the lack of Point of Sale (POS) machines in rural shops. This resulted in all farmers, over 400,000 joining the e-wallet platform. Regular fluctuations in the exchange rate, increasing inflation as well as a rampant parallel market for foreign currency meant that the earnings of farmers have been wholly unpredictable at best.
Most recently, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services issued a statement suspending what are called ‘bulk lines’, then followed by the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe’s directive leaving over ZWL300 million frozen in The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Econet merchant lines. This means cotton farmers remain unpaid to date, and many who live hand to mouth are in a desperate situation requiring urgent redress. According to previous submissions by the regulator, Agricultural and Marketing Authority (AMA), The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe enjoys around
90% market share.
Volatility in cotton pricing
Secondly, it is custom for the Minister of Lands, Agriculture,
Water and Rural Resettlement to announce prices before the Cotton buying season, and in most instances cotton is then bought straight away, however this has not been the case with the 2020 season. Consequently, farmers have been left in limbo and without any explanation as to the changes in approach. By their account, they are not receiving any satisfactory responses from the authorities. This is in the context of what is effectively ‘retrospective pricing’ due to inflationary pressures that diminish the value of their earnings in a short period of time.
Overwhelmed by uncertainty and in the absence of any cogent answers from the authorities, the Cotton Producers and Marketers
Association of Zimbabwe sought our intervention, and consequently Members of Parliament embarked on a fact-finding mission to see firsthand the plight of farmers and develop recommendations to break the inertia. This report takes a closer look at these two specific issues that have a major impact on the livelihood and morale or farmers.
The cotton industry in Zimbabwe has a complicated history that has affected both the modus operandi and perceptions of the industry. Ever since the formation of the Cotton Marketing Board (CMB) in 1969, the industry has been dependent on thousands of small-scale communal farmers and a few commercial farmers producing rain-fed dry land cotton. These two groups of farmers produced cotton on one to ten hectares for small scale communal farmers and ten to one hundred hectares for commercial farmers. The above scenario has resulted in the national production reaching a maximum of 350, 000 tonnes of seed cotton over the past 49 years.
The deregulation of the cotton sector as part of the structural adjustment programme of the 90s (ESAP) saw the lifting of the CMB monopoly which attracted a number of entrants to the cotton primary production sector.
In many ways, the industry has gone full circle. With respect to production, from a record high of 353, 000 metric tons produced in
2000, the national cotton crop dwindled to as low as 27,000. On the back of organised input support, national production increased once again exceeding 350,000 in 2012. However, recently the crop has been on a free fall, dropping to its current output of 74,000. This drastic drop has been largely due to low producer prices, side-marketing, inputs diversion and climate. With the volatility of international lint prices, cotton farming has become a more and more challenging enterprise whose viability is under threat in Zimbabwe. It is ever more important, therefore, to ensure that the entire value chain is incentivised to increase productivity, and to act ethically in so doing.
A simplified approach was adopted in light of a more significant and wider impending inquiry that will cover the complete spectrum of stakeholders and investigate a broader set of issues. As such, The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance were not directly engaged. It is hoped that this report will in part provide basis of this wider investigation, in which both Ministries will play a significant role.
As such, in undertaking this enquiry, the Committee primarily engaged in interfaces with farmers and cotton companies.
Cotton Farmer Interfaces
2 July 2020
Nemangwe Business Centre, Gokwe South
The Committee had interfaces with cotton farmers at Nemangwe
Business Centre in Gokwe South in the morning of Thursday the 2nd of July. It met various cotton farmers and received oral submissions from them and officials from Cottco, Zimbabwe Cotton Consortium, Southern
Cotton, AMA, Chief’s Representatives and the Executive of Cotton Producers and Marketers Association of Zimbabwe.
2 July 2020
Chitekete Business Centre, Gokwe North
In the afternoon of Thursday the 2nd of July, the Committee proceeded to Chitekete Business Centre in Gokwe North and received oral submissions from cotton farmers and officials from Cottco, Zimbabwe Cotton Consortium, Southern Cotton, AMA and the
Executive of Cotton Producers and Marketers Association of Zimbabwe
ChiteketeBusiness Centre Submissions
Mr. Edison Kalungwe, a celebrated and top farmer from Chitekete in Gokwe North managed to produce a whopping 224 bales on his plot. He has five wives and thirty children whom he takes care of and most of whom are still in school. When the price of Cotton was announced he said he was extremely satisfied, and his family celebrated. Government had announced a producer price of ZWL43.9/kg translating into US$1.75/kg. An average bale weighs around 220kgs meaning he was going to rake in over ZWL$2 million or US$85,000.00. In the end, the tears of celebrations were turned into tears of anger and desperation. If he were to be paid on the 2nd of July, the money remains the same in ZWL value but has drastically depreciated in US$ terms which is the currency used to benchmark almost all goods in the country. From
US$85,000.00, he now can only get US$31,000.00 at the 2nd of July’s interbank rate, let alone the day Cottco decides to pay him. He described this as “pure witchcraft.”
We were confronted by Mr. Japheth Ngwenya who said after the producer price announcement, he went to Cottco and they did his calculations, at the day of announcement, his money was sufficient to purchase a 7 tonne Truck, 10 cows, a tractor and pay university fees for the whole year for his daughter and school fees for the year for the other 5 children but as of the 2nd of July 2020, the money was now only sufficient to purchase a third of his previous budget.
- Some farmers then highlighted that it may be more profitable to sell Presidential Inputs and pocket money instead of toiling for almost 6 months with nothing to show for it.
- The farmers are unsure as to the bank charges in the event that they were to open bank accounts and would rather not pursue that option since currently it is impossible to withdraw cash from financial institutions.
Farmers argued that their local rural councils that rely on cotton are on the verge of bankruptcy and would only be resuscitated if cash flows improve from improved levy collection.
- They also noted that rural transporters that had parked their trucks and tractors would be given transportation contracts to move cotton from fields to buying points thereby increasing the network of both local economy and employment opportunities.
Nemangwe Business Centre Submissions
- At Nemangwe Business Centre, farmers indicated that they do not want the e-wallet method of payment (commonly referred to as Ecocash due to the platform’s market dominance). Farmers categorically stated that they prefer cash as the only method of payment. They want cotton payments to be done in hard US$ cash payments and at the very least, the payment must track interbank rate.
- A local farmer, Mr. Goodzi, was outraged by the treatment of farmers, going so far as to accuse committee members and all authorities of having a good life at the expense of farming communities.
Mr. Raymond Tonhorayi, a young farmer, expressed concern that cotton farming is now neither appealing nor lucrative and is a major cause of rural to urban migration as youths search for greener pastures. He also attributed the spiraling of theft cases and other misdemeanors to the idleness of the youth, who are no longer interested in cotton farming.
- Mahachi, a successful cotton farmer, was clear that cotton farmers are only neglected because cotton farming is a venture for poor and marginalized citizens. He was of the opinion that if high ranking members of the society, especially Government Ministers and Senior Government Officials were to farm cotton as they do tobacco, prices would be fair and appealing.
- We met an elderly woman, Mrs. Masukume who narrated how they moved to Gokwe in search of better yields in the 1970s and cotton was a huge venture but now they are the laughing stock among the youths who have now turned to crime. She was adamant that there is a deliberate effort to disempower farmers.
The farmers argued that if prices were correct, cotton companies and other enterprises would employ from their cotton communities and business activities would have been revived in the rural areas with shops that had closed down reopening.
- Food security would be enhanced for the rural communities who in the past have been forced to sell maize to finance their cash flow needs but would be able to finance their day to day needs from cotton proceeds.
Policy inconsistency amongst different Government departments is the major cause for distrust of the financial sector. There is no clear policy framework from the Government on how to manage the policy consistency.
- Farmers have lost their life savings more than 3 times within a decade and without recourse. As such, the banking system is
distrusted and now viewed as a method of stealing from poor farmers and enriching the crooks.
- Farmers have consistently complained that they are being overcharged by shop-owners and other service providers who demand a punitive premium on their pricing for accepting the use of e-wallet funds.
- The 2020 marketing season has seen the price being announced followed swiftly by the e-wallet merchant lines suspension, just as payment to farmers commenced. This has resulted in a total standstill to the cotton marketing season and cotton farmers are stranded as no cotton companies are disbursing payments given their e-wallet method of payment to farmers have been suspended by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
- Farmers are practically being robbed as the country fails to recognise the impact that our current hyper-inflationary situation has on them. In effect, they are being paid using retrospective prices that would have been gazetted several months prior, resulting in immeasurable losses in value of their income before they have even received any payment. This has brought untold suffering to this marginalised group of members of the society.
- Farmers resort to side market their crop as a desperate measure to recoup expenses and this greatly affects the financiers of the Presidential Input Schemes.
- Cotton farmers are being both neglected and abused.
- While the Reserve Bank may have noted some serious abuse of the e-wallet system and rightfully imposed a suspension, the blanket ban has resulted in grave unintended consequences effectively stalling the process of cotton buying and the ability of farmers to earn an honest income.
- The Committee strongly recommends that The Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement in consultation with relevant stakeholders, reviews the price of Cotton in line with
market dynamics since the last price announcement. This process must be accomplished within fourteen (14) days of presenting this report to Parliament and every farmer who had received an advance payment must receive an adjustment according to the new and current price. A workable and permanent framework must be put in place before 2021 buying season to ensure that prices are indexed to the global lint price.
- The Committee directs all cotton companies registered with AMA to approach all interested banks in Zimbabwe and initiate the process of account openings for every farmer on file within 3days of presenting this report to Parliament. This should be done at no cost to the farmer.
- The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe must absorb the cost of account openings and ATM/Debit cards issuance for the farmers and must waiver charges for transferring money from farmers accounts into their registered e-wallet accounts.
- The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe must within 48hrs of presenting this report to Parliament, unfreeze over ZWL$300million trapped in the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Econet merchant lines which is meant to pay for farmers’ cotton. RBZ may institute investigations into the past usage of COTCCOs merchant lines and if any abuse is detected, punitive and corrective measures must be taken while at the same time protecting all innocent farmers.
- The Ministry of Finance must with immediate effect; issue a waiver to all cotton buying companies registered with AMA not to deduct 10% Withholding Tax from the payments to the cotton farmers.
- The Committee recommends that disbursement of funds to farmers is initiated and completed within 24hrs of selling of their bales.
This report concludes, with no reservation, that the above interventions need to be made, forthwith, to correct grave policy oversights made in recent days. It is unacceptable that no explanation has been offered to mostly poor and vulnerable farmers who have been stranded without pay on account of the decision to suspend bulk mobile lines.
The shortchanging of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens could not be condemned more categorically by the Committee. Farmers have lost confidence in Treasury’s handling of their payments to the extent that even if Prof. Mthuli Ncube were to employ his famed
‘Sophisticated Algorithm Formula’, the farmers’ appetite for ZWL without attempting to at least benchmark to the recently adopted Reuters Forex Auction Platform would most likely be rejected unless there is an unfair aggressive mobilisation and manipulation.
The observations made on the ground were deeply concerning to all Members of the Committee as we saw first-hand the financial and material hardships faced by farmers as a result of recent policies and decisions. There is a sense that the Executive and the broader government are out of touch, and unconcerned with the suffering of its most vulnerable citizens. The Government would be ill-advised to overlook these sentiments as the prospect of over 400,000 disillusioned and marginalised households throughout the country with an average of 4 adult members per household could have very real consequences in the ballot box.
*HON. MUPONORA: Let me take this opportunity to thank you Madam Speaker for giving me this opportunity to support this important motion. Let me start by giving you a brief background on cotton farming in this country, starting from the year 2012. In 2012, this country recorded the highest figure of 353 000 metric tonnes of cotton and that gave us a lot of money in terms of forex. Because of some challenges, the production of cotton was reduced and this affected us gaining foreign currency and people lost jobs. The decline was caused by low prices of cotton, side marketing and climate change.
After the Government observed the strategic importance of cotton in the country and internationally, they brought in the Presidential Input Support Scheme. This is the programme which gives cotton farmers, especially in rural areas, inputs like chemicals and seed and fertiliser. This made the harvest to increase to 140 000 in the 2017/18 season. This resulted in people from rural areas having better livelihoods and people were getting jobs.
