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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 15 FEBRUARY 2018 44 42
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Thursday, 15th February, 2018
The National Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two o’clock p. m.
(THE HON. SPEAKER in the Chair)
ANNOUNCEMENTS BY THE HON. SPEAKER
DEATH OF MR. MORGAN RICHARD TSVANGIRAI
THE HON. SPEAKER: It is with deep sense of pain and sorrow that I have to inform this august House of the untimely death of Mr.
Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, President of the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) Party. Mr. Tsvangirai passed on yesterday in South
Africa after a spirited fight against colon cancer. Mr. Tsvangirai served Zimbabwe with distinction as an accomplished trade unionist and leader of the opposition for many years as well as being Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Leader of Government business in
Parliament between 2009 and 2013. He contributed immensely to Parliament as a member of the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders during the same period in pursuit of parliamentary democracy.
Parliament offers its unreserved condolences to the family, friends and people of Zimbabwe during this dark moment in our political history. In this regard therefore, I invite Hon. Members to rise and observe a minute of silence in honour of the late Mr. Tsvangirai.
Hon. Members observed a minute of silence.
THE HON. SPEAKER: May his soul rest in eternal peace. –
[HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] –
ERROR ON THE ORDER PAPER
THE HON. SPEAKER: I wish to draw the attention of the House to an error on today’s Order Paper where the printer omitted Order of the Day, Number 2 relating to the Second Reading of the Electoral
Amendment Bill [H. B. 6, 2017]. Order’ of the Day, Number 2 on the Second Reading of the Mines and Minerals Bill [H. B. 9, 2015] should therefore be renumbered as Order Number 3.
VISITORS IN THE SPEAKER’S GALLERY
THE HON. SPEAKER: I have to acknowledge the presence in the Speaker’s Gallery, of students and teachers from Seke 4 High School in Harare. You are most welcome – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] -
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND
PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Thank you Hon.
Speaker Sir. I move that Order of the Day, Number 1 be stood over until Order of the Day, Number 2 has been disposed of.
Motion put and agreed to.
ELECTORAL AMENDMENT BILL [H. B. 6, 2017] Second Order read: Second Reading: Electoral Amendment Bill [H. B. 6, 2017].
THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND
PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Thank you Hon.
Speaker. I am honoured to present the Electoral Amendment Bill, 2017 and this Bill principally seeks to ensure the smooth progression of the new registration of voters, proclaimed by the President by Statutory Instrument 109:2017.
The amendments in this Bill are in compliance Section with 157 (1) (b) of the Constitution, which specifies that the legislature must provide for the registration of voters and requirements for registration on particular voters’ roll. I am also confident to mention that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been consulted and their recommendations have been incorporated in this amendment. This requirement is adhered to in terms of Section 157 (4) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
HON. MARIDADI: On a point of order. I am going through the
Order Paper here and it appears that the Minister is presenting the Electoral Amendment Bill but I do not see it here.
THE HON. SPEAKER: We corrected that before you came; there was a misprint.
HON.MARIDADI: There was a misprint? – I was here when you did the correction. I thought it was that the Insolvency Bill will be Order Number Two and Number Three will be Mines and Minerals amendment; that is what I have on the Order Paper. The Electoral Amendment Bill does not appear.
THE HON. SPEAKER: It has been omitted, the Electoral Amendment Bill should come as Number Two.
HON. MARIDADI: So, for the benefit of my other colleagues here; what it means is that the Electoral Amendment Bill does not even appear on this Order Paper, it is now appearing; it has been inserted.
THE HON. SPEAKER: Yes.
HON. MARIDADI: So, it is not a correction, it is an insertion because a correction entails that maybe there was a misprint but it is a complete insertion, let it be put on record that it was not there and it has been inserted, if my English grammar serves me correctly.
THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND
PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Thank you Hon.
Speaker Sir. May be if I may start afresh. Like I said, I am honoured to present to you the Electoral Amendment Bill, 2017 and this Bill principally seeks to ensure the smooth progression of the new registration of voters, proclaimed by the President by Statutory Instrument 109:2017.
The amendments contained in the Bill are in compliance with Section 157 (1) (b) of the Constitution, which specifies that the legislature must provide for the registration of voters and requirements for registration on particular voters’ roll. I am also confident to mention that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been consulted and their recommendations have been incorporated in this amendment. This requirement is adhered to in terms of Section 157 (4) of the Constitution. The Bill introduces provisions that cater for the envisaged new voter registration system, otherwise referred to as the Biometric Voter Registration System.
The amendments also seek to bring the relevant provisions of the Act in line with the letter and spirit of the electoral principles enunciated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Biometric Voter Registration is a new phenomenon, which will be used in the next harmonised elections slated for this year. This technology will offer better accessibility for citizens, help avoid long queues and waiting times for registration when voting, add simplicity and speed to the election cycle as the voter identification documents will make it easier for polling staff to verify voter details, making voters and commissions feel confident about the quality of their registry which will be more accurate, reliable and have complete data - [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.]-
THE HON SPEAKER: Order, order! Hon. Members, this Bill
speaks directly to the electoral process where the majority of you will be involved. So, you need to pay attention so that you can advise your constituencies and the public in general accordingly.
THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND
PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): I was saying that the Biometric Voter Registration will also reduce identity theft, misuse of records of the deceased and ballot box staffing. We are not the first country Mr. Speaker to make use of this system. Other countries have already utilised and used this system and highly recommend the convenience that it gives.
Mr. Speaker Sir, allow me to discuss what the proposed amendments of the Bill entails to change.
This Clause merely state the Bill’s short title – Electoral Amendment
Clause 2 Completion of claim forms
This clause seeks to repeal and substitute subsection 1 of Section 24 of the Act by removing the peremptory provision placed on the voter registration officer to feel a claimant’s form on behalf of an eligible voter seeking to be registered on the voters’ roll. The current State of the Act requires a voter registration officer to complete the prescribed form on behalf of any person wishing to be registered as a voter. This process has proven to be slow and tedious. This amendment is intended to provide for an efficient, expedited and simpler process for voter registration. The new provision is consistent with Section 155 (2) (b) of the Constitution that places an obligation on the State to take appropriate legislative measures to ensure that all eligible voters are registered as voters and it is also in the spirit of the SADC Principles and Guidelines governing democratic elections.
This clause is similar to clause 2 wherein Section 25 is amended by having Section 25 (1) repealed. This section puts the onus on the voter registration officer to fill in forms for transfer from a constituency to another, the section is therefore repealed and paves way to allow a citizen who wishes to transfer to another constituency to complete the prescribed forms on their own, thereby making the process much faster and less straining on the voter registration officer. This clause also replaces the duties which used to be carried out by the Registrar General of Voters and the roles now lie with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
Clause 4 (1) of the Bill deletes subsections (3), (4), and (5) of Section 36A of the Electoral Act. The section under which ZEC is reregistering existing voters. This Amendment Bill creates a new obligation of voters to be registered under the new Biometric Voter Registration (BVR), because previously registered voters were excused from certain aspects of the full registration procedure. This new obligation will preclude some people who may refuse to submit to biometric registration, thereby compromising the integrity of the new voters roll. With the new provision, everyone re-registering as well as persons registering for the first time, will have to complete the claim form, produce proof of identity, citizenship and place of residence and have their biometric features – fingerprints, photographs taken. The operationalisation of this section is deemed to have taken effect on the 14th of September 2017.
Clause 5 – Voter registration certificate not to be used for voting on polling day
This clause seeks to delete a provision in Section 56 (1) (b) of the Electoral Act which previously allowed voters whose names, for what reason, did not appear on a polling station voters roll to vote merely on production of his or her voter’s registration certificate or voter’s slip. The effect of this clause is that, although persons registering as voters will still be given voters’ registration certificates on the actual polling day, a voter’s registration certificate will not entitle its holder to vote if his or her name does not appear on the voters roll.
The rationale for this change is that in the past, voter registration certificates have been alleged to have been misused or abused by disentitled voters. The repeal of this provision will add credibility to the electoral process thereby promoting free and fair elections as enshrined in Section 155 of the Constitution.
Clause 6 and schedule – minor amendments
This clause contains minor and consequential amendments to the
Electoral Act and minor omissions from the provisions of the Electoral
Amendment Act [Act 6/2014] and the General Laws Amendment Act [Act 3/2016]. The effect is to remove the last remaining references to the abolished posts of ‘Registrar-General of Voters’ and ‘Constituency Register’.
In conclusion, the proposed amendments to the Electoral
Amendment Bill are fundamental in ensuring that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission undertakes its mandate and execute its duties as envisaged in Section 155 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. I thank you.
HON. CHASI: I rise to present the report on the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Electoral Amendment Bill [H.B. 6, 2017].
1.1. The Electoral Amendment Bill (H. B. 6, 2017) was gazetted on September 18, 2017 and as part of its mandate, the Portfolio
Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs considered the Bill. In terms of Section 141(b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Committee held public hearings and called for submissions from members of the public.
The Bill seeks to introduce amendments that specifically deal with the voter registration process and the proposed amendments largely cater for the introduction of the Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) system. The amendments also seek to bring the relevant provisions of the Act in line with the letter and spirit of the electoral principles enunciated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
2.1. The Committee deliberated on the Bill during one of its
Committee meetings and then went on to hold public hearings from the
1st to the 7th of December2017 in Masvingo, Marondera, Mt Darwin,
Mutare, Chinhoyi, Gweru, Bulawayo, Gwanda, Lupane, Hwange and
Harare. For expediency and for the purposes of containing costs, the Committee conducted hearings for the Electoral Amendment Bill together with hearings on the Insolvency Bill [H.B. 11 of 2016]. The Committee is grateful to Parliament’s Development Partners, UNDP and SAPST, for facilitating the holding of public hearings.
The Committee also received written submissions on the Bill from various stakeholders.
3.0 SUBMISSIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC 3.1 General Comments
Members of the public called on Parliament to ensure that people receive the Bills well before public hearings are held in order for the public to make informed contributions. They also called on Parliament to give feedback on their input on previous Bills. In addition, Zimbabweans called on Parliament to improve the publicity of the hearings. Many participants were of the view that those who attended the public hearings were not properly representative of the various communities in Zimbabwe and that Parliament should make an effort to cater for all communities during public hearings. As an example, participants in Mt Darwin, Gweru, Hwange and Bulawayo, it was pointed out that Parliament should also reach out to remote places in rural areas and high density areas in urban areas. Participants further called for Bills to be published in all the officially recognised local languages.
Participants called for comprehensive and all-inclusive electoral reforms which will enable the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to carry out its mandate without interference from the Executive. It was also suggested that the “piecemeal fashion” used to amend the Electoral Act so far is more costly than a “complete overhaul” of the whole Act. They pointed out that Parliament had carried out a number of public hearings on various Electoral Amendment Bills in the past four years but most of their concerns have not yet been addressed.
There was a unanimous call for the electoral law to be fully harmonised with the Constitution and in particular to comprehensively integrate the provisions of Chapter 7 on Elections. Participants also called for the law to conform to the SADC Principles and Guidelines on Elections and other international best practices, norms and standards of free and fair elections.
2.1. Voter Registration
2.1.1. There was a general call for voter registration to be simplified and accessible, for example, one should be automatically registered when applying for a national I.D. Participants indicated that youths and women face tremendous problems when registering as voters due to stringent requirements such as proof of residence and affidavits. Some suggested that the requirement should just be a national I.D., while others opined that the requirement for proof of residence should be scrapped.
Some members of the public in Gwanda were of the opinion that the requirement of proof of residence prohibits people living on the streets and artisanal miners who live in the bush from voting thereby denying them their constitutional right to vote.
Participants in Mt Darwin, Gwanda and Lupane were of the view that aliens should be allowed to register to vote in areas which are known to be dominated by aliens who have lived in Zimbabwe for many years or all their lives.
2.1.2. There were suggestions that there must be “blanket amnesty” for Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South for identity document requirements because of displacement of people during the Gukurahundi which left many children without birth certificates and identity cards as their parents were buried without burial orders and death certificates. Those without I.Ds have no one to be their witnesses in the attainment of birth certificates and identity cards.
2.1.3. There was general consensus that voter registration should be a continuous process rather than an event conducted before elections.
2.1.4. Participants were of the view that mobile registration of voters as well as issuing of identity documents should cover all wards and be done periodically, not just before elections.
2.1.5. Participants welcomed the removal of use of voter registration slips for voting as they were alleged to have been misused through multiple voting by some individuals in previous elections. However, others expressed the view that since the slips had serial numbers and bar codes, they should be retained for voting.
2.1.6. It was recommended by some that ZEC could devise a voter’s card which can be used to swipe at each successive election.
This card could be valid for life or a number of elections.
2.1.7. Members of the Public in Lupane, Gwanda and Bulawayo expressed concern at the heavy police presence at Biometric Voter Registration centres, because it gave rise to fear for some people who then do not register to vote.
2.1.8. There were suggestions that BVR centres should be set up in hospitals, prisons and embassies to allow every Zimbabwean to register to vote and therefore, be given a chance to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
2.1.9. Some young people suggested that ZEC facilitate online registration of voters to enable those in the diaspora to register to vote.
2.2. Voter Education
2.2.1. Participants called for the Bill to make clear provisions for voter education, civic education and information dissemination as these processes tend to be treated as the same thing by ZEC and law enforcement agents. Some participants submitted that ZEC should allow civil society organisations and interested individuals to complement ZEC efforts on voter education.
2.2.2. There was also general agreement that voter education must cater for the disabled and election material and instructions should be written in local languages as well as in Braille.
2.3. Voter’s Roll
2.3.1. Most participants welcomed the Bill as it provides for a mechanism to clean up the voters roll to remove names of deceased people that still appeared on the voters roll. Participants suggested that the deletion of deceased people on the voters roll should be automatic upon application of a death certificate.
2.4. Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
2.4.1. Participants submitted that ZEC should be fully independent from the Executive as required by Section 235 of the Constitution. To that end, participants submitted that ZEC should be adequately funded by Government.
2.4.2. Participants also called for apolitical Commissioners to be appointed by and accountable to Parliament. The same impartiality should extend to the Commission’s secretariat and all polling officers. To that end, participants submitted that military and security personnel should not be involved in the running of elections. Instead, ZEC should take full responsibility of all electoral processes and decentralise its offices to districts.
2.5. Observers and polling officers
2.5.1. Some Members of the public were of the opinion that the Bill should ensure that ZEC is responsible for the invitation and accreditation of local and international observers as well as clarifying the role of observers. In addition, foreign election observers should also be invited and be required to be neutral.
2.5.2. Participants also requested that the Bill ensures that the selection of polling officers should not be restricted to civil servants, but be extended to unemployed school leavers.
2.6. Media Coverage
2.6.1. The public called for the Bill to guarantee fair and equal media coverage for all contesting parties by State media.
2.7. Special Vote
2.7.1. There were divergent views regarding the special vote. Some called for the special vote to be abolished because it is not transparent and is open to manipulation while others said it was important and necessary. Instead, civil servants recruited as polling officers should be deployed in wards where they are registered so that they can exercise their right to vote. Some suggested that uniformed forces should not be coerced to be loyal to one party and there should be mechanisms to ensure that they are neutral. Other participants said that they should be allowed to exercise their freedom and be able to cast their secret ballot without undue influence.
2.7.2. However, others called for special voting to be maintained and be made transparent so as to cater for those involved in election duties, in prisons, hospitals as well as in old people’s homes. Some participants called for Zimbabwean citizens in the diaspora to be allowed to vote as the Constitution (Section 67) guarantees the right of all Zimbabwean citizens to vote. They suggested that the Bill should create a mechanism to allow those in the diaspora to cast their votes at the respective embassies in the countries where they are resident.
2.7.3. However, some participants argued that those Zimbabweans in the diaspora who want to vote should come and vote from their respective constituencies in Zimbabwe. They were of the view that postal votes should only be reserved for those who have gone out of the country on official Government business.