Cotton companies during that time, were able to employ about 5 000 workers and people that were benefiting from cotton rose to above one million. The country managed to get foreign currency well above US$85 000. Farmers were being paid in foreign currency and it was cash. Government through the RBZ directed that everyone has to be paid through the banks. The Government brought what was termed financial inclusion strategy and farmers were asked to open bank accounts but they opted to use mobile money because a lot of farmers are from rural areas and do not have banks nearby and have to board buses into town to get to banks. So they opened e-Wallets and got their monies well such that they were able to send their children to school and their livelihood improved.
Now come 2020 farming season, the price of cotton was announced and it was good pegged at Z$43,94 per kg. I grew up in
Mukumbura in Mt. Darwin where we grew cotton and this price for 2020 seasonwas very good. It was equivalent to US$1.75 per kg which is a lot of money to a cotton farmer because they got inputs from the Government. After celebrating that they were getting better payments, it was said that the bulk payer lines suspended and this affected the payment of farmers. COTTCO is the biggest company which contracted farmers to grow cotton, had money in its agent lines of about Z$300 million and farmers had already delivered cotton to COTTCO. That money was supposed to be used to pay farmers in May, 2020 but this money was locked in those lines. Up to today, cotton farmers are yet to be paid and languishing in abject poverty.
Those people who were in the videos, including the one who had 224 bales of cotton, is going around shops asking for food because he has not yet been paid for his cotton deliveries. He is not able to sustain his family yet his money is locked up somewhere. Cotton farmers are not accessing their money because of that and as I stand here supporting this motion as presented by Hon. Wadyajena, it is my request to Government as we look forward to the 2020/21 season, that progressive measures must be put in place to ensure there is no repeat of this.
Also, looking at the Government policy for 2030 that we are supposed to be a middle income, economy, since our currency is not stable and always changing, compared with other currencies, why can we not peg cotton producer prices in foreign currency? If cotton price was pegged at US$1.75, farmers were not going to complain because their money was not going to lose value. The farmer that was supposed to get ZW$2 million or US$85 000, I do not know today’s rate, getting US$20 000 today. We need to fix that as Government so that cotton farming continue to viable.
We have 400 thousand cotton growers, having households of five to six children each. If we combine these people, you will realise that it is a high number of people surviving on cotton. Now they are experiencing challenges because they are not getting their monies. I also want to encourage the Government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to remove the policy which has made the money not to be accessible in e-wallets. We understand that there is ZimSwitch and we know there are criminals who through ZimSwitch can tell where one is sending money. I think the policy of blocking money is affecting everyone, including those who are not into criminal activities. We want those that are genuine to be allowed to go ahead and use their money. It is very easy to trace money to see when it is being laundered and when it is being used for proper business. I thank you for giving me this opportunity to support the report.
HON. T. MOYO: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would like take this opportunity to thank Hon. Wadyajena for a well presented report. I have a few comments to make Madam Speaker. Cotton used to be regarded as white gold but it is no longer white gold because of the small amounts being paid to our esteemed farmers. Farmers in Zimbabwe today are not being paid not because cotton companies do not have the money to pay them, but because the Ecocash merchant and Cashout methodologies of payment are no longer effected as they were abused by some economic saboteurs of Zimbabwe. Now, we urgently encourage the RBZ to address the concerns of our farmers expeditiously without much ado. How is this going to be done? I support Hon. Wadyajena that payment has to be done within 48 hours. Cotton farmers must be allowed to open their bank accounts at zero deposit and they should not be taxed for any amount or cash that is going to be deposited into their accounts.
Madam Speaker, I am speaking as an Hon. Member who represent cotton farmers in Zimbabwe, particularly farmers in Gokwe North, Gokwe Chireya whom I represent in this House. I am also speaking as a cotton farmer. The first farmers who surrendered their cotton to the cotton marketing companies, the first consignments were done in March, now we are in July. Four months after the cotton bales were submitted, it is not fair. Farmers should be paid on time. If there is need for a reserve fund so that as soon as somebody surrenders or decides to sell
his or her cotton to the cotton marketing companies, there should be onspot payment so that we do not inconvenience our farmers.
The cotton price that was announced by the Hon. Minister of RTGS$43.94, at that particular time was a lot of money. Farmers accepted and appreciated that at least the Government had recognised that they were going to realise the value of their sweat, but because of inflation and the depreciation of local currency, this money needs to be reviewed. The price was pegged three to four weeks ago but at this particular juncture, it has to be addressed in line with what is obtaining on the market. I am sure every Tuesday there are auctions that are done by the RBZ. Those auctions should determine how much the cotton farmer should be paid. Cotton is an export crop and I will submit that Madam Speaker, since it is an export crop, there is need for farmers to realise substantial amount of their remuneration in form of US dollars, not what they are being paid today, US$10 per bale if the bale weighs
Can you imagine, a farmer who sold his or her bale – I should not say selling because when selling there is an aspect of exchange in terms of money. One who surrendered his or her bale in March weighing 200kgs, but because it was just placed somewhere on the ground and because of the excessive heat in Gokwe, Muzarabani or in Chiredzi that bale no longer weighs 200kgs. It now weighs far less than 200kgs and a farmer gets a raw deal. What he or she gets is $5 if the bale does not weigh 200kgs. What cotton companies are doing is not fair. Farmers are told to go and pick groceries from their point of sale, this is not fair. One should be given his or her money on time and we want to encourage the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement to address this issue urgently. I would like to support the recommendations made by the Committee that disbursement of funds should be done within 48 hours. I so submit Madam Speaker.
*HON. TEKESHE: Thank you Madam Speaker. I am also one person who was affected when we went around the country and saw how farmers are suffering. This country’s economy has been prospering because of farmers. However, as Zimbabweans we are not taking farming seriously. Looking at these farmers, they are living from hand to mouth compared to commercial farmers of the Smith era who had better livelihoods than the who were in formal employment. We also know that this is where they get their payments. If the video had volume you would be really affected by what is happening to farmers, yet we know our country is an agro based economy.
It is unfortunate that farmers go for three months before being paid. Upon payment, the money have been eroded by inflation. If I were to suggest that everyone should produce the money they have in their pockets, you would find that most of us are carrying US dollars and no bond notes. However, our farmers are so poor and most of them are walking, they do not have cars and decent accommodation to be treated as business, yet farming is supposed be. The Deputy Minister said that they must not complain much because they are given subsidised inputs. Please do not give them the subsidised inputs but commercialised everything and pay them in US dollars then you can recover the money for your inputs from their proceeds. Tobacco farmers are complaining but during the Smith era they were not complaining.
My thoughts are that people who are appointed as Ministers, Deputy Ministers and other positions are not knowledgeable because if they were, they would help grow the agriculture sector. Cotton might not pay that much, but in the past it was a lucrative venture. When we talk about sanctions, it is childish because it has nothing to do with farming. People should farm and those engaged in farming should be paid on time. Thereafter farmers will perform well. Most farmers, after independence are no longer doing commercial farming due to lack of support. However, commercial farmers of the Smith era had good livelihoods because they were supported by their government. I thank you.
*HON. ZHEMU: Thank you Madam Speaker. Let me also add
my voice to the report that was read by the Lands and Rural Resettlement Committee. It is true that government has done a lot to support the production of cotton focusing on the importance of cotton production which is important because it brings foreign currency into the country and it creates employment for a number of people. We can estimate around 500 000 cotton farmers in different parts of the country, in Gokwe, Nembudziya, Muzarabani, Mt Darwin etcetera. Most of these people get jobs through farming. This industry is also crucial in the creation of other jobs like the manufacturing of clothes.
I would like to support what the committee presented. We need to support them so that the sector continues to excel, depending on the satisfaction of the farmers who produce cotton, for example the $43.94 price of cotton was satisfactory to farmers and most of them were happy and were encouraged to continue farming. However, the late payment of those monies affected farmers. Even this season that we are approaching might be a challenge because there will be fewer cotton farmers since in the previous season they were not properly remunerated.
The other challenge we noted as a committee is that cotton companies did not pay on time because their mode of payment through ecocash bulk payer was closed within the payment period. Most cotton companies said around $3 million was locked into such transactions. This reflects that the financial intelligence unit was not supposed to pass such a decision during that time. Being a financial intelligence unit means that they must use intelligence so that they take note of the mistakes that are happening and the crimes being committed. These things should be corrected because companies were facing challenges in terms of disbursement of funds. They ended up paying groceries and other forms of payment.
Farming should be taken as a business. This is the contemporary school of thought. However, when a farmer is not properly remunerated, this affects even the performance of the business. Farmers should be given what they deserve so that they are encouraged to continue producing more. Currently, the biggest challenge is the loss of revenue through inflation. The money that was announced by government $3,94 in June and now we are on July 14th and it has been a month since that price was announced.
Most farmers lost their revenue through inflation because of the exchange rates that are fluctuating. This should be taken so that farmers are encouraged by getting money that is meaningful to them. Taking this into cognizance then I would like to urge that farmers be paid in US dollars so that they do not lose their investments or revenue. At the moment they are being paid using local currency yet all their implements are determined by US dollars. So, I would like to suggest that the price of cotton be pegged using a US dollar rate. This will curb the effects of inflation on our farmers. I believe that the report that was presented is important to us as Members of this august House because we are representatives of people who are not satisfied because of the loss of revenue and also prices of cotton should be pegged at US$. With these few words, I would like to thank you.
*HON. NYABANI: Madam Speaker, let me add my voice to the
report that was presented by Hon. Wadyajena. This is quite a touching issue. In the past just a bale of cotton could buy a cow but now you cannot even buy a goat. As farmers we need to understand what has changed. Since cotton is traded on the world market, the value has depreciated. This is the same cotton which is used to produce oil, clothes and stock feeds. I would like to urge the august House to value farmers so that they continue producing. Looking at different parts of the country which are hot, the crop that can be grown in any part of the country is cotton. So, I would like to urge Government to support cotton farmers so that their produce will be like tobacco and other crops.
I would also like to urge Government that money should be disbursed to different parts of the country so that cotton is procured by cotton companies and this could be done with the protection of ZRP so that farmers benefit. Let me add on saying that we are here in this august House because our parents paid our fees using proceeds from the sales of cotton production. How about our children – will they be able to go to school or come to this august House and be representatives of the people? Not all of them can be gold panners. My plea is that producers of cotton should also be noticed and supported so that their livelihoods would be enhanced. Thank you Madam Speaker.
+HON. P. MASUKU: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would like to thank the Chairman of the Committee for bringing up such an important report. The first thing I would like to say is that growing cotton is very difficult. Around 1982 to 1984 people used to leave their areas to go to places where cotton was being grown because it would earn them money. Quite a number of people developed so much because of cotton. What I am asking for, is Government to have mercy on farmers because these cotton farmers are just growing without anything that they are getting out of it. Right now they have sold their cotton but they have not received their money. They are supposed to look after their families, take them to schools and eat but that money is not enough. They are looking forward to getting better living from cotton but they are not getting anything.
Madam Speaker, something else that is also worrying to cotton farmers is that Government is sending presidential inputs to these farmers which is something that now looks like taking farmers for granted because once they get these inputs, they are not being incentivised properly when it comes to selling cotton just because they are being given these inputs. All they are expected to do is to keep thanking the Government without much that they are getting out of it. Government is supposed to let these farmers get schemes to sustain themselves not to get to a point of receiving incentives from Government.
I would like Government to look into this issue. I am a Member of this Committee and what I saw is that most cotton farmers are saying it is better we just ignore this project of cotton farming because we are not getting anything out of it. Most of them looked so distressed because of the activities that they are taking in this cotton farming yet they are getting nothing out of it. One other thing that I need to really highlight is that they need US$ and nothing else. If only you could have managed to see the videos playing here, you would realise that these farmers all they want is US$ and nothing else. I continue to say if our Government is a listening Government, it should listen to the concerns of these cotton farmers and give those cotton farmers US$ and make sure that these farmers sell their cotton in US$. Thank you.