2.7.4. Some participants called for the Bill to require assisted voters to declare at voter registration that they will require assistance on the day of the polls. They proposed that political party activists, the police and presiding officers be disqualified from assisting voters as this may intimidate voters. Instead, assisted voters should be allowed to choose assistants of their choice. And as a way of deterring fraud, participants suggested that the Bill should ensure that those who feign illiteracy are arrested.
2.8. People Living with disabilities
2.8.1. People living with disabilities were of the view that the Bill should allow them to choose their own Senator representing the disabled via their own associations.
2.8.2. Participants also called for specially designed booths for the disabled as well as Braille electoral material for the blind.
2.8.3. It was suggested that voting materials should be provided in Braille as well.
2.9. Gender Equality
2.9.1. The Bill should be clear on issues of gender equality to ensure that the 50% women’s quota threshold in S.1. 7 of the
Constitution is clearly implemented and guaranteed in all elections.
2.10. Polling Stations
2.10.1. Participants suggested that the Bill should require ZEC to consult with communities on where to locate polling centres.
2.10.2. Other participants added that all ballots should be counted at polling stations and there should be no delay in announcing the results.
2.11. Violence and intimidation
2.11.1. Participants expressed concern over the intimidatory practice by some individuals who demanded voter registration slips insinuating that they would use the serial numbers on the slips to track their votes.
2.11.2. Participants called on the Bill to bar traditional leaders from ‘marshalling’ people in their jurisdictions to polling stations and instructing them to vote for particular party candidates. Members of the public also called for the automatic disqualification of candidates involved in violence and intimidation of voters, while others called for stiffer penalties for those involved in political violence during elections.
2.11.3. Another approach suggested as a way to reduce incidences of violence and intimidation was for the Bill to bar people from milling around polling stations. Others proposed the holding of joint rallies by political parties as a way of reducing political violence.
2.12. Electoral Court
2.12.1. Participants lamented that the process of deciding election petitions in the Electoral Court is too slow. As such, permanent judges must be appointed to exclusively preside over the Electoral Court in terms of Section 183 of the Constitution. Participants also called for the Bill to create an enforcement mechanism for electoral laws.
Having analysed the Bill, gathered the contributions from Zimbabweans across the country, and guided by Sections 119 and 155 of the Constitution, the Committee is pleased to make the following recommendations which must all be implemented by 31st March, 2018;
3.1. The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs needs to table before Parliament a Bill with all-encompassing electoral reforms in order to make the Act compliant with the Constitution.
3.2. The Bill must provide for enforceable punitive measures to eliminate political violence before, during and after elections.
3.3. There must be a clear provision for voter education as a requirement before polls.
3.4. The Bill must have a clause which will require ZEC to print voter education and polling materials in Braille and all the official languages of Zimbabwe.
3.5. The Electoral Court must be reconstituted in terms of S.1. 83 of the Constitution in order to create conflict management mechanisms at all stages of the electoral cycle.
3.6. A clause must be inserted providing for how the disabled can be assisted as well as for the setting up of polling infrastructure which addresses the challenges of the physically handicapped.
3.7. The Bill should provide for the disabled and illiterate to choose who should assist them inside the polling booth to vote.
3.8. The Bill should also address the right to vote of those in the diaspora, prisoners, those in hospitals, allow for a special vote for those who will be away on duty on the day of the polls such as doctors and nurses.
3.9. ZEC must be allowed its independence so that it has power to invite foreign observers and approve local and international observers as well.
3.10. There is need for amendment or outright repeal of statutes that have an inimical impact on elections such as POSA, AIPPA and the Broadcasting Services Act.
3.11. The Electoral Amendment Bill should give effect to Section 17 of the Constitution by making provision for gender equality so that the 50% women’s quota threshold is clearly implemented and guaranteed in all elections.
3.12. Clause 133 H (2) of the Electoral Act should be amended so that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) is not included as part of the Special Investigations Committee, but has power to carry out its own independent investigations. This will ensure the independence of the ZHRC.
3.13. In order to uphold the provisions of Sections 67 and 243 (1) of the Constitution, the Bill should clearly give ZHRC the mandate to monitor, assess and ensure the observance of human rights before, during and after elections.
In future, in order to ensure the highest quality of legislation, legal framework for elections must be planned for well in advance.
A comprehensive approach to amending the Electoral Act would address many gaps in the electoral law and inconsistencies to the Constitution, thereby bringing voter confidence to the polls. This would also create a conducive environment for credible, free and fair elections.
HON. RUNGANI: Mr. Speaker Sir, I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. MANGWENDE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 6th March, 2018.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. RUNGANI: Mr. Speaker Sir, I move that Order of the Day, Number 3 be stood over until Order of the Day, Number 4 has been disposed of.
Motion put and agreed to.
RATIFICATION OF THE MARRAKESH AGREEMENT
ESTABLISHING THE WTO AGREEMENT
Fourth Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement.
Question again proposed.
THE MINISTER OF INDUSTRY, COMERCE AND ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT (HON. DR. BIMHA): Mr. Speaker
Sir, as you may recall that in October last year, the then Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, Hon. Chiratidzo Mabuwa presented the Protocol amending the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO. To refresh your memory Mr. Speaker Sir, allow me to highlight the following points;
In terms of Section 327 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, a
Protocol does not bind Zimbabwe until it has been approved by Parliament. Zimbabwe is a member of the WTO and is expected to ratify the Protocol of amendment. As highlighted above, after the presentation of the Protocol by my former Deputy Minister, Parliament instructed that the Protocol be assessed by the Portfolio Committee on Industry and Commerce before debate here in Parliament, which report we wait to hear and debate. I thank you Mr. Speaker.
HON. RUNGANI: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. MABUWA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 6th March, 2018.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. RUNGANI: Mr. Speaker Sir, I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 5 to 8 be stood over until Order of the Day, Number 9 has been disposed of.
HON. TOFFA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
HARDSHIPS AFFECTING ORPHANS AND VULNERABLE
CHILDREN IN ZIMBABWEAN INSTITUTIONS AND THE
SOCIETY IN GENERAL
HON. DZIVA: Mr. Speaker Sir, I move the motion standing on behalf of the First Lady, Her Excellency, Hon. Mnangagwa that:
DEEPLY CONCERNED with the hardships affecting orphans and vulnerable children in institutions and in Zimbabwean society in general;
APPLAUDING the great efforts that some Children’s Homes are doing, given the prevailing difficult socio-economic environment;
NOTING WITH CONCERN the cultural barriers that discourage the practice of adoption of orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe, and the apparent lack of clear policies and legal framework for adoption of these children;
COGNISANT that Zimbabwe is a signatory to regional and international instruments (African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; and the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child) that recognises the right to a name and identity as one of the fundamental human rights;
FURTHER COGNISANT that these rights are also enshrined in
Section 81 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe;
DISAPPOINTED that in spite of the existence of these instruments, that protect and uphold the rights of the children, orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe continue to face challenges in the acquisition of birth certificates;
DISHEARTENED that the withholding of birth records by hospitals due to outstanding maternal user fees, coupled with the prohibitive provisions in the current outdated Birth Registration Act, inhibit acquisition of birth certificates for children in difficult circumstances:
NOW THEREFORE, this House calls upon -
- The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to urgently review the legislation relating to child adoption and acquisition of birth certificates;
- The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the Juvenile Courts to remove all bureaucracy associated with child adoption procedures;
- The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to ensure timeous disbursement of grants to Children’s Homes;
- Churches, Traditional Leaders and Members of Parliament to champion the child adoption cause by making efforts to change people’s attitudes and mindsets;
- The Ministry of Health and Child Care to stop forthwith the withholding of birth records for non-payment of maternity fees;
- The Ministry of Home Affairs and Culture to closely monitor and supervise the operations of the Registrar-General’s Office to ensure effective and diligent service delivery to the nation and to replicate the Electronic Queue Management System currently found at the Registrar General’s Office in Harare, to other centres especially the remote areas;
- Government to consider amnesty for birth certificate registration for all children in Zimbabwe without birth certificates for various reasons.