*HON. TOGAREPI: Thank you Madam Speaker. The issue that I
heard here being presented concerning cotton reflects that our
Committee which went around the country to take people’s views and that discovered will be important for Government to intervene and assist cotton farmers. When I was listening, I was just reminded that there was a time when there was not much cotton production because the world market was not competitive because of different reasons which led to the production of clothes which were not necessarily made by cotton. However, because our Government knew the importance of cotton, it introduced a scheme of subsidising cotton farmers by giving them inputs and seeds. It should be noted that farmers do farming as a business, it is an investment so that after harvesting the farmer will get his or her profits. I agree these farmers should be well remunerated so that they are able to look after their families. Hon. Wadyajena’s Committee also noted that Government appreciates the importance of cotton farmers.
That is why Government subsidised inputs.
Madam Speaker, I heard the other Hon. Members saying that the price of cotton was pegged at $43 per kg. Many people rejoiced because they appreciated what Government has done. Government had also taken into consideration the fact that farmers have needs. However, our country is facing a number of challenges including saboteurs who are sabotaging the economy of the country. The economy is under siege. Whatever is planned today, the following day, those who want to sabotage the economy plan and plot to destabilise the economy every day. So, the challenge that led to the depreciation of the value of the money that were being given to cotton farmers cannot be attributed to Government but there are a lot of factors which have led to that. These are some of the factors that are affecting cotton farmers.
Madam Speaker, in our report we were supposed to highlight to the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Finance that a child goes through different stages from birth to walking. When the child walks, that child cannot continue to be assisted to walk. Government subsidised farmers and now some farmers are able to produce 200 bales. This was the objective of the Cotton Support Scheme and at some point these farmers can stand on their own feet.
Madam Speaker, we should continue fighting what is challenges in the economy for example the enemies of Zimbabwe who brought
ZIDERA and sanctions which are sabotaging the Zimbabwe dollar – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections] - However, at the moment, we need to appreciate that Government did a good thing of empowering cotton farmers by giving them inputs. However, captains of industry particularly those at RBZ should be urged to look at this issue taking into cognisance the fact that the economy is struggling so RBZ should ensure that our cotton farmers are properly remunerated.
Madam Speaker, I request that I debate without being heckled –
[HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections] –
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order Hon. Chikwinya.
*HON. TOGAREPI: Madam Speaker, the issue we are discussing here, when dealing with challenges that are faced by people we need to look at these challenges holistically. I would like to request that we need to engage the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to come and address the House regarding the challenges faced by farmers include the effects of saboteurs who are in this august House so that our farmers can benefit from their produce. In shona we say kutenda cheguva kutenda auya nacho – [AN HON. MEMBER: Maakuuraya a good report] -I believe that our Government is a listening Government which will find means so that our cotton farmers are given resources to go back to the field.
The value of our money has been eroded, it is because of those who brought sanctions through ZIDERA.
*HON. CHIBAGU: I stand as a Zimbabwean and I support our report. I would like to say that we must not despise our God as Zimbabweans. For me to be a supplier and a consumer, if you look at my profile, I started long back producing cotton and at times producing a thousand bales. What is the way forward. As elders who meet others in summit meetings, they discuss on the way forward. It is not possible for us to continue being consumers and suppliers, producing for those who just take a bath and relax without farming in their own countries – [Laughter] – we want to do our own things here in Zimbabwe as Zimbabweans, there is nothing problematic about that. We produce cotton and if we sell it, we gett our own money which is valuable, we will prosper. If you live in urban areas and oppose what is being said, we will become people with no direction – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – let us be able to know our rights. – [AN HON. MEMBER:
Inaudible interjection.] – let me finish, no need to rush.
They have agreed with us but they should have raised the price to a level which is reasonable so that we know that we are doing this together as one. However, if the prices are pegged for us when we are the producers, is it not helpful? We are the people who do the entire production process; the clothes that we are wearing – they go out there and dye the cloth and when it comes back, it is written, ‘made in so and so country,’ yet the whole production is done by us as Zimbabwean people – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – we do not want that.
HON. WADYAJENA: On a point of order Hon. Speaker. Madam Speaker, I just want to clarify, maybe Hon. Members were not listening carefully. I just need to clarify this, I said; it must be noted from the outset that this report is by no means an exhaustive examination of the industry. It serves as a stopgap measure to address pressing concerns as expressed by farmers. It goes without saying that with the shocking decline in national output of seed cotton, a cohesive stimulation strategy of the industry is indeed required but can only follow a more comprehensive study, and the participation of the entire stakeholder universe. This report must not be distorted – [HON.
MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – Thank you.
HON. CHIKWINYA: Thank you Madam Chair and a very good
afternoon to you. First and foremost, allow me to thank the Hon. Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Wadyajena for bringing such a pertinent report together with his Committee; that goes to the root of economic activities in our country which is supposed to see our livelihoods being improved. Madam Chair, mindful of social distancing, allow me to speak with my mask off because I know that there are no people around me.
Madam Chair, I grew up in Gokwe Mapfungautsi. My current Hon. Member of Parliament in that respect is Hon. Karikoga. I share the same agricultural activities with Hon. Moyo from Gokwe Chireya and other Hon. Members who are in parts of Gokwe South and Gokwe North. That particular region Madam Chair has cotton farming as one of its major economic activities. My aunt, sister to my mother, Mrs.
Mudzamiri grew her cotton in a Constituency now known as GokweSesame in an area known as Huchu. Madam Chair, that lady passed on leaving a house in Mbizo, No. 185, Section 8 in Mbizo. She managed to buy that house through proceeds from cotton farming. I am giving you a live example of a farmer managing to purchase a house which is a property most of us cannot purchase today through formal employment but she managed to purchase that house and extended it to become a four-bedroomed house using cotton farming proceeds. Mrs. Mudzamiri from Huchu, Gokwe-Sesame – (that was in the early 90s) represents the majority of farmers in the Gokwe communal areas. Mrs. Mudzamiri is like the cotton farmer who lives today.
The Chairperson, in his second bite of the cherry, where he says,
‘this report must not be distorted,’ and where he tried to align Hon. Members in their debate to the report so presented, said, I quote, “ this report represents the concerns of the farmers.” The farmers are not showing incapacity of cotton production, they can produce. The farmers are very grateful for the support they are being given by the Government in terms of inputs – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – but what is problematic is the payment model. We are having farmers who were producing 30 bales of cotton in 1990; they still have the capacity and even more because of the support of producing more than 30 bales but the value of cotton has been eroded from the 1990 era to todate. Where a bale of cotton could purchase a beast, now it can only buy you a 2kgs packet of sugar if you are lucky.
Madam Chair, in Gokwe, there is an area called Cotton Marketing Board (CMB), it is basically a depot of cotton where people go with their bales and sell their product and given money. That area developed into a growth point, primarily on the basis of economic activities driven by cotton. However, if you go there now, it is in a sorry state. The Hon. Member for that area I am sure is Hon. Moyo and others surrounding. It is in a sorry state, people are living in poverty but they built huge infrastructure such that had they been given continuous support, that growth point could probably have seen itself becoming a town.
Speaking of Gokwe Centre itself, it was a growth point as the growth point model was being developed in the late 80s and early 90s. Gokwe Centre became a growth point but its success is ridden on the economic activities purely through cotton farming. People would know that at the end of each cotton production period, those of our fathers knew ‘I am going to add a wife,’ now they cannot. They had the capacity to marry another wife – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – it is known, we cannot hide from history, it is true.
People would add a scotch-cart, beasts, add another house or extend what they had and sent children to school. Some are now Members of Parliament in here. It is only that Hon. Karikoga is not in the House, I could have spoken about him in his personal capacity because he has the right to respond. I was going to speak of him in good faith on the basis that he is a practical example of a father who grew up in a cotton farming area and managed to send his kids to school.
HON. MATANGIRA: On a point of order. Madam Speaker Ma’am. The Hon. Member is alluding to a very good economic emancipation to the people of Zimbabwe in Gokwe but when we say every year a man was adding another wife, women are not property. I wish he would withdraw that – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Order Hon. Members. Hon.
Chikwinya, may you kindly maybe, be able to rephrase it and probably elaborate more on what you were trying to say – [HON. MEMBERS:
Inaudible interjections.] – Order Hon. Members – [HON. MEMBERS:
Inaudible interjections.] – Hon. Matangira, order.
HON. CHIKWINYA: Let me rephrase my statement. Our
fathers, who are in the Gokwe Communal Area, after a cotton production cycle, have the capacity to add on to another wife. We have a polygamous set up in our communal area and it is accepted – [HON.
MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.]-
Hon. Chair, they had the capacity to marry another wife. Why did they have the capacity to marry which they do not have now? They had the capacity to marry another wife because they had the capacity to go and pay lobola with proceeds out of cotton production. So, my Hon. Members who may be coming from Bindura and Makonde must not twist that statement. Infact the people of Gokwe are proud of their growing families or were proud of their growing families because they have the capacity to feed them. They had the capacity to send their children to school but we have taken that capacity away; that rightful capacity of a farmer in a communal area to be able to contribute to the economic activities of the country, to be able to improve his children’s livelihoods through cotton farming.
Production has remained constant, inputs have been improved but the problem which this report seeks to address is why the livelihood of a cotton farmer is getting down. Why is the livelihood of a cotton farmer being eroded? The people of Gokwe are crying about middle men. There are middle men who are coming from Harare; some of them who do not even know the colour of cotton. They go there and purport to support the farmer in Gokwe by giving them inputs outside Government’s inputs and they buy that cotton at a very low price because they have cash at hand. The weakness by Government which us, as Parliament must address is the late disbursement of funds.
The Government takes time to pay cotton farmers and therefore, cotton farmers are going into some middle men who pay them ready cash which will be lowly priced. Whereas Government could be paying $43 RTGS deposited into an account, the middle man comes with, perhaps $40 in the form of bond notes. These people are forced to deal with the middle man who then sells this cotton at a premium outside the country.
Can we not have a set up as is happening in tobacco whereby we have auction floors that purchase this cotton; we have a system that promotes the farmer and a direct interface with the Government where the farmer is protected in terms of the value of their products? Why are we letting down the cotton farmer?
Gokwe is now a laughing stock as a district throughout the whole country but it has the potential of becoming one of your Chiadzwa gold mining districts in terms of competitiveness in economic activities but we have let down these people. I bet you, the majority of Gokwe Members of Parliament, as they do their feedback meetings, the question they are faced with in each and every meeting is that how are you going to support us as cotton farmers to be self sustained. The solution in my view is that we cannot re-invent the wheel, let us take the tobacco model and put it into cotton farming model. Let us support the cotton farmers in asmuchas we are also supporting the tobacco farmers.
We are exporting cotton, why not pay the cotton farmers in USD? The issue is that why do they want USD, where they buy every other goods and services which are supportive of their cotton industry, they are paying in USD. So, you are forcing this cotton farmer to be paid in RTGS yet he has to go to the black market to get USD for him to get supporting products to his cotton production. We cannot be able to expose our farmers in that manner.
I want to agree with the Chairperson of the Agricultural Committee and their entire Committee that this report must come up with tangible issues as per their recommendations. What we must do going forward; and there is also the issue of price predictability. Every time our farmers are going into a farming season, they are not aware of what will be the price at the end of the season. It must be predictable and it can only be so if it is matched with a USD value which is a stable currency. That is the reason why a farmer can then choose to either put up 10 hectares, 2 hectares or 1 hectare because you can then predict to say if I put 1 hectare and get so much bales, then I can get this much. However, if it
is unpredictable in an inflationary environment, you cannot plan around the RTGS.
As I conclude, let us be responsive to our people who give their issues to Parliamentary Committees. We cannot allow ourselves to continue making Parliamentary Committees talk shows. Every Parliamentary Committee as it goes out to an outreach programme, they must be able to bring up solutions and recommendation to the Executive which are implementable and they must be seem to be implemented so that at least we preserve the integrity of Parliament. We cannot be seen to be only a talk show which does not proffer solutions to the people who gave us the alter ego of representing them in Parliament. I thank you.
HON. MATANGIRA: Thank you Hon. Chair. I want to thank the Chairperson of the Agricultural Portfolio Committee and what he presented in this august House. Secondly, I want to thank the Government for bringing back farming of cotton throughout Zimbabwe by giving free inputs.