HON. TOFFA: I second.
HON. DZIVA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for according me this opportunity to debate the motion that was raised due to the hardships and challenges that orphans are facing across the nation and the challenges that the children’s homes are encountering. It is of great concern Mr. Speaker Sir that in our communities we have many challenges that are faced by orphans and vulnerable children. However, our communities have done very good work that they have supported and catered for some children’s homes on their own behalf. I would like to commend these facilities as they have demonstrated that they are doing the best they can with the resources that they have. All the facilities are overwhelmed with regards to their capacity to provide and care for the children that are vulnerable.
Mr. Speaker Sir, due to these challenges, it is of great concern that we look into the issue of adoption. Adoption is one of the strategies that can be used as a long term solution to mitigate on the rise of children’s homes. However, Zimbabwe has sceptical attitudes to legal adoption. From the evidence gathered, many people are more receptive to informal adoption which is embodied in the context of our culture through the execution of the role of extended families. Mr. Speaker Sir, the statistics of formal adoptions per province, range from two to five children who are adopted in a year. This is a very low figure that is attributed by the following factors that I am going to give to you.
The first factor is fear to adopt caused by traditional and religious myths. Grave delays within the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and juvenile courts. The process can stretch from three months to over six years and is reportedly even longer for the mixed race children. There are stringent laws that are not accommodative of prospective parents who are not married and non-resident in Zimbabwe. There are vigorous screening processes. Applications demand full medical examinations, marriage assessments and psychological evaluations. This has affected the rate of adoption processes.
Mr. Speaker Sir, it is important to note that worldwide the laws that govern the process of adoption are strict and this is rightly so because there is need to ascertain beyond any reasonable doubt that children are being released in a suitable environment. However, there is need to strike a balance between what is required to protect the children and our desire to give them a descent home. Mr. Speaker Sir, it is also important to note that the issue of identity registration was of particular concern in this research, in particular the issue of birth certificates. For the purposes of emphasis, the right to a name and an identity is one of the fundamental rights of any individual in the region and international instruments that are signatory to our own country like the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children, the United Nations
Convention on Rights of Children and even our own Constitution.
Mr. Speaker Sir, Section 81 of our Constitution gives the full rights to children. The fact stands that regardless of these attractive frameworks, most children do not have birth certificates. The major causes for this scenario include among others, hospitals are withholding birth records because of outstanding fees regardless of the fact that the maternal health care is a constitutional right. This is a matter of serious concern. Birth confirmation search fees for birth records are highly pegged at $5 to $10, beyond the reach of most Zimbabweans given the fact that most of the people are living below the poverty datum line.
The current birth registration act provisions are outdated Mr.
Speaker Sir. They are not accommodative of the changing environment. The rules for registering children outside the country and the process costs as much as US$50. This is beyond the capacity of many parents or those that look after the children. Mr. Speaker, there are also long queues at the Registrar General’s office and it remains prevalent at the other provinces. The RG’s offices are not decentralised, hence too far from the people and costly to access. This must be corrected in accordance with our Constitution. The RG’s office in Harare is reportedly attending to 150 clients a day whilst other nine provinces’ figure, is merely 200 per day, is this a policy position? I think Government must do something about it. Many people are sent back home to bring relatives when in fact the RG has an obligation to issue birth certificates without sending people to bring their relatives. Government position is clear Mr. Speaker Sir, that the RG must issue the birth certificate without requirements to send any people back to bring their relatives.
Going forward, there is need to reconsider conditions for obtaining birth certificates with regards to children in some of the circumstances. These issues of registration have been seen even during the processes of registering for the Biometric Voter Registration that there are serious challenges and really need to be corrected.
Some of the challenges that are there and those who are vulnerable include:
- Children with mothers who neglect to take birth certificates for their children,
- Children who are abandoned and subsequently cared by others,
- Children whose mothers themselves do not have the birth certificates, this is a vicious cycle that should be broken.
- Children of aliens whose parents have no identity documents,
- Children of illegal immigrants in the diaspora (border jumpers ),
- Children born to parent, with pseudonyms,
- Children with parents with no identity documents,
- Children with deceased or unknown whereabouts of parents,
- Children who reside in illegal structures (squatter camps).
All these are excluded and I think the Government must take appropriate measures in correcting these issues.
Mr. Speaker Sir, let me proffer some recommendations as viable to tackling the problems I have outlined above:
- The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs must review legislation pertaining to child adoption and birth certificates. Relaxation of these laws will ensure that the rights to identity and livelihood are upheld. From a personal perspective, I believe that stringent laws were manmade, therefore, the onus rests upon man to make these laws less complex.
There should be consideration of the prevailing environment and responsiveness to the current challenges through provision of appropriate legislation.
- The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the
Juvenile Courts should remove all bureaucracy associated with the adoption processes. This has affected the process of adopting children. So many people want to adopt children but the process is just tiresome and a lot of people end up giving up on the way.
- Churches, traditional leaders and Members of Parliament, here in this House should be engaged because these are the influential people within society with the capacity of changing people’s attitudes towards the issue of adoption and if they champion the cause, they will go on advocacy and give awareness to the people, then it will make life easier for people in our communities. So, I strongly recommend Members of Parliament to participate in this process.
- Measures should be introduced to ensure that the corporate world
is stepping up its corporate social responsibility, through the provision of scholarships, medical care and food among other needs to Children’s homes. We have a lot of companies in our country that are doing mining and other activities, on their social and corporate responsibility; we also urge them to take this responsibility to the various Children’s Homes that are in our country.
- The Social Welfare Ministry should ensure that distribution of food to Children’s Homes is done timeously. This is important because it has come with a lot of challenges, so these children also need balanced diet a lot of support from the Government itself, so the Ministry of Social Welfare should really take charge in time.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs should closely monitor and supervise the operations of the Registrar-General, to ensure that they uphold their mandate and serve the people diligently. This is important.
- The Electronic Queue Management System in Harare’s Registrar General’s Office should be cascaded to other remote centres to replicate the ease in queue evident in Harare. The Registrar General’s Office should also attend to special cases in other centres on Saturday and Sunday, as it is done in Harare. This is seen as discrimination, as all focus is only on Harare and yet when someone is in Bulawayo or in
Lupane, they cannot take a birth certificate or an ID on a Sunday or
Saturday. So, this facility should be opened in all the other provinces.
It is also important to consider the provision of a blanket amnesty for birth certificate registration for children. All the children must just have amnesty in the registration of birth certificates because these children, if they are not registered, would not be able to go to school. Our Constitution also mandates us as Government to make sure that our children are going to school with the right to free education.
As I conclude, let me emphasise that if we fail to intervene practically, these children will end up being a menace to society. Failure to invest in these children’s future means they will grow up to be unemployed and end up populating the prisons because they would not be having anything to do except resorting to crime. This situation is a time bomb which has potential to destabilise the next generation. Mr. Speaker Sir, I appeal that these issues need immediate attention and must be resolved.
Before I sit down, I also want to thank the various Children’s Homes that are doing a lot of good work in supporting the orphans and in supporting the vulnerable children. I will also end by quoting our Holy Bible, Deuteronomy 15 verse 11 “The poor shall never cease out of the land, therefore, I command thee, saying, thou shall open hands wide unto thy brother, to the poor, and to the needy, in our land” In Psalms 83 verse 3, it says, the poor and the fatherless, we must do justice to them and help their situation. I submit this motion to you Mr. Speaker Sir. I thank you.
HON. TOFFA: Thank you very much Hon. Speaker for affording me this opportunity to debate this motion. Mr. Speaker Sir, I will focus on the birth registration records, IDs. Mr. Speaker Sir, this motion has been debated many times in this House and also listening to Hon. Chasi, the Chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, you heard him just now speak to the issue of birth records, identity cards and of the reasons why people cannot register to vote. It is almost like birth record documentation is a favour. It is actually a right. It is important that as a nation we treat it as such. It is actually enshrined in the Constitution Chapter 3, Section 35 – the right to documentation.
Mr. Speaker Sir, my participation in seconding of this motion has not just come from me. I have been asked by members of the community of Bulawayo. The women have said to me, Hon. Toffa, we ask you to go to Hon. Mnangagwa and speak on our behalf. I am not speaking of Bulawayo alone but on behalf of all Members of Parliament across the nation, constituencies and provinces where you get people coming to you thinking that you are going to resolve their problems because you are a Member of Parliament, legislator and policy maker.
You find that time after time, you cannot resolve the issues because of some of the issues raised by the first lady who was represented by Hon. Dziva. Some of the issues such as the denial of birth records by the hospitals who are contradicting the Constitution that talks to the fact that women should be allowed free maternal health.
Women are actually being victimised; birth records are being withheld. The children’s rights are also being infringed. Those are some of the issues that people are facing out there.
I would like to emphasise on some of the recommendations that were given by the first lady. I would like to quote from “(f) …that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Culture to closely monitor and supervise the operations of the Registrar-General’s office”. This is so because the Registrar-General’s office is very stringent. They are not flexible or accommodative; they do not give women options that will allow them to register children at the end of the day.
Amnesty should also be given to all those that do not have birth certificates so that they can get identity cards. In fact, I think it should be made mandatory and ways should be found to make sure that there is ease of getting a birth record or birth certificate. The people who were affected or are victims of the Gukurahundi are also having problems in getting identity cards. In Matabeleland region and in Bulawayo, as alluded to by the Chairperson of the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, most of the people there do not have birth certificates because their parents were killed during the Gukurahundi era. So, there is a vicious cycle of members of the Matabeleland region not having birth certificates and birth records.
There is also another recommendation that we have that has not been included by the First Lady. It is to do with children born outside the country – in neighbouring countries. There is no policy that deals with the undocumented children or illegal immigrants based in the neighbouring country. I think this needs to be really looked into. The current policy that we have only addresses legal expatriates. In saying that, you find that because most of our people are going out to countries such as Botswana, South Africa, in the event that they have children outside the country and because of the different names that they have to use when they seek jobs there – when they come back into the country; because they are economic refugees, they earn very little money but you find that they are asked to pay $50 for the children that they will be bringing back into the country.
This $50 was pegged and the policy was set for legal expatriates such as doctors, nurses and teachers that were working outside the country. I would ask that this payment either be waivered or be scraped particularly because it is not pro-poor and also looking or listening to President Mnangagwa’s inauguration speech when he spoke about looking after the poor people and also in the First Lady’s speech- in the last paragraph where she is talking about the poor people.
Another area that needs to be seriously looked into is the accessibility of people. For example if one is born in Tsholotsho, Nkayi or Gwanda, you find that they have to go back to these areas. Most of our people cannot afford bus fare and in most cases, you will find that the person was either born in Tsholotsho, Gwanda, Nkayi or wherever. They did not ever go back there and they do not even know most of the people there. If they have to go back and seek the assistance of the chiefs or the birth registrar in that area- you will find that they will need to look for accommodation and they have to feed themselves. They have to bear all these costs.
I think it is important that this issue is looked into and decentralised, particularly because we are now computerised. We can now be able to make contact with the different areas and assistance should be given to those that are seeking birth records, birth certificates and so on.
A few of the other obstacles that our people are coming across, as I spoke about - the migration, another hindrance is the fees that they have to pay which was spoken to by the mover of the motion. The bureaucracy needs to be seriously looked into.
I would like to give a typical example of one man that has been trying to get his birth certificate. His name is Mr. Dube and he comes from Bulawayo. He was born in the Esigodini area. He has been countless times to Esigodini to try and get his birth certificate so that he can get his National Identity which will entitle him to vote and which will also enable him to register his own children. In the end he said, ‘I have given up Hon. Toffa, there is no use in trying anymore.’ He spoke in Ndebele saying, that ‘I have now given up, I have tried so many times but I think the best thing that you would do for me is to give me a death certificate because I am as good as dead. It seems to be the easiest thing this Government can do.’
I am sure that all the people who have died without securing birth certificates have got their death certificates. So, it is important that we look at this because we need to give people back their lives, particularly the people that were affected in the Gukurahundi era. This is an opportunity that this Government can take. It is an opportunity to give those people back their lives; it is an opportunity to give those children their right to participate as Zimbabweans.
There is also another effect with regards to the Gukurahundi era, particularly when it comes to the customs and norms of the people of Zimbabwe. Mr. Speaker Sir, I am sure you are well aware that if somebody is using a name that is foreign to themselves in the African custom, people are of the belief that everything that is happening to them in their lives and those of their children is being affected because they are carrying the wrong surname.
There is a Mr. Nyoni who is based in the United Kingdom who phoned me after an interview I had done on Studio 7, with regards to birth certificates and birth records. He said, ‘I have been registered in the name that is not of my father’s. My name is Nyoni but I cannot register in the name of my father because my parents were killed during Gukurahundi. What is it that I can do to make sure that I am able to register? He feels that if his birth record is corrected and he uses the correct name, everything will go well for him. I am sure you will understand what I am talking about.
So, again this is an opportunity that we can, as a Parliament, Government and the President can take this opportunity to give amnesty to make it mandatory, to make sure that everybody in the country that does not have a birth certificate or a birth record gets one. This is one of the issues that is causing a lot of animosity on the ground. These issues if addressed, you will find that it will help with the peace and reconciliation process.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I would like to end by saying, this affects mainly women and children. There is another challenge that needs to be addressed with regards to the recommendations. At the moment, you find that only the mother can go and register a child. It must also be made possible that whoever is living with the child, because there are children that have been dumped by their parents, there are children that were brought by the malaichas from South Africa and there are children that have been left with their fathers. However, our Constitution stipulates that the maternal parent is the one that can only register the child. What happens in situations where fathers are the ones that also have those children? It is another area that needs to be looked at.
Having said that, Mr. Speaker Sir, I plead that this motion be given and dealt with in the seriousness and with the utmost urgency and importance. Thank you.
+HON. MPALA: Thank you Mr. Speaker for giving me this opportunity to second on the debate that was brought by Hon. A. Mnangagwa, Hon. Dziva and Hon. Toffa who have seconded this motion. Issues to do with orphans especially those who do not have any documentation and who are not being taken care of properly; it is not a new topic but something that has been debated before. This has given me zeal to also contribute on this motion for this is one issue that most of the Zimbabweans are complaining about and facing challenges on it regardless of the constituency that one is coming from.
I would like to talk based on my constituency Lobengula, which is one of the old locations in Bulawayo, which has so many orphans that are staying there. Most of them were born outside the country, for example countries like South Africa. Most of the parents have passed on and the children are being taken care of by their grandmothers.
The challenge that most orphans or guardians face is that they are not allowed to assist the orphans to get any identification document, for example in a case whereby the child was born outside the country or in South Africa, from the birth record, they will insist that they require a confirmation letter from any of the living parents or guardian.
I also want to add another point that if they have agreed that any guardian can assist in acquiring any of the identification documents for the orphans, the amount that is being charged is too high. For example, in Msiteli in Bulawayo, they request for $50.00 for citizenship and $20 for border jumping which adds up to $80.00, which is a big amount that no parent can be able to afford. There are some grandmothers that I know, for example, one grandmother who takes care of five grandchildren who were born outside the country in South Africa. If you multiply $70 by 5, where is one going to get that money in order that they are able to get identification documents? What it means is that those children will not be able to even go to school. Even if there are jobs, they will not be able to get employed because the guardian who will be staying with these children will not be able to assist them, especially financially for them to get any documentation.
I also want to contribute on the regulations that are there for one to take care of orphans. For example, if I can get an orphanage home where I keep orphans, there are so many regulations that one has to go through so that you are able to come up with an orphanage. These rules are prohibitive to so many people who want to take care of orphans. You will realise that most of the orphans do not have anyone to stand as a witness for them to get any documentation. I also want to urge the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs not to make strict regulations, especially on orphans. Most of these children, especially the girl child end up opting to get married for that is the only thing that they will be able to do since they are unable to go to school.