I want to cry out aloud that the Government must have an agricultural policy where a pre-planting price is given for any commodity, be it maize, soya bean, and cotton, like we are debating in here today. The pre-seasonal pegging of prices which AMA (the Agricultural Marketing Authority) has to do its research, - cotton unlike most of the crops that we grow in Zimbabwe is marketed in the United Kingdom, the lead market. The lead market is the market that determines the prices of lint cotton worldwide.
Now, we know that we have got a perennial war with the British because of the Land Reform Programme. How could Britain give us a better price for the cotton that we are growing on our ancestors’ land for which the British has colonized us and taken it from us – [Hear, hear.]-
I have grown cotton as a commercial farmer from 1992, yes, cotton had a good price. It had a good price then because everything else was where it was and was a white dominant crop. It had a price that was beneficial to the then colonisers of this country. So, we had to understand why cotton was fetching so much money.
Madam Speaker, we are importing cooking oil, which used to come from oil seed which was soya bean, sunflower and cotton seed and then we would have cotton cake for our stock feed – how nice? The ginneries were using the same electricity from Kariba and Hwange Colliery for mahara. Why, because the bulk was the white men who were growing that crop. When we now look at it, do we know what percentage in weight is seed and how much percentage in lint of our bale which is now being said to be bought at US$10? What we need to do as Parliament in this State of the Republic of Zimbabwe is let us not cry out all the time.
Let us proffer the mitigatory act. The Z$43 that was offered by Government to a crop of cotton per kilogram which was given for free, the input was very good three weeks ago because of the rate of the day. Why can we not put our heads together in Parliament and say Government you announced the price of cotton in June at Z$43. We simply turn around and say what the value of the same cotton was that day when you gave us that price in US$. It was US$1,75 or $1,55. Why do we not revert back to that? Government must ask us how to get to it.
I remember in 1995 I had a cotton crop that yielded 4 500 tonnes per hectare and I had 40 hectares. People had to come and pick that cotton. How much were we paying per kilogram for the pickers? You had to buy the bale, pay for the transport because agriculture is the only fraternity whereby you pay for the transport to markets and of the inputs. It is a vicious circle. Now, we must now come up and urge the Government through the Agricultural Marketing Authority to find out what the price of cotton from the leading market is. We may be chasing our tail’. Brazil used to be the highest producer and also Turkey, what are they selling their cotton at? We are no longer known. We are living in a global village. Yes, our people have to be empowered, but how do we empower our people.
We must also thank our Government because they have done it with the cereals and have come with the industrial 1,2,3. Very few depots have remained at CotCo as we speak now because they have sold most of their depots. We have lost employment and economic analysts, whatever we no longer have and now this. Yes, when we talk about democracy, we only talk of democracy when we are going for elections. Democracy is today. We are representatives of the same people that put this Government in power.
Of course, I am not ashamed to say Madam Speaker that we would like the ruling party to be in power the next time we go for elections. We know it. So, let us cry to our Government to say can you not adjust. We know Government could adjust because Government is the people democratically elected. What are we crying about? We may add another wife or buy scotch carts. No, wait. We will buy aeroplanes if we speak to the Government with the right tone and we will make it.
Lastly Madam Speaker, I will urge Zimbabwe to grow cotton because from cotton Government is going to do us good. This is a hurdle. It is an easy market. Ours should not be just to blame, the blame game is over. It is you and what you are doing about it. I have not gone to see the Minister of Agriculture to ask him how he came to this figure of $10 per bale. Let us bring them here and I wonder why if we are talking about an issue so important, we should actually be having deputy ministers to hear our debates so that before Parliaments sends it wherever it has to be sent, they will have sat with the Secretary and Minister of Agriculture to say how we got to this price of $10 instead of saying Government is not thinking about the people. How about you because the only time people are different is the time before the elections?
After elections, the President of Zimbabwe is President for everybody including the opposition. This is why we are not making it and where we are losing it. Differences, we copied a democracy of a foreign country that we cannot practice. Madam Speaker, having said it cotton is the only crop that can be grown in arid areas. It will sustain drought. So let us go and grow it. We must talk to Government with the right tone and we will be accorded and afforded with what we need. As a matter of fact, I will urge the Chairperson of the farming or agricultural committee to have come with a price from the people that they went out on outreach programmes to say people said if we could have so much per kilogram per bale then it is done. I thank you.
HON. J. SITHOLE: All we are saying in this very important debate is we are trying to motivate a cotton farmer so that the cotton farmer continues to produce cotton because cotton is a hard crop to produce. It is not an easy crop. You can think of a bale coming up but that will be after hard work. It is not anything that you just get overnight.
Also, we have to motivate a farmer who is growing cotton because by growing more cotton we are looking at vision 2030 where you find a cotton farmer is also an element of our economic development. When you think of vision 2030 you will think of people who are in a position where they can also stand on their own and survive on their own, but if the pricing system of cotton is so low that our people cannot manage to sustain or get towards vision 2030, then we will not be doing justice to ourselves.
If we want to motivate our farmers in such a way that those who have gone for land reform, the land that we have called for must be seen producing results. It is a common sight where you find people who have gone to do farming in the new resettlement areas where cotton is grown on a large scale, the majority do not grow maize but grow cotton primarily because it is their cash crop. When they get some good prices out of it they continue to get motivated and hence, they improve their productivity for the good of Zimbabwe, our country where so far in that if cotton is grown on a large scale, it can be a source of labour for some people who will be in need of money. They can also get some money from those who are growing cotton. There is no good cotton farmer that can do a lot of production on his own, that person needs labour. We are talking about employment and we can get employment through people who are working in cotton farms or cotton fields. So that we have our farmers augmenting what the President is saying about employment creation in Zimbabwe.
I also want to end this discussion by saying we need not create a negative attitude to our farmers. Once the farmers develop a negative attitude, we are not going to see productivity taking off the ground. I do understand some of the farmers in my constituency who have come to me from time to time wanting to know where the future of cotton is going in our area. Cotton is their main crop because it is a dry area. Let us continue motivating our farmers for the sake of productivity and also achieving our national goals. I thank you.
*HON. CHIKOMBA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I will talk about Gokwe. When I visit that area I realised that a lady cotton farmer in Gokwe would be carrying a number of cotton bales for sale but they are not being paid, the money will not be equivalent to the number bales that they would have delivered. When they are now going to the shops, they will realise that their ecocash accounts where their money would have been deposited in, is not enough. What our Lands Committee Chairperson did is very impressive because we realised from our trip that people are suffering. Farmers are living in poverty. There are old women looking after orphans and they need to be paid their money as soon as they deliver their cotton bales. I thank you.
*HON. MURAI: Thank you Madam Speaker for allowing me to add my voice on the debate, the report on the cotton issue. The main reason why we had to go there was to find out the challenges the cotton farmers were facing. Madam Speaker, what we saw was pitiful. The cotton farmer was now behaving like a slave. It does not show that the farmer is producing such an important and vital crop. The problem of the farmer lies in the manner in which cotton crop is sold. That is where they are getting a raw deal. I would want to believe that it has been mentioned in this august House that we adopt the same system that is prevailing in the tobacco crop and the tobacco growers - should happen to the cotton growers. I also observed that the middlemen between the buyers and sellers of cotton is the biggest challenge and my proposal Madam Speaker is that it is important that the currency used in buying cotton should be the same currency used when selling the cotton. Farmers are short-changed because the buyers get the cotton in RTGS and they sell it in US dollars. The regulatory authority AMA should be a fair regulatory authority and there is need for policy change. Whoever wants to buy cotton should use the same currency that will be used when selling the cotton...
HON. MATANGIRA: On a point of order Madam Speaker. It would be very disappointing to say in this august House there is cotton being bought by the middlemen in RTGS and the same middlemen would sell that same cotton in US dollars. May we know where this is happening?
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: You wanted clarity from Hon.
HON. MATANGIRA: Yes, I want clarity.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Murai, can you clarify
*HON. MURAI: Thank you Madam Speaker. It comes as a surprise Madam Speaker. I earlier on I said that we visited cotton farmers and we had cotton buyers, the producers and the regulatory authority. Those that buy cotton indicated that they are selling the cotton in US dollars. Cotton is not bought using RTGS dollars. The cotton farmers are aware of this. Those that buy the cotton in RTGS and reselling it in foreign currency said that is what the policy is and there is nothing that stops them from selling the cotton in whatever currency they prefer. I would like to believe that the Hon. Member has been answered. Madam Speaker, I would like to plead with you that we want progress but you should also see if we are still normal. Madam Speaker I am saying it is so easy to solve the challenges that we came across. We need to do as I have indicated and ensure that all cotton sales are done in foreign currency. We can also use the system prevailing in the tobacco industry and how it is marketed as a starting point. If that is the way to be taken, the cotton grower would be much happier. Amongst the cotton growers are war veterans. As they grow this cotton they believe that the liberation war period was better than this time when they are growing cotton. He said he was not going to speak but simply to ask Parliamentarians to compare the texture of our skin with that of the war veteran who was on the ground. We were very ashamed and we observed that our skin textures were from different countries although we were all from Zimbabwe.
* HON. TOGAREPI: On a point of order Hon Speaker, I believe the Hon. Member is insulting a very important component of the people in this country that he has a better skin texture than that of a war veteran. I would want to believe that it would be proper if he were to withdraw his statement.
*THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Murai, may you please
withdraw your statement.
*HON. MURAI: I was going to explain what exactly what it was that I meant. You may ask me to withdraw very good words. I am saying let us help war veterans because they are suffering as they are into agriculture. Should we leave them like that?
*THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: There is a type of language
that we expect in this august House which does not belittle others. May you please withdraw your words?
*HON. MURAI: It has been understood. I withdraw my statement. All I am saying is that as cotton is being grown we have several types of people. Let us assist all of them so that our cotton farmers can do their farming well. Let us treat the farmers well. Let us have a clear policy in place which clearly spells out the functions of AMA. AMA should not allow buyers of cotton to buy in RTGs and the sellers then sell it in US dollars. Cotton should be priced in US dollars. I thank you.
*HON. SEWERA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would want to thank the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture for going on a fact finding mission regarding the cotton industry and why people were not receiving payment. It is painful and makes one feel pity for the farmers. I am a cotton grower myself and the $3,24 price mentioned is correct. I had 219 bales. I was not there when the Chairman and his Committee visited but I believe that as difficult as this issue maybe people are busy sending messages to me indicating that to date they still have not been paid and that they were receiving groceries. They said the reason why they grew cotton was so that they could buy cattle, scotchcarts, etcetera yet they were now being asked to collect groceries. We understand what this is all about but if possible it is my appeal that old people in places like Chimuchembo which is far away cannot come to Chitekete to open an account. It is quite difficult because there is no transport. It is $250 one way and this is an old lady coming with one or two bales of cotton coming from more than 200kms. She gets to the bank and there is nothing. I was thinking that cotton farmers should be put into a special group just like the tobacco growers. There should also be modalities for payment of their cotton without any hitches because these cotton farmers are contributing immensely to the country’s economy. All the cotton farmers in Gokwe know that their cotton is being exported and being sold in US dollars. If they were to be paid US$43 there and then, they would have benefited but cotton farmers owe cotton growers. We should go back and compensate the growers so that they can be motivated to grow cotton in Gokwe. In the past years, we would go past Kadoma on our way to Bulawayo and pass through David Whitehead and you would see that David Whitehead Factory was closed. If we are not going to support cotton farmers, David Whitehead will remain closed.
Cotton farmers should be supported and employment should be created. In their areas they would refer to us as my son and my young brother and say if I had been paid I would want to buy a bag of cement. They are development focussed. Most of the people that grow cotton would want to develop their residential areas but they cannot because of the payment that they are being given. It is not sufficient. I am in support of the report that has been tabled. The Government did well as well as the Committee that went on the ground to establish what exactly was happening. What we need now is the way forward. We should sit down and see what we can do so that the cotton farmers can realise their benefit after their sweat even in terms of those that grow maize.
The first farmers to deliver their yields to the Grain Marketing Board were not paid up to date. We would want a situation where it is a cash and carry basis of this produce so that and each and every player should earn their money. There are some people that are in Government that are sabotaging the Government. We should be aware of that. A lot of things have been said by my colleagues but I am saying that we were supporting the motion and we should do something quickly about the issue of cotton farmers because we are getting towards the cotton growing season in the not too distant future. I thank you.