I also want to highlight on all the children that we have in Zimbabwe, especially children whose parents are aliens. We all know especially in this House Mr. Speaker Sir, that most of the aliens have passed on and left their grandchildren who will not be able to trace their genealogy. If we ask them to go back to their genealogy, you will realise that some of them come from Malawi, Zambia or any other country that I will not mention.
The other thing that I want to request from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is that they should work on these laws so that all the children are able to acquire birth certificates for those parents who are not there. When they try to obtain their birth certificates they are asked to go back and come back to us as Members of Parliament. When you try to go with them you are given so many regulations which no one is able to follow. All of us will go back to our constituencies or even reach an extent where if you are no longer a
Member of Parliament, you will not have helped especially the orphans.
In Matebeleland region, I think it is one of the regions which is mostly affected by this issue - why? It is because most of the children whom we gave birth to prefer to go to South Africa and when they bore children outside the country they send them back without any written document. As a parent, you end up facing so many challenges. My request is that if the Ministry could try to work out on the laws that they craft for one to acquire a birth certificate. My wish is that if the Ministry does that, you will even be able to assist those who do not have birth certificates. I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.
HON. NDUNA: I would like to thank the mover of the motion, Hon. Dziva, standing in for Her Excellency or for the First Lady. I also want to congratulate the seconder of the motion, Hon. Toffa for bringing up such a motion which is pregnant with consistencies and very key to the root and fundamentals of our future generation. Aware that 10% of the population of children in Zimbabwe have no documents, they do not have birth certificates and they certainly need to be documented so that they have their rights as enshrined in the Constitution…
Hon. Mukwangwariwa having been making noise.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MUTOMBA): Hon.
HON. NDUNA: Mr. Speaker Sir, we are all creatures of the
Constitution and a nation is judged by the way it upholds its own
Constitution. If we do not register the kids as enshrined in the prayer by Hon. Dziva, we are shooting ourselves in the foot and we are ultravires our own Constitution. Therefore, we cannot be said to be a nation.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the prayer that she alluded to – at the tail end she touched on the Bible. I have about five verses that I want to touch on to complement and augment that right that she spoke about. Mr. Speaker Sir, Psalms 34:17 says, “My people cry and the Lord delivers them from all their troubles.” We are crying here today as an august House and we are saying we need to be delivered from all this scourge of unregistered nationals for which we have the power as enshrined in the Constitution to repeal and address the concerns of our population.
Psalms 127:1 -2 says, “The builders build but in vain if they build without the involvement of the Lord.” On verse 2, it says, “The watchmen they watch but in vain if there is no involvement of the Lord.” When you start any session on any day, you are always commending the
House to the Lord. So, without that prayer Mr. Speaker Sir, we have no
‘look forward.’ Therefore, we need to get the power that is enshrined in the Bible as she has alluded to, to make sure that we make laws for the good governance and order of the people of Zimbabwe.
Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me and I will show you great and mighty things that which you knew not and I have plans for good and not of evil, plans to see you have an expected end.” Mr. Speaker Sir, I say this because if we do not unshackle ourselves from this bondage of lack of documentation of our people and our children, we are not using the power that is in the Bible and the power that makes sure that we conduct our business in an unimpeded manner all the time. I will also say to you Mr. Speaker Sir, one day when Peter and John were moving, they said, ‘we do not have silver and gold but the power that we have, we will give unto you’ – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MUTOMBA): Less noise in the House Hon. Members.
HON. NDUNA: Mr. Speaker Sir, we have the power to enact, amend and align the laws with the Constitution. However, I also want to say, in the same vein like Peter and John said, ‘we do not have money but we have the power’, that power Mr. Speaker Sir, you have always called for timelines. The prayer that Hon. Dziva referred to was devoid of the timelines, it might have said ‘expeditiously’. I call upon this House to adopt and change laws and to align them with the Constitution by June, 2018 to make sure that these vulnerable children and orphans whom we talk about are registered.
It is unfortunate Mr. Speaker Sir, we did not adopt our Constitution in the manner that Kenya did. Kenya had timelines to say, by this day and by this time – ours was prolonged and an open-ended process, but it is here that I stand on this podium and call upon these laws to be aligned and to be adhered to according to the Constitution by June 2018. Mr. Speaker Sir, I will go onto the ten points that I have put here after I have spoken about the Bible. The issue of babies born in prisons – It is said that you take away some rights when you send somebody for incarceration Mr. Speaker Sir. These babies, as we adopt an open prison system for our women - let us, at that point, give the impetus of registering our children that are born in prison, who are being incarcerated for the sins of their fathers and their mothers.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the Birth and Registration Act implores and pushes us to register all children within 42 days or six weeks after birth. We just need to adhere to that. It should be enforced that every child, irrespective of the fact that the mother or the father has a birth certificate or an I.D., they should be registered right at the point of birth or within the timeframe and the timelines so stipulated in the Act. Mr. Speaker Sir, the Ministry of Labour has taken on them the issue of being a parent for those undocumented children that are on the streets when they want registration certificates or birth certificates. It should not be a hide and seek issue. It should be in the open and I implore Mr. Speaker Sir, that by June 2018, for the Minister of Labour to come and be open about parenting those children that are nameless, who are on the streets, who have no homes, who are vulnerable and who have no parents.
They need to make a blanket proclamation for all those children by
June 2018 to have in particular birth and registration certificates. All those children that we are seeing on the streets and those children that are used on the streets for seeking benevolence, let us see them seeking benevolence but above all, let us give them registration certificates so that the generations, all after them, after we have gone can have birth and registration certificates.
Mr. Speaker Sir, there is an issue of pathology and DNA for people that die without documentation and those that die without birth records and relatives. For Chegutu in particular, we have about twenty bodies that have not been claimed for years because of the scourge for lack of birth and registration certificates. Mr. Speaker Sir, it is not good for anybody to lie in a mortuary for a long time without being buried. It casts a spell on a nation. The people that I am talking about, as you go there, there are bones that are just strewn outside the mortuary waiting for a letter from the Social Welfare Department and the Ministry that deals with registration to give a go ahead for those people to be buried. This might be one of the reasons why we do not have good rains in our nation because there are bodies of people that are lying in mortuaries that have not been buried humanely, because of lack of registration and birth certificates.
This is where it starts Mr. Speaker Sir. I make a clarion call that the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare should make a proclamation to give a blanket go ahead for all those bodies in mortuaries, across the nation, to immediately be given a decent burial. Especially, I am referring to those that speak to lack of identification, lack of relativity series, lack of pathology and DNA tests so that we can have a new start in terms of our mortuaries and our hospitals that are keeping for time without end, these bodies without burying them.
The last point Mr. Speaker Sir, we need to use what we have to get what we want. We are endowed with ubiquitous amount of mineral wealth, as Hon. Toffa has alluded to. Let us use corporate social responsibility but in an extended manner to say, we have in those societies mining houses. Let us use some claims that are held for speculative purposes to empower those local communities so that the resources arising from there can be utilised to take care of the vulnerable in our society so that in turn, they can also be registered. It all begins because we have no resources but tiri kufa nenyota makumbo ari mumvura. Hatimbotorai mamine acho tiite make sure that our children are registered without any impediments. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to vociferously, eloquently and effectively debate on this motion that is quite pregnant with very important issues. I thank you.
*HON. MUDYIWA: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I want to thank the mover of the motion, Hon. Dziva on behalf of our First Lady, Hon. Auxillia Mnangagwa and the seconder, Hon. Toffa on the motion on orphans. I want to say that, orphans are in a number of ways. We have them in our constituencies. For some, both parents have departed because of various reasons, some through accidents or diseases - but all of them are orphans we have in our constituencies. They all need to be taken care of and they need our help. Some of the orphans are looked after by relatives, like grandmothers and grandfathers.
There are many things happening to these children, including abuse, especially when they are under the custody of relatives. Some end up being raped and sexually abused whilst they are still young. When it comes to orphans, as Members of Parliament, it is a big issue that we are seized with and we should come up with ways on how we can help these orphans. In my constituency, there is a case that I was told yesterday. There is a woman who was sick and she had a baby less than one month, she was advised to stop breastfeeding and within a week, she died. The baby has been left in the custody of the grandmother who does not have anything.