HON. WADYEJENA: Madam Speaker, I beg to move that the
debate be now adjourned.
HON. MATANGIRA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Wednesday 15th July, 2020.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. TOGAREPI: Madam Speaker, I move that we revert back to Order of the Day No. 18 on today’s Order Paper.
HON. MATANGIRA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC
SERVICE, LABOUR AND SOCIAL WELFARE ON PETITION
RECEIVED FROM THE NATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CARE
LEAVERS NETWORK TRUST ON THE VIOLATION OF
RIGHTS OF YOUNG ADULTS UPON DISCHARGE FROM
RESIDENTIAL CHILD CARE FACILITIES
HON. E. NCUBE: Thank you Madam Speaker, rise to move a
motion standing in my name that this House takes note of the First
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social
Welfare on the Petition received from the National Residential Care Leavers Network Trust on the Violation of Rights of Young Adults upon discharge from Residential Care Facilities.
HON. MPARIWA: I second.
HON. E. NCUBE:
In terms of Section 149 of the Constitution, the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare received a petition from the National Residential Care Leavers Network Trust. The organisation appealed to Parliament to protect the rights of young adults to survive, develop and become contributing members of society upon discharge from residential care facilities.
The petitioners noted several international protocols on children’s rights to which Zimbabwe is a party to, that include, the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Children (1989), UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (2009), African Charter on Children’s
Rights (1990) and Africa’s Agenda 2040 for the Children. In addition, the petitioners made reference to Section 30 of the Constitution which stipulates that the State must take all practical measures, within the limits of available resources to provide security and social care to those in need. The petitioners further alluded to the Children’s Act [Chapter 5:06], National Action Plan for Vulnerable Orphans and Children, National Social Protection Policy (2013-2019), National Foster Care Hand Book and National Residential Care Standards, among other domestic instruments which provide for the rights and care of children. Programmes such as the Children in Difficulty Circumstances, Basic Education Assistance Module and Assisted Medical Treatment Orders were also mentioned.
The petitioners lamented that the above mentioned domestic policies, legislative instruments and programmes do not provide for the support of young people who are under the care of the State upon leaving residential care facilities when they reach 18 years of age. Consequently, a majority of these young adults have no option but to live on the streets under conditions of extreme poverty and resort to vices such as crime and drug abuse. In addition, the petitioners noted several challenges encountered by children living in residential care facilities, including; inadequate financial resources to provide for their basic needs, lack of psychosocial care and information, amongst other needs. This forms the background of the inquiry conducted by the
Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare into the petition received from the National Residential Care Leavers
2.0 OBJECTIVES OF THE INQUIRY
The key objective of the inquiry was for the Committee to assess the enrolment, care and discharge processes of children from residential care facilities. In particular, the Committee intended to establish efforts being made to empower and prepare children for independent living outside residential care and where they go upon discharge from these institutions. Furthermore, the Committee aimed to ascertain the support offered by the Government to children living in residential care facilities and whether they continue to receive any form of assistance from the
Government or residential care facility after discharge. Ultimately, the Committee sought to come up with recommendations for improved living conditions for both care leavers and children living in residential care facilities.
The Committee undertook the following activities as part of the inquiry:
- Received oral evidence from the National Residential Care Leavers
Network Trust and the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and
- Analysed written submissions received from the National
Residential Care Leavers Network Trust and the National
Residential Care Standards (2010); and
- Conducted field visits to residential child care facilities as shown on Table 1 below:
Table 1: Residential Child Care Facilities Visited by the Committee
|PROVINCE||RESIDENTIAL CHILD CARE FACILITY|
|Bulawayo||SOS Children’s Home|
|Harare||Matthew Rusike Children’s Home|
Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home
|Manicaland||Chirinda Children’s Home|
Houtberg Child Care Centre
|Mashonaland Central||SOS Children’s Home|
Ponesai Vanhu Children’s Home
|Mashonaland East||All Souls Children’s Home|
Marondera Child Care Centre
|Mashonaland West||Kadoma Training Centre|
Vimbainesu Children’s Home
|Matebeleland North||Harvest Family Children’s Home|
Sunrise Children’s Home
|Matebeleland South||Sacred Heart Children’s Home|
Ethandweni Children’s Home
|Masvingo||Chiredzi Christian Children’s Home|
Bopoma Children’s Home
|Midlands||St. Mary’s Children’s Home|
Blue Hills Rehabilitation Centre
4.0 COMMITTEE’S FINDINGS
4.1 Oral Evidence from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and
4.1.1Policy Framework for Enrolment, Care and Discharge of Children from Residential Care Facilities.
The Children’s Act [Chapter 5:06] mandates the Ministry of Public
Service, Labour and Social Welfare to place children in need under institutional care. These include; children who are destitute, orphans or untraceable and do not have a legal guardian, those whose legal guardian or parents do not exercise proper control and care over them or are unfit to do so. However, Mr Masanga, the Permanent Secretary for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare informed the Committee that Government views institutionalisation of children as an option of last resort after all other avenues such as the nuclear family, community, foster care or adoption have been exhausted.
In terms of Section 14 of the Children’s Act, any Police Officer, Health Officer, Education Officer or Probation Officer may remove a child or young person from any place to a place of safety. It further stipulates that these Officers should notify the Probation Officer of the local area within a period of five days. After conducting an inquiry into the case, the Probation Officer compiles a report which will be presented to a Magistrate of theCourt in terms of Section 20 of the above mentioned Act. The Magistrate issues a Court Order to either commit the child into a residential care institution, foster care or return them to the custody of a parent or guardian. The Court Order is valid for a period of 3 years after which it should be reviewed to assess whether the child’s circumstances have changed for the better or should they continue to stay at the residential care facility.
Furthermore, the Ministry developed the National Residential Child Care Standards (2010) which define dimensions of the quality of care and give minimum standards to be met by residential child care facilities for the provision of services in the protection and care of children placed in those facilities.
4.1.2 Government Support to Children Living in Residential
The Ministry informed the Committee that although policy requires private children’s homes to be self-sustainable, the Government offers various forms of support to these institutions. This includes a per capita grant for the upkeep of each child admitted at an institution and administrative grant which should contribute towards the payment of salaries for employees at a residential care facility, amongst other purposes. The Committee learnt that these grants had been reviewed from RTGs $15.00 to RTGs $200 and that payments had been backdated to January 2019. Additionally, Ministry officials informed the Committee that Government pays tuition fees for institutionalised children under the Children in Difficulty Circumstances Programme.
Furthermore, the government donates food and clothing to children’s homes.
4.1.3 Government Support to Young Adults upon Discharge from Residential Care Facilities
Mr Masanga, the Permanent Secretary for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare informed the Committee that according to Government policy, a child in residential care is supposed to be discharged upon reaching 18 years of age. He admitted that the Ministry does not have any tangible programmes to cater for these young adults upon discharge from residential care except paying tuition fees for brilliant children up to university study level or vocational training. In fact, Government relies on family reunification and foster parents to shelter these young adults.
4.2 Field Visits to Children’s Homes
4.2.1 Enrolment of Children into Residential Care Facilities
During the field visits, the Committee found out that all children living in residential care facilities had been enrolled through the Department of Social Welfare and the courts. A majority of these children were vulnerable as they had been abandoned, neglected or abused by their parents or guardians. The Committee learnt that on enrolment of a child at a residential care institution, the Probation Officer brings the following items; a Place of Safety Form, Assisted Medical Treatment
Order (AMTO) and background information of the minor. The Place of Safety form expires within 2 weeks, a period within which the court is expected to have issued an order either committing a child to a residential care facility, foster care or return them to the custody of a parent or guardian. If a child is committed to a residential care facility, the administration of the institution, in collaboration with the Probation Officer, immediately develop a plan for care of the child.
The Committee also discovered that some residential child care facilities catered for children in conflict with the law, namely; Kadoma Training Centre in the Mashonaland West Province and Blue Hills
Rehabilitation Centre in the Midlands Province. These institutions accommodate children who commit various offences, including; murder, rape, unlawful entry, theft, aggravated indecent assault and truancy, among others. Similarly, the children are enrolled through the Courts and with the involvement of Probation Officers.
4.2.2 Care for Children in Residential Care Facilities
In compliance with the National Residential Child Care Standards (2010), most residential child care facilities have shifted from the dormitory accommodation style to the family unit system except for
Chirinda Children’s Home in Manicaland Province and Ponesai Vanhu
Children’s Home in Mashonaland Central Province. Under the family unit system, the residential care facility is organised into family clusters with children of different age groups and parent(s) who are in this case the care-givers. Each cluster is run like a normal family unit in Zimbabwe where parents are the decision-makers and they allocate household chores to minors, children go to school and church and other routine activities in a home.
During the field visits, the Committee established that the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare’s involvement in caring for children included; supervising the running of residential child care institutions, processing administrative and child per capita grants and provision of counselling services to children. The Ministry, through Probation Officers is also responsible for processing variation orders for the transfer of undisciplined children to probation centres and facilitating issuance of birth certificates, tracing parents and relatives, amongst other key roles. In addition, the Committee was informed that the Government, through the Ministry, owned Kadoma Training Institute and paid all expenses relating to the upkeep of children including food, medical treatment and school fees, among others. While other privately owned residential care facilities strived to pay school fees for institutionalised children, the Committee learnt that the Ministry catered for children at Blue Hills Rehabilitation Centre and Harvest Family
Children’s Home which fall under the same category. The Ministry further provided grain and clothes to some institutions, albeit on an irregular basis.
4.2.3 Challenges Encountered by Residential Child Care
The Committee noted a myriad of challenges faced by residential child care facilities in their operations including:
a) Children unready for discharge at 18 years of age
Officials of Bopoma Children’s Home informed the Committee that children at the institution lived in constant fear of being discharged upon turning 18 years of age. It was noted that by this age, most institutionalised children were still at secondary school and unable to fend for themselves, which made the prospects of being thrown into the unknown world a child’s worst “nightmare.” Furthermore, officials across the various residential care facilities visited by the Committee noted that it was difficult for them to just release a child from their
“home” to an unidentified destination.
b) Irregular support from Government
The Committee was informed that Probation Officers were in the habit of “dumping” children at institutions without any follow up support, for instance,provision of child per capita and administrative grants. At the time of the visit to Matthew Rusike Children’s Home in Harare, in August 2019, the Committee learnt that child per capita grants had last been received in November 2018. Additionally, officials across the institutions visited lamented that the paltry monthly $15.00 per capita child grants and $0.50 for those in a place of safety was grossly inadequate to cater for children’s basic needs. Institutions such as Sacred
Heart Children’s Home and Ethandweni Children’s Home which catered for children with disability and have other special needs were the worst affected by the inadequacy of child per capita grants. Furthermore, it was acknowledged that other forms of assistance were provided on an irregular basis, for example, the latest form of support to Marondera Child Care Centre as an institution was a 10 kilogrammes bag of maize seeds received in 2018.