This issue has been brought to me as the Member of Parliament so that I can help. It is very difficult for the Hon. MP on how to help. To what extend should you go in helping orphans like these? What I am saying is that the idea of adoption is a very good thing. I think they should not be abused like what has been articulated before by Hon. Dziva. On the issue of adoption, there are a number of things that are impeding the process and they end up giving up because of the processes which are very long and the challenges that they face when they want to adopt a child. There is this old thing, I would like to encourage those who want to adopt children that they should not be afraid of any traditional beliefs. There is nothing that will hound you when you are doing a good thing like looking after orphans. What we should do is to encourage the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare that their requirements should be bearable. They should not make it hard for a person to adopt.
I also support what Hon. Dziva said that there should be an investigation into our laws on how these children are looked after, that it should not be hard for someone who has commited themselves to look after these children. This challenge of orphans is a thing that touches all of us in our constituencies, especially in rural constituencies. I see that Children’s homes are being started by churches but they are very few and they cannot accommodate all the orphans that we have in the villages. Some of those orphans, we do not even know that they exist.
So, I think we should have more of these homes and Government should also do something because these homes are facing a lot of challenges for them to look after the children properly.
I remember one of the churches which owns an orphanage, they were able to build houses and then they looked for foster mothers for the children. They will give a number of children to foster parents and they live as a family, so that they also experience a family life with a father and mother. This is a very good job which is done by churches, so they should be assisted in putting homes like that, because most of our churches cannot afford to build such homes as well as looking after the children. Therefore, the Government should chip in.
I think Government should build homes where these orphans should be looked after. I would like to thank the First Lady, Mrs Mnangagwa because she visited orphanages, giving them some food and just meeting them made them feel that there are people who think about them. As Hon. Members of Parliament, in our constituencies, I think we should also visit these orphans and throw some parties for them. You will be surprised to find that we have a lot of them in our constituencies who are facing challenges that have been articulated in this House. I want to support the recommendations which were articulated by Hon. Dziva in the motion that the laws for adoption should be relaxed so that people do not hesitate to adopt children.
Those who are in need of birth certificates, everything that concerns that child’s future; I think there should be lenience when it comes to people who want to look after these children. I thank you.
HON. MGUNI: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. This is a very emotional motion that has been moved by the First Lady, whereby Hon. Dziva moved the motion of her behalf. I would like to contribute some of the unforeseen matters that are arising, especially with birth registrations and other matter that came from this debate.
First of all, a birth certificate is a security document. Therefore, I have got insight information that the people who are dealing with them from the offices are only data capturers; that means they do not have rank to make any decision. They just follow what is written there. Their Provincial Heads are not even Directors to make also a decision. The whole staff set-up in a province cannot make a decision. They have to look for a Director at headquarters in Harare who can make a decision.
Now, imagining in Tsholotsho, there is a unique situation about a child – you cannot make a decision, you will just read the line of the Act and for a decision to be made, you need a person from headquarters to make that decision. So, that is why the First Lady’s debate was saying can it be decentralised to reach the last person by also empowering those officers in Home Affairs to have at least a high ranked official in their offices in those rural areas, because the rank there does not allow them to make decisions; if you are data capturers, what decisions are you going to make?
So, already the system is wrong. However, you cannot teach an old dog new tricks because we have been trying to show them and some people are resisting that system thinking it works, yet it is now torturing those orphans and the vulnerable. The other big thing is social welfare, the Labour and Social Welfare Ministry has got permission to run these orphanage homes but what they do not have are the powers to register those children with Home Affairs. They were not given enough powers to organise and register them, even some churches face difficulties. There are certain churches that have those orphanage homes but when they go to Home Affairs, the data capturers still read that line because they cannot make the decision.
They will read the line where they are supposed to say we need this and this for the child, that is why we see that there is that deadlock. There is nothing moving. Also if you look at – I went personally, physically, three days in a Gukurahundi area of Tsholotsho South and North, I was with Mr. Mudede, the Registrar General. We had to organise all those people who were affected by their documents; we issued in three days; we managed to issue something like 2 300 documents, but the challenge we met again was that most of the relatives were in South Africa. They could not come to witness for other children, although we tried to use – because we were high ranked officers, we could use our discretion and give some people – that is why we reached 2 300 in number.
Now, imagine a junior data capturer, people coming even from
South Africa during holidays trying to present the case, they would not accept it, because they cannot use their powers. They have no powers to change the Act. Therefore, we need to go to South Africa, because South Africa in 1997, they managed to give Zimbabweans documents without needing any proof or putting stringent measures. They said all people who jumped the border into South Africa and you are Zimbabwean, come forward. People came forward and they asked where were you born? Tsholotsho. They were given a document that was showing that you are a foreigner in that country, why? There was too much armed robbery and housebreaking so they wanted to capture fingerprints and give you a document so that if there is crime they could trace who committed that crime. Here, in Zimbabwe are failing to give our own people identity documents but South Africa could give a foreigner – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – We can do it if we are willing because some of them will turn into criminals and we will not trace them with any forensic investigation. You cannot find anyone who is not documented. We need to make a deadline or an announcement that on this day, all children who do not know where they come from or whose parents are dead can come forward and then we issue them with documents so that they are traceable. That is another thing that we need to do.
Some people think that it is the Ministry of Home Affairs that charges that $50 for a foreign born child and the $20 for a border jumper. Some South African people based in Zimbabwe, when their children are born in South Africa, they bring them through other illegal means where they jump the borders. Border jumping is an offence which is pegged at $20 by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development when he presented the Budget here. He announces all these figures here in Parliament and now the Ministry of Home Affairs is just implementing those Statutory Instruments that are brought by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
Therefore, that is where all the Members of Parliament should dispute and say no, the $50 of a foreign born child is too much because those people already went to South Africa suffering. They do not have money. As we are talking now, this is affecting the voter’s registration in the Matabeleland region because there is no one who has got $50 plus $20 and that brings a total of $70. If you convert it to the SADC currency, it is about P1 000 or R1 100. They cannot afford that.
The other thing that we meet there is that there are a lot of pregnancies especially on girl children that are orphaned. They fall pregnant at the age of 13 or 14 years. You find that someone who is a guardian or is acting to be mother is negotiating with the culprit in a court. When we go and try to defend that child, the case is thrown out of court because the guardian who is not the proper mother has already negotiated with the culprit to pay something which is in the form of lobola when a child is thirteen years. The case is thrown out of court and look at how sympathetic it is. It is disastrous if we do not have a correct Act to protect those orphans.
As Members of Parliament, we need to start programmes where we identify orphans. We must take lead so that we channel them to the churches. We build homes where we can keep them so that we represent and defend them because there are some people who are after these orphans, especially very unethical human beings in the form of men. I thank you Mr. Speaker.
HON. MAJOME: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir, for according me the opportunity to debate on this important motion that concerns the rights and welfare of children. I rise because as a Zimbabwean, I am proud that Section 81 of the Constitution – Rights of the Children; which the hon. mover of the motion is seeking is being discussed and I salute her for that, needless to say that I am whole-heartedly in support of the motion.
I wish to debate this motion from the perspective of the prayer – I would like to talk about child adoption, office of the Registrar-General as well as the obligations, meaning and implications of what is guaranteed in our Constitution as far as citizens are concerned and the rights to documentation and so on. I truly want to applaud Hon.
Mnangagwa for drawing the spot light on this very hidden aspect of Zimbabwean life. This quiet corner of the adoption of children is an issue that as a society, we have been avoiding.
We have millions of children who are in need of care, who are not abandoned and who do not have people who are able to love and live with them. Some of these children, as Hon. Mnangagwa has said, are in children’s homes. I speak because in Harare West Constituency, there are nine children’s homes. I would like to highlight the names because they are homes where children live, but have no mother or father or anyone who is willing to live with them. These homes do a sterling amount of work in trying to raise these children so that they are able to function in society. I am extremely proud because if it was not the work of these children’s homes, these children would be forgotten.