Officials at Chirinda Children’s Home highlighted that the institution had not received any child per capita and administrative grants for a period of 5 years. Late disbursement of financial resources was also reported to be a major challenge hampering operations at
Kadoma Training Centre which is solely owned and funded by the
Government. The Committee was informed that a sceptic tank construction project at the institution had to be halted due to the shortage of materials as the Treasury had not released financial resources on time.
c) Dwindling donor support
In most cases, residential child care facilities depend on donations and the goodwill of well-wishers for funding and other basic necessities such as food and clothes. However, the Committee learnt that most benefactors were withdrawing their support due to the harsh economic environment. For instance, local bakeries which used to provide bread free of charge at Matthew Rusike Children’s Home and Ponesai Vanhu
Children’s Home had stopped doing so. In addition, the Committee was informed that Roman Catholic Church parishes in Europe which largely supported Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home were no longer sending donations due to the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries. Consequently, it was increasingly becoming difficult for residential child care facilities to sustain their operations, including; purchasing food, medical drugs for children with chronic illnesses and information communication technology (ICT) equipment, maintaining infrastructure, paying electricity bills and school fees.
d) Delays in the issuance of Court Orders
Officials across the residential child care facilities visited by the Committee bemoaned that delays in the issuance of court orders through which a child is committed to an institution was a constant challenge. The Committee was informed that without the court order, a child could not access child per capita grants which contributed towards their monthly upkeep. At the time of the Committee‘s visit, only 6 out of 19
Children at Chirinda Children’s Home had committal orders. While some officials of the institutions visited by the Committee noted that delays in the processing of court orders were due to work overload on the part of the Probation Officers, others attributed it to their complacency.
e) Delays in the registration of foster parents
Child care-givers at Matthew Rusike Children’s Home highlighted that applications for foster parenting lodged by some prospective parents residing in Gweru Town two years prior to the Committee’s visit were still to be determined by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. This delay prevented these prospective parents from taking on children in need of homes, including those who attained 18 years of age and are supposed to be discharged from residential care facilities as per Government policy.
f) Child indiscipline
Child indiscipline was highlighted as a common challenge experienced at institutions visited by the Committee. However, it seemed to be a serious challenge at Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home and Kadoma Training Centre where children vandalised property, abused drugs, absconded classes and used dangerous weapons, among other misdemeanours. Officials at Kadoma Training Centre indicated that they had no form of protection and were at risk of being attacked by children, a majority of whom had a record of criminal activities. The Committee also observed the lack of a security fence or durawall to control the movement of children and other people in and out of the institution.
Officials at Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home indicated that indiscipline was so rife to the extent that it affected academic studies and future prospects of children. It was noted that cases of indiscipline had spiralled following a training on child rights conducted at the institution by the Department of Social Welfare and the Child Protection Unit.
- g) Difficulties in accessing identity documents The Committee learnt that it was difficult for children living in residential care facilities to access birth certificates, particularly where there were prospects of finding relatives as more time was spend on tracking them down and convincing them to cooperate in this regard. It was also noted that the abridged version (short) birth certificates were issued to children whose parents were unknown. However, officials complained that these short birth certificates prejudiced children from participating in sporting competitions at primary and secondary education levels as the long version birth certificates were a prerequisite.
Furthermore, the Committee was informed that a child at SOS
Children’s Home - Bindura encountered challenges in acquiring a passport to facilitate his travel to the SOS International School in Ghana where he had been awarded a scholarship. Officials highlighted that a visit to the Registrar General’s Office in January 2019 had revealed that the passport would only be accessible in December 2020 while the study programme was scheduled to commence in July 2019.
h) Shortage of land
The Committee learnt that residential child care facilities such as
Ponesai Vanhu Children’s Home, Marondera Child Care Centre and
Bopoma Children’s Home did not have adequate land to conduct livelihood projects. Officials at Bopoma Children’s Home highlighted that 10 hectares rather than the available 2 hectares of land were required for income generating projects in order to facilitate selfsustainability of the institution. Conversely, Sister Mutyambizi decried that although Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home was initially allocated land measuring 400 square metres in 1998, only 257 square metres remained as the Harare City Council had apportioned the other part to churches under unclear circumstances. She noted that this land was required for purposes of constructing more housing blocks, an administration block and crèche.The Committee was informed that Houtberg Child Care Centre had been allocated 50 hectares of land by the Government under the Land Reform Programme in 2004 but a certificate of offer was still to be issued by the time of the Committee’s visit in 2019. The Committee learnt that the delay in issuance of the land offer certificate affected long term planning as the Home’s future was uncertain.
i) Shortage of water
At the time of the Committee’s visit, the drying up of boreholes were reported to be a major challenge affecting gardening, poultry and piggery projects at Matthew Rusike Children’s Home and a banana plantation at Houtberg Child Care Centre. Similar challenges were also noted at Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home, St. Mary’s Children’s
Home, Blue Hills Rehabilitation Centre and Chiredzi Christian
j) Lack of business start-up capital
It was highlighted that at 18 years of age and having been raised in a residential child care facility, young adults did not own any property therefore lacked any form of collateral to enable them to access loans. Most residential care facilities were incapacitated to provide these young adults with capital to start income generating projects. Thus, it was difficult for them to start business ventures as a means of survival post residential care.
k) Inadequate livelihood skills training facilities
The Committee noted that Kadoma Training Centre only had primary level education facilities (Grades 1 to 7) which could only cater for younger children. Additionally, the lack of modern machinery and skilled personnel stifled training of children in preparation for life after rehabilitation. It was highlighted that training in courses such as carpentry and agriculture was being hampered by obsolete equipment. Consequently, at the end of the 3 years rehabilitation period, the institution released individuals ill-equipped to survive in the real world. Therefore, they resorted to crime and ended up being admitted at the institution again. Officials at Vimbainesu Children’s Home were also contemplating the establishment of agriculture and other vocational training facilities within the institution as a means of preparing children for discharge at the age of 18 years.
4.2.3 Discharge of Children from Residential Care Facilities
The Committee noted that children were not being automatically discharged from residential facilities upon attaining 18 years as per Government policy. Officials explained that they considered these children as their own and could not just cast them into the unknown as
Government policy did not provide for any other recourse. Additionally, Officials at various institutions admitted that they continued to care for these young adults until opportunities such as foster parents or employment were found. Reunification with family was also reported to be an exit option for children upon reaching 18 years of age. Some institutions such as Marondera Children’s Home, Chiredzi Christian Children’s Village and Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home had separate facilities, namely half way homes where children aged 18 years and above lived. Alternatively, St. Mary’s Children’s Home and SOS Children’s Homes discharged these young adults but continued to provide them with support in the form of school fees, food, accommodation rental and transport allowances.
Comparatively, residential care facilities which cater for children in conflict with the law accommodate them for a period of 3 years. The
Committee was informed that in some rare cases, children were discharged earlier on good behaviour and that the period could also be extended where a child’s place of safety is not guaranteed.
5.0 COMMITTEE’S OBSERVATIONS
5.1 Government policy provides for the discharge of children from residential care upon reaching 18 years, an age at which a majority of young adults are not ready for independent living. Most of them are still in school, lack any meaningful source of income and still heavily dependent on their carers for food, shelter and tuition fees, amongst other basic needs. A majority of these children usually lag behind others of their age in academic studies due to the various difficult circumstances they encounter. It is also pertinent to note that, apart from the mainstream education, these young adults commonly lack any other specialised life skills to deal with the challenges of independent living. Thus, discharge from residential care at 18 years of age is generally too early for these young adults and is tantamount to threatening their survival.
5.2 Contrary to Government policy, a majority of young adults
(those aged 18 and above years) continue to live in residential care facilities until alternatives such as foster care, employment or reunification with family are found. However, if the policy is applied in its “blanket” form, young adults will be discharged from residential care upon attaining 18 years with grave consequences on their lives such as homelessness and disruption of academic studies, amongst others. Thus, their rights to survival, development and become contributing members of society will be jeopardised.
5.3 There is no comprehensive Government policy to ensure the welfare of young adults post residential care, thus safeguarding their right to survive, develop and become contributing members of society. Hence, there is a general lack of Government support for this group in the form of shelter, food or clear funding strategy for their studies, amongst other basic necessities.
5.4 Although not provided for by policy, some residential care facilities have established half-way homes for children aged 18 and above years where they continue to provide them with basic necessities such as food and tuition fees. This seems to be a workable alternative as it facilitates both survival and development of young adults post residential care.
5.5 Bureaucratic bottlenecks such as delays in the issuance of court orders and registration of foster parents are affecting the proper care and welfare of children in residential care facilities and young adults awaiting discharge.
5.6 The abridged version (short) birth certificate unduly limits children’s participation in normal school activities such as sporting, thereby depriving them of an opportunity to explore a potential career avenue. Furthermore, children with abridged version birth certificates experience challenges in acquiring passports as the long version birth certificate is a prerequisite. The abridged version birth certificate, therefore does not only affect a child’s development directly, but may negatively affect their life in the long term.
5.7 Government provides child per capita and administrative grants and other forms of support to residential child care facilities on an irregular basis. Additionally, RTGs $200.00 per capita grant is grossly inadequate to cater for the monthly upkeep of a child in view of the rising cost of living. According to the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (2020) the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the month ending April 2020 stood at 953.36 percent (%) compared to 810.40 % in March 2020 and 110.14 % in April 2019. The CPI measures changes in the cost of a basket of goods and services consumed by an average urban household. Consequently, residential care facilities increasingly find it difficult to provide for the basic needs of institutionalised children due to inflationary pressures.
5.8 Child indiscipline is a serious challenge faced by some institutions such as Kadoma Training Centre which derails the rehabilitation process of children and poses a danger to officers at the institution. The same challenge is interfering with the academic studies of children at Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home.
5.9 There was no security fence or durawall at Kadoma Training
Centre in violation of the National Residential Child Care Standards. Standard Four stipulates that each residential child care facility “must have a perimeter fence or wall that is checked at least twice a year.” The unchecked entrance and exit of people from the institution threatens the security of children and Care-givers by harbouring bad influences such as drug trafficking which may interfere with the rehabilitation process, for instance.
5.10. Residential child care facilities face a multitude of challenges in the current unstable economic environment, chief among these are; declining donor support and shortage of land for livelihood projects. This limits their financial capacity to cater for both institutionalised children and extend support to young adults upon discharge from residential care.
5.11 Out of the 400 square metres of the residential land allegedly allocated to Shungu Dzevana Children’s Home in 1998, 143 square metres were reallocated to churches by the Harare City Council. This has derailed plans to expand key facilities for the proper running of the institution and care of children, namely; construction of more housing blocks, an administration block and a crèche.
6.0 COMMITTEE’S RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 The Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare should expeditiously submit a Bill amending the Children’s Act to
Parliament by 31st August 2020. The Bill should clearly define the
age and conditions under which a child in residential care becomes eligible for discharge, amongst other key issues. The Committee recommends an upwards review of the age of discharge from 18 to 22 years. In addition, the Bill should provide for establishment of half-way homes to accommodate these young adults post residential care until they can independently care for themselves.
6.2 The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, in collaboration with other relevant Government Ministries such as the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, should formulate a comprehensive policy for the care of young adults raised in residential child care facilities by 31st December 2020.
This policy should be based on extensive stakeholder consultation.
6.3 Considering the precarious circumstances of young adults raised in residential child care facilities, the Government should prioritise their employment in the public sector. The Public Service
Commission, Health Service Board and Police Service
Commission and other public sector employment agencies should introduce a 3 percent quota system for recruitment of qualified persons raised in residential child care facilities by 30th September
6.4 The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and Public Service Commission inspectors should closely monitor the work of Probation Officers by 31st July 2020. This will ensure timely determination of foster parenting applications, investigation of child cases and compilation of reports which are required for processing court orders. Additionally, it will facilitate effective supervision of residential child care facilities by Probation Officers and enhance the adequacy of care services received by institutionalised children, among other benefits.
6.5 The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare in consultation with the Ministry of Finance and Economic
Development, should review monthly child per capita grants from
RTGs$200.00 to an equivalent of US$30.00 in local currency by January 2021. In addition, the Treasury should prioritise the timely disbursement of administrative and child per capita grants to all residential child care facilities by 31st August 2020.
6.6 The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare should facilitate provision of funds for the erection of a perimeter fence at Kadoma Training Centre, amongst other security measures by 31st January 2021 in order to protect both the institutionalised children and Care-givers.
6.7 The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare should ensure that all residential child care facilities benefit from social welfare programmes by 31st August 2020. While access to the Food Deficit Mitigation Programme will considerably alleviate the challenge of food shortages, the Children in Difficulty
Circumstances Programme will cater for the tuition fees needs of all eligible children.
6.8 The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare should facilitate access to Government student loans by children living in residential care facilities and discharged young adults by 31st
August 2020. These loans should cover both vocational training
and university education costs. Additionally, the prioritisation of children or young adults in the Presidential Scholarship
Programme and other similar initiatives could reduce their tuition fees challenges.
6.9 The Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation should facilitate access to business start-up loans from the Empower Bank by young adults discharged from residential care to facilitate their financial independence by 31st August 2020.
6.10 The Registrar General’s Office should issue the long version birth certificates to all children living in residential child care facilities starting from 1st July 2020.
6.11 The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement should allocate at least five hectares of arable land with certification to each residential child care facility by 31st October 2020.This will enable these institutions to carry-out livelihood projects such as farming in order to achieve selfsustainability.
6.12 The Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities should investigate the reallocation of land initially apportioned to Shungu
Dzevana Children’s Home to churches by the Harare City Council
and report to the Committee by 30th September 2020.
6.13 The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare in consultation with other relevant Government ministries and civil society organisations should review child rights training manuals to amplify the responsibility of the child by 31st December 2020 in order to address issues of indiscipline.
Residential care facilities are a vital component of the child care system in Zimbabwe. The Government is called upon to unequivocally provide both material support to these facilities and a conducive policy environment for their operations. It is imperative for the Government to urgently address the glaring policy gaps highlighted in this report, in particular establishing a viable framework for the care of children living in residential care facilities upon attaining 18 years of age.
*HON. MPARIWA: First and foremost, I would want to thank the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Hon. E. Ncube. I would want to state that we had to go on this fact-finding mission after we had received a petition. I am touched by the fact that in this country the majority of the children that we have are 18 years and they are the future leaders Madam Speaker that will sit on that Chair and are the Hon. Mpariwas that will be here. We will not be here forever. Other people will replace us.
The Chair has gone ahead and explained in the report that as we went around we saw a lot of things. We also observed the abuse of the children in that the Constitution was being flouted. Section 30 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe clearly spells out what a child is and their age. I would want to believe that the law is in debt because if you say a child is eighteen years because an eighteen year old is now self supporting, but they do not have any means and ways to look after themselves. Hence, I say that the law is in debt in that the definition of
2013 of a child no longer follows with the definition in the Constitution because our eighteen year olds may not be self supporting and the same would apply to those that are in foster homes. Once they reach eighteen years they are released.
All the foster homes that we went to, we observed the children are not free as soon as they are about to approach the age of eighteen because their future is bleak. They do not have anywhere to go. It is like a person who has boarded a bus, when they are about to reach their destination, they do not know where exactly they will be going to. It is just as good as getting rid of the child once the destination has been reached. Hence, you then find the problems that arise that we have thieves and street kids.
Street kids have parents and have an origin. You heard the Chairperson go blow ,by blow clarifying the position as regards the state of these institutions where these children are looked after but they have not been properly looked after because they do not have sufficient resources. They do not have water, are in hunger as there is no food, no electricity because it has been disconnected for three months as there is no money to pay for the electricity supply.
Such things Madam Speaker are quite disturbing because from the very beginning there is no water or food. If one is being given RTGS$15 in this age, that is a hard act to follow. It is not right. If a child is going to be released upon reaching eighteen years, there is no proper preparation that has been done for that particular child. We are easily getting rid of that child. There were programmes for children in difficult circumstances that were been mentioned and for those that are in childheaded institutions, that where these children are being kept, food was being given and such things.
In the recommendations, you have heard the Chairperson say the Minister of Finance should be sympathetic and look into the amounts that are being disbursed in these foster homes or such institutions so that they be given meaningful amounts that can give them a healthy life. As they leave, they should know what world they will be stepping into.
Once a child reaches eighteen, it should not be the end because there will be others that will want to enter the Ministry. The Ministry officials told us that they have problems in that there is nothing they can do about it because the law says at eighteen years they should be discharged, hence my earlier reference to the law having a deficit, lacuna or gap.
This points to the Committee’s findings that there should not be a disparity in terms of the children are Act and the Constitution. The two should be speaking to each other. We should have a new law that deals with the removal of eighteen years as the age which a child should leave a foster home ,but that the child should become self sustaining before they leave the foster home. In all the districts or provinces that we went round, the projects the Chair made reference to - there was no money to support. Our local authorities or rural district councils should work hand in glove with the Ministry of Labour and ensure that if they want to sell chicken or do garden projects because children have different talents, they should allocate the space in which to do that so that they are self sustaining once they leave the foster home. Releasing a child without skills into the outside world from the foster home is problematic.
The children do not have birth certificates and national registration cards. It is difficult if they do not have such documents for them to leave the foster home. When you get to the ZUPCO bus, they insist on a national identification card and the letter therefore, they are at a disadvantage. Every child wants to know who they are and want to be identified and know where they were born. It is the duty of the Government to assist in ensuring that these children have the official documents before they leave these foster homes. That is the preparation that I was talking about so that they can be able to be self sustaining. Over and above having those skills, they should have proper documentation.
The Government should have prepared this person for life outside the foster home and that they should be fully equipped so that if they want to become cross borders, they should have the necessary documentation. There should be a weaning stage where preparation is made for the future of that child and what they will feed on. We want a
Bill that looks into the children’s rights or the Children’s Act that deals with the rights of the children so as to come up and fill up the lacunas that are within the law so that the law becomes water tight. We know that even if you go to court there is a situation where they will refer to the other hand. We want a Constitution that speaks to the same issues or that is unambiguous as regards the Children’s Act.
Let me conclude by saying that the ministries that deal with the children’s rights and their future in terms of skills are many. There should be a situation where the various ministries work together to come up with a well rounded child who upon leaving this institution should have life surviving skills. Those that are excelling in school should be given sufficient documents. If they excel in ICT because they have various talents, they should be well equipped to become ICT experts and pursue it to its final conclusion. Such children do not want to be referred to as orphans. If a child is paperless and has not been properly looked after, he becomes a burden to the state even when they grow old. So all the children that are institutionalised should be properly looked after and be prepared whether they are boys or girls. So, every department that has to do with the upbringing of these children in foster homes should work hand in glove with the Ministry of Labour and assist this particular ministry so that these children are assisted so that they should not be afraid to face their brighter future tomorrow as they will be having sufficient skills and enough documentation for them to take their place in the world.
Zimbabwe ratified several charters that the Chair referred to amongst them the SADC Protocol and others, so let us walk the talk once we ratify such agreements or conventions. We have delegations that leave this Parliament and they will be happy to say we now have a law that made it easier for us. I do not think it would be a bad thing for people to re-look and address certain laws that are no longer supporting the interest and rights of the children. I thank you.
*HON. TOGAREPI: Thank you Madam Speaker. Because of
the two speakers, I have decided to add my voice. Those that are in the children’s homes, when they leave those places without identification documents and without the means to survive would mean that these children’s homes do not have such skills. We have read in the newspapers such stories, other experts that deal with children and from children that are in such institutions that they live without identification documents and they do not have skills. Are the ministries or the organisations that are taking care of orphans doing that work for their benefit or for the benefit of the children? Are they doing it to enrich themselves? They should do most of their work to prepare children in such institutions so that they have a better life once they leave the institutions.
The Committee has done very well but maybe the Chair skipped part of the report and I urge the Committee to sit down with the ministry so that they come up with issues that are practical. The Ministry of
Social Welfare’s function is to look after orphans or children without parents. That is why the Government came up with a programme to look after such children. Parliament, through the Committee that went out to carry out investigation came up with the findings in these homes where these children are kept, why do we not sit down with the particular ministry in question and give them the report. Petitioners have also come up with challenges in those areas. So all those children that are 16 years of age and above that do not have registration documents will find out as to how many have been issued with such documentation so that none of them will remain existing without these vital documents.
We have land and people are into agriculture. A lot of people are into farming to earn a living. Can we get farms for these children so that they have a landing pad from the home to a farming institution so that they do not go into the streets and become thieves or murderers because they do not have a sense of belonging. Once that sense of belonging is not there, one is not afraid to do bad things. So, why do you not call the ministry and make and addition so that each and every recommendation that you have come up with is given some targets so that these children are issued with birth certificates. I hear that they are issued with small birth certificates that will not allow them anywhere. We should do research in other countries and find out the best practices in other countries and how best we can come up with normal birth certificates and what Government should do for them to have surnames. Let us put into practice what their concerns are because we are not just going to deal with those children that are in the foster homes today but there will be a generation of people who will say yes, we were looked after but we were looked after by a people that did not care about our future.
Your report require us time to look into it and work together with the Ministry of Education on how best these children can be made a success story. Even psychologists that are in the Ministry of Health, what role can they play so as to integrate these children into the Zimbabwean families so they have the same spirit that we are together with the same Zimbabwean people. I heard them say that they become sad once they reach the age of 18 as they think about what their future has in- store for them. Who is responsible for counseling so that we know that these children’s future is being properly laid out from the day they reach the foster until they leave that home. They may not be brilliant in school but what skills do they have. We are the Members of
Parliament who went there and we had a discussion with such children. Government may have its ways but we are the ones that went and talked to them. Let us call them, sit down and discuss with them and maybe call our Minister for Social Welfare. We know that the Minister deals with a lot of issues in terms of the welfare of such children. We may give them everything but if we do not deal with their future we will have problems. I am touched by the fact that water and electricity is not being paid for. Why then are we giving them money if they are not being provided with the water and electricity? In the grant we should just pay for water and electricity because throughout the year they do not have a problem. If you give people money the money may be misused. They first buy a Mercedez Benz. We did not have these institutions to ensure that people buy mercs but we did come up with such homes to look after the disabled and orphans. The workers there will be sitting pretty and having a good life. You then wonder whether the organisation was meant for the children or these that are living well. I thank you.
*HON. CHKUKWA: Thank you Madam Speaker, I would also
want to add my voice to this report. I have very few remarks in support of the issue that once one leaves the foster home there is a place in Waterfalls, I know someone who was being looked after in that institution. I was not aware that the child had left that institution because if you go to the Waterfalls Shopping Centre you find that child there. That child is always drunk maybe the child is now mentally retarded because once one has been taken to an institution and then later released the problems become difficult and one might wish they might have been dead instead of being looked after in these foster homes. We urge the majority of the Zimbabwean people to look after, complement or assist Government in looking after these children. It may not be within our culture to look after another’s blood because they are not the same totem as us. I am saying that we should also assist Government by helping some of these children.
Furthermore there are those that love people but there are those that are in the streets but there was no one that was born in the streets. I believe that if money could be found and people could go and explain to them. I once had an opportunity to talk with street people. They have different sections. There were some that went there because they were naughty but others went there because both parents are deceased. One came to Harare and life became difficult. They all came under different circumstances so I am in agreement with the people who were saying there is need for them to be counselled. It is not all organisations that are getting the grants that are being made reference to. We believe that counselling and such other things should be urged within our communities, that is myself and others that have such skills. We should be seen to be involved in these foster homes if Government is able to do what needs to be done so that the ordinary people can go and counsel such people. I thank you.
*HON. CHANDA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would like to thank the Chairperson of the Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Hon. Ncube for the report that she has tabled. There are three things that I would want to add. When we went round on our fact finding mission I was touched by certain things. We went to Mashonaland West where these children are being looked after. It is called Vimbainashe if I am not mistaken. There is a woman who volunteered to look after these children. The type of work that she is doing is great. She explained some things that touched my life. So, if it was possible government or the Ministry would come up with a law that protects children. We were told there was a woman who dumped her child and that the child is a very good gift. They followed up on the woman and found her in Norton prostituting. The child is talented.
There should be a law to ensure that once a mother who dumps here child is found she should be dealt with severely. That law should be deterrent because there are some parents that are going to prophets and traditional leaders, selling their cattle just to have a child of their own but one is granted this gift by God and throw away the child. There should be a law that safeguards the interest of such children. The children that are gifted, when they get to the age of marriage, they are married even if they are from a foster home. Then there are some parents who then come and say we are the parents of this child once these children have become doctors and drivers because they will have made it in life. The parent will now be interested in the welfare of that particular child. That actually hurts Madam Speaker.
Others are wasting money and undergoing treatments that are unheard of in a bid to have children yet someone is blessed with a child and they dump the child. If parents later claim a child that they will have earlier on dumped they should be arrested because that child is being looked after from the time when they will still be spoiling the diapers and the parent who looks after them and gives them all the love but the biological parents want to claim the children once they know they are successful. Madam Speaker, I thought I should add my voice on what I saw during these visits. It is quite pathetic. What we saw was very sad indeed. We went to Kadoma Training Institute (KTI) where delinquent juveniles are kept or incarcerated. They range from five, eight and 15 years and we urge the Ministry to look into the issue of officers that are looking after these delinquent children. These offenders that committed various offences, we found that on one of the beds they sleep on there were some knives and some spears but the people that look after such children do not even have a single fire arm to deal with these children once they rise up against them. They have no weapons to defend themselves against such delinquent children. They will be up in arms when there is no food and they will stab one another. They do this within this particular institution. So, the officers should be properly equipped to protect themselves. The Ministry or Government should look into that.