I am proud because recently, some of the children in one of the children’s home called Tariro Youth Project; a young men – I will not say his name but he has done us proud by acquiring 14 points at A’ level. He was at Mt Pleasant High. He is a child raised at a children’s home there in Marlborough. He has been able to do that and fortunately for him, he obtained a scholarship to go and study in the United States of America. He has been able to do that because there is an institution that took him in and is looking after him.
Again, another boy child from that same children’s home recently got married and wedded two years ago. Just last month, I was glad to learn that the couple now has a baby. I understand that because he also has a brother who was raised in that children’s home. I am saying this so that we are reminded of just how the lives of children and the future of children that have no immediate parents to look after them also require care and protection and support so that when they grow up in the society, they can start their own families. They should not be stigmatised. We need to give these children a chance.
There is another child from another children’s home whose wedding I attended. It was a very special wedding out there in Beatrice. I understand they are also expecting. I say this Mr. Speaker Sir because it is wonderful news when children who are in such difficult circumstances come out of them and excel. Thank God for the people who have the spirit to set up children’s homes.
Beyond that, these children’s homes are operating in very difficult circumstances and I am glad that Hon. Mnangagwa has mentioned in her prayer that the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare must ensure timeous disbursement of grants to children’s homes. The homes are truly struggling and I want to just use this opportunity to thank those of us – some of us are Members of Parliament here or some people who are in the society who do understand that children who live in children’s homes require day to day necessities in the same way that we require in our homes in terms of groceries, clothing and so on. I hope that there will be more Members of Parliament who know that these children who live in these homes also need to have money spent on them.
I say this because as Hon. Mnangagwa has mentioned, there are difficulties in disbursing these grants from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. Sadly, some of the time, these children in children’s homes are stigmatised because while they are enlisted on the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), the money has not been disbursed. So these children are just known that ah! ava vana ve BEAM as if BEAM has begot children. I really want to support that. So, the reason I am saying this is that we are fortunate that there are homes that are looking after these children but these homes are struggling because there is little money available.
However, there are people in our own homes, as we are sitting here as Hon. Members of Parliament and also other members of our society out there, who have room, not only in their homes but in their hearts that they can take these children who do not have a natural parent or close family member to look after. It is not a secret that the majority of the children in these children’s homes are of the African race, they are black in colour, they are very few children who are of different races but I salute Hon. A. Mnangagwa because she has brought this issue of the taboo of adoption. There are certain aspects in our culture that we need to re-examine as a nation that are not helping us go very far. I am hoping that Hon. Members can also move to remove this stigma and this fear of taking children who need to be raised because we are afraid that their clan or dzinza is not going to support us and so on. These are just children.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I hope that there is a campaign or a change of mindset that allows us to take those children who are in need of care and look after them, maybe not to adopt them but also to foster them. Unfortunately, the law around adoption as well as the practice around adoption has been following this closed mindset that discourages adoption. There are so many bureaucratic procedures for people who want to adopt children. A person has to go through hoops to adopt a child.
I want to submit that it is in the best interest of the children, particularly those who do not have anyone to live with. It is not in their best interest to keep on restricting adoption procedures and requirements. Of course, we must look out for the interest of the children but we must not be so restrictive.
In our African culture it is more or less taboo to adopt a stranger as a child, they are people from other jurisdictions, other nations that do not have this taboo who are interested in adopting children. I do not understand why we act like dogs in a manger where we ourselves do not want to adopt those children. We want them to stay in an institution but as I said, thank God, there are some institutions that are able to take in those children. We do not want to take those children into our homes. However, when somebody comes from outside who wants to love and take care of these children, we also put blockages. We are dogs in a manger.
I am not saying we must not think about the risks of maybe trafficking or abuse but from what I understand, we are excessively putting barriers and preventing some children whom we do not want to love ourselves to be loved by others. So, it is my hope that we re-open because we are in a new dispensation, I am hoping that a new dispensation can also come into our cultural mindset so that we open our homes to children and let those who want to take them, even out of the country, subject of course to the usual controls.
Nowadays it is very easy to track the welfare of children all over the world and to find out how they are doing. This can be done Mr. Speaker Sir. We even have embassies all over the world and I am sure even our Embassies can be enlisted to follow up and find out how a Zimbabwean child, born here but possibly allowed to be adopted by a foreigner is fairing. I think we are letting down children by doing this.
I would like to say a word briefly about paragraph (f), in Hon. A. Mnangagwa’s prayer. She proposed that the Ministry of Home Affairs closely monitors and supervises the operations of the Registrar General’s Office to ensure effective and diligent service delivery to the nation and to replicate the electronic queue management system currently found at the Registrar General’s Office in Harare to other centres especially the remote areas.
I want to salute the Registrar General for introducing this electronic management queue at Harare because it eases the agony of people who go there to get documentation which is their right. In terms of the Birth Registration Act, a person must register the birth of a child within 6 weeks of birth. This is very baby friendly; it is a baby friendly mechanism to speed up efficiency. Imagine a nursing mother with a child who is just under six weeks, waiting in the queues and the agony there, it is torture sometimes to go to the Registrar Generals’ office. The issue of devolution to other centres is absolutely important. It must not only be people in Harare who have the benefit of being saved from congestion. I want to plead through you Mr. Speaker, that I think we should also stop the bad habit that we have in Government institutions where if we want to introduce a technology or an improvement, it is introduced only in one place and only in Harare. My plea is that in future, when innovations are introduced, like in this particular case, this electronic queue management system, I am sure when the Registrar General wanted to introduce, I am sure the
Registrar’s office knows the number of registries that they have. I want to believe that it is good practice and good governance and equality of our regions to ensure that when they order such systems; they order them for all centres. I am sure the Registrar General knows the kind of traffic that is at other centres and simultaneously provides those facilities everywhere else so that we do not have to replicate what is in Harare.
On that score, while I am on the Registrar-General’s I want to applauded him for doing that, I am concerned that in this august House I asked a question to the Hon. Minister of Labour and Social Services about the Registrar General’s age. I asked what age is the Registrar General because I suspected that he is over the age of 65 years and I asked that if he is over the age of 65 years, why is he not retiring.
I asked this Mr. Speaker Sir, because we want to promote good governance and efficient management. We are a country that has just brought regime change at the top most level of Government. The former President, Robert Mugabe is no longer the President because
Zimbabweans across the political divide and also including this august House moved in order to remove him from office. One of the reasons was that as you stay and overstay, inefficiencies creeps in, the economies talk about diminishing marginal retains. It is my respectful view that in the same thinking of the new dispensation, people who hold office, who have stayed a certain amount of time, should really move out and let others take in. It is good for corporate governance. Some of these inefficiencies that we are seeing in these offices, particularly in the Registrar Generals’ office is because of overstay in office.
Because we are in a new dispensation, I was really dismayed to hear the Hon. Minister, because I was not here when my question was answered, I would have wanted to follow up this question. I noticed with regret that the Hon. Minister did not even bother to answer the simple question as to how old he is. She did not give his date of birth but instead she went on to lecture that I should not become personal. But Mr. Speaker Sir, a person who holds public office is of public interest, their age and the way that they serve. We should not shield that because we have interest of Zimbabweans to protect, in this particular interest, interest of children whom we protect in the Constitution in terms of the right to birth registration and so on. I am very concerned that on the other hand, the Hon. Minister of Finance indicated correctly that in the new dispensation, the Government is seeking to reduce possibly inefficiencies and rationalise the civil service and retire those who are over 65 years. I was really shocked that the Hon Minister of Social Welfare instead went on a lecture and even quoting the Bible about how age is recognised as a crown of glory only from God. She went very philosophical but she avoided this important question and went on to, in my view, inappropriately quote the Convention on the elderly.
If we want to solve this problem Mr. Speaker Sir, of difficulties in obtaining birth certificates and efficient systems and making sure that all children in Zimbabwe and all grown-ups enjoy the right to citizenship through birth registration documents, we must be serious about it. We must not protect one individual and have a sacred cow, I do not know for what reason. We need a totally different way of doing things, a refreshing