I know that because of sanctions, I cannot mention this but this does not require any money. The Government should look into the welfare of these particular officers because the delinquent children will be looked after by them. Their parents would have failed to look after them but they have nothing to protect them. They do not even have anything to protect themselves against knife stabs from such delinquent children. We had the video and we would have played it. You would have been touched Madam Speaker and felt pity about the lives of these officers that are in grave danger. I reiterate once again that these officers should be given adequate protection against these delinquent offenders. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to add my voice to this report that has been given by the Chairperson.
+HON. MAHLANGU: Thank you Madam Speaker. I would also
like to add my voice on the report tabled by Hon. Chair of the Committee. What I have realised is that Government needs to expeditiously approve the grant that is being given to children in different institutions. It should be done timeously because the funds that are allocated for those projects lose value time they delay approving.
The other thing that I have also realised is that in allocating children birth certificates, there are certain children that fail to attend to sports activities because they want those long birth certificates. The other aspect is on Government food relief. This activity should be done monthly because each time food relief is delayed, the children tend to suffer from hunger as they end up having sadza and vegetables only.
We also want to make sure that in these institutions, people who are on BEAM should make sure that funds that are allocated under BEAM are disbursed in time and they should be allocated as per time requirements of these institutions. These children who stay in these institutions should also be safeguarded and there is need to make sure that Government’s programme of ‘rein vying’ children which was done by Escorts, which were trained by Social Welfare should continue because other children will end up feeling like they are supposed to be going back home but without any platform to be doing that.
I also look at the issue of the KTI which was spoken by one of my members. They complained that there are certain children who when they misbehave, there is need for a vehicle that is supposed to carry that child who would have been injured to a hospital but there are no vehicles that are there to carry those children to the nearest health institution. The other issue is that there is need to make sure that these hospitals are given enough money to buy enough medication. It is also important to identify a place so that it is used to house these children. There is one issue of probation officers who need help from Government because they are the ones who are looking after these children and they do not have much support that they are getting from Government. Thank you Madam Speaker.
HON. T. MOYO: On a point of order. My point of order is that I am saddened to observe that Members to your left are not taking parliamentary business very serious. If you were going to count how many of them are in this House at this particular time, they are less than five. They need to be reminded to take parliamentary business very seriously because most of them want to be the ruling party and how can you be a ruling party when you fail to attend Parliament business like this. So, I submit Madam Speaker.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MAVETERA): Thank
you very much Hon. Moyo for noting that. I am sure it is very prudent for us to be speaking to the Acting Chief Whip of the Members from my left to be able to take parliamentary business seriously. If Members from my right are able to observe Parliament business seriously and also be there until this late hours, I think this should be applauded and they should also follow suit. Thank you for that.
+HON. MKANDLA: Thank you Hon. Speaker. I would like to thank the Chairperson of this Committee Hon. Ncube and her seconder Hon. Mpariwa. Most of the things have been alluded to Madam Speaker regarding these children that are kept in different homes. When a child is kept in these homes, each time they get to 18 years, they are asked to leave those homes. Most of these children that are kept in these homes have got nowhere to go. I will focus mainly on Blue Hills Training Centre. Most of these children who are housed in these homes are taken to court each time they commit crimes but each time they go to these courts, there are so many things that are happening in these courts. Their years are at times reduced whereby may be a child who is 25 years has their years reduced to 15 years. I will ask the Government to look so much into this issue because there are so many of these children in jails who are grown up. We need to make sure that these places are well secured. There is no fence, so we ask the Government to make sure that there is good security on those homes. I would also like to touch on Sacred Heart at Esigodini in Matabeleland South. This home is looking after disabled children. It is good that Government is doing a lot of things in these homes. When we got there, we realised that there are quite a number of things that are needed there. There are no blankets and food. We have always heard that Government is supporting other homes in availing food and blankets but we have other homes that lack these things.
Madam Speaker, goods should be distributed equally. There are certain good things that are being done in those homes. There are some children that are kept in family units who grow up knowing that there is a mother, aunt and they are kept may be in numbers of four with a mother who will be looking after those children.
Madam Speaker, on the issue of birth certificates, it is critical that Government intervenes to make sure that these children get birth certificates. The homes where these children are kept have always been asking for land to do farming activities but are yet to get any. In Binga there is a home that is looking after children and up to now they do not have land so that they do irrigation activities to enable them to get crops which will assist these children.
The other aspect that I also want to highlight on is that it is not that these children are mischievous, some do behave well. We realised that in one of the homes, there are certain children that got to the point of having a wedding. We have other homes whereby a grown up child in one of the homes gets a boyfriend or a girlfriend. There is need for appropriate measures to be followed in paying dowry or lobola. We also want to highlight that there is so much that really needs to be taken care of in these homes. Most of the homes that we visited are the ones that are being monitored by the Salvation Army and some of them are being looked after by Government. Therefore we ask other Zimbabwean organisations to look after those children not necessarily to leave that work to churches only.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Order! In relation to the point of order raised by Hon. Moyo, the Acting Chief Whip from Members on my left side responded that Hon. Members from the left side have gone to a funeral.
+HON. N. NKOMO: Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me
this opportunity to add my voice to this report. Most of the things have been highlighted about what they encountered in these different homes. On the issue of children who would have reached 18, who are then said to leave those homes; we all know that even if a child gets to 18 years, you cannot send them away. Therefore, for these children to be send away is wrong. Where do you expect them to go to? These are the children that are found loitering in our streets. Most of these children get to 18 years when they will be still going to school. Most of them will have completed Form Four. If they are made to leave those homes, where do you expect them to go to because they do not have parents that they have been staying with prior to their coming to these homes? If we continue doing this, then we will not solve this problem of children staying in the streets. We need to know that if these children leave these homes, they have other places that they can go to and stay as they look for jobs. If they get these homes where they can stay whilst looking for jobs, it will assist the nation in getting rid of children who stay in the streets.
Madam Speaker, the policy of making these people leave homes will force them to marry at a young age because they will be looking after each other as children. Government should make sure that there are projects for children who are about to attain 18 years so that they can earn a living.
The funds that are allocated to these homes should be allocated timeously so that it helps them before the money loses value. Right now as I speak, it is said a child is given $15. That $15 cannot even buy a box of matches. Government should review the amounts for the benefit of these children.
Other Hon. Members have indicated that those children are not getting any food and Government is not assisting in anyway but we understand that these people are assisted by the Department of Social Welfare. Social Welfare should make follow ups to check if those children have birth certificates and other things.
*HON. MUCHIMWE: Thank you Madam Speaker. I want to thank the Chairperson of the Committee for coming up with such a detailed report. We observed certain issues that have been tabled in this Report but I have one addition to make. These children should be assisted. A child is happy when they constantly refer to their parents as mother and father. There is only one animal that I know that neglects its offspring, which is a snake. So, what is causing these parents to neglect their children is ignorance. As children are growing up at home, they play house; one is given a title of a mother, the other a father and the other one is also called a dog and a cat.
If it were possible, the Government should ensure that there are lessons to be leant as children grow up about what is a family and what constitutes a family. It is of no use for one to become highly educated at a university and fail to understand and appreciate the love between a parent and a child. A child is very important in everyone’s life. The greatest gift that can ever be given to anyone by God is a child. It is my plea that there be studies that teach people what family is all about, what a parent is and what a child is. A lot of children are born because people are indulging in adultery, so if people are encouraged to know what a child is they would appreciate. There should be a survey that assists the children so that they become good citizens when they grow up and they would love their children. Let us tame them young and teach them whilst they are still in their tender years, which is critical, I thank you.
*HON. JOSIAH SITHOLE: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am.
I would like to thank the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee because of their report that they have tabled. The concern is where are these children who are in these foster homes going to when they leave such institutions. The law should be changed. It should no longer be 18 years of age for a child to be released, that is no longer practical. At the SOS in Bulawayo, we heard that some of the children are at Solusi University although they are beyond 18 years of age and they are still looking after them because they want a bright future for such children.
Some of the children are even at Bulawayo Polytechnic. Hence, this has rendered the 18 years age limit ineffective.
Some of these children who would have attained the age of 18 years would still be in Grade 6 and they leave the foster home before writing the Grade 7 examinations. It is of no use, such children should be given care so that they can go to a skills-training education up until they reach a level where they become self-sustaining as they leave the foster homes. In these foster homes, there should also be an inquiry to what life skills they are being taught so that they will be able to sustain themselves once they leave, they could become builders, carpenters and be able to make furniture. As they leave the homes, they should be able to be self sustainable. There is need to investigate what type of curriculum they have.
Children should be taught manners. At Shungudzevana, we came across a situation where people from the Human Rights have visited and told the children that they are entitled to their own rights. We were told that after that visit, the children’s behaviour changed upon knowing that they have certain rights. They were not told what their responsibilities were and the children became problematic and the authorities were no longer able to contain them. If such children were to leave the foster homes upon attaining 18 years of age, if they are immoral, they become difficult to deal with. Some of these children are those who are said to be in conflict with the law, like those who were being referred to in Kadoma. When they leave those places without being taught – even in prisons it is now being referred to as correctional services. There is now a correction on a person for that person to be a moral person. If that person is taught to be moral, it will be helpful so that when they leave those homes they will become good citizens with good moral values.
We want to thank those who came up with the idea of these foster homes because some of us and others who are in top positions whom we know came through these homes – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] –
so, we do not need to neglect these children, it is part of our nation’s inheritance, Zimbabwe’s inheritance. You will realise that our country is now developing even those who are in prison. Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am.
HON. SHAMU: Thank you Madam Speaker. Let me begin by thanking the Chairperson of our Committee, Hon. Ncube who made such a moving presentation of the various issues that were raised, that we gathered during our visits. In saying so, I also want to pay tribute to Hon. Mpariwa who seconded the motion. Madam Speaker, Hon. Ncube emphasised right at the beginning, the objectives of the inquiry. She said that the key objective of this inquiry was for the Committee to assess the enrolment, care and discharge processes of children from residential care facilities. In particular, the Committee intended to establish efforts being made to empower and prepare children for independent living outside residential care and where they go upon discharge from these institutions.
This obviously means that we are not encouraging institutionalisation, but this becomes a living reality after our having failed to achieve the intended goals, possibly through nuclear family, community foster care or adoption. We then say, let us proceed in the manner that I have just stated. On the issue of empowerment, honestly, this can only be done if there is a serious collaboration between Government and the industry. We need industry to support social programmes of this nature.
In her report, our Chairperson bemoaned the issue of some bakeries which had stopped delivering bread which they were donating.
Maybe the reason lies in lack of recognition for such philanthropic work. We should therefore call upon the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to extent a helping hand by ensuring that if there are companies that do carry philanthropic work, they enjoyed tax rebates so that they see the value of their support for the disadvantaged.
Madam Speaker, the Chairman was so emphatic on the issue of what has to be done, if you follow the recommendations that were made by the Committee, they are very clear, they have time lines on when, and what should be done.
Now, the difficulty that we face in our day to day life of governance is a failure to implement resolutions made. We now need to follow up with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and make sure that they do take seriously the road map that has been laid out.
There are very clear objectives that need to be made, clear activities that need to be done and most importantly, it is indeed the need for visibility of officials of the Ministry of Social Welfare, they do not seem to exist and we wonder why. Is it lack of supervision, commitment, lack of patriotism, honestly let us take a leaf from people like Jairos Jiri whose work today still continues to live, he produced musicians, mechanics and teachers.
I do hope that this report will be taken seriously and our Committee under the guidance of Hon. Ncube shall leave no stone unturned to ensure that we achieve the goals of our Government. I thank you.
HON. E. NCUBE: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. KWARAMBA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Wednesday, 15th July, 2020
On the motion of the HON. TOGAREPI seconded by HON. KWARAMBA the House adjourned at Nineteen Minutes past Six o’clock p.m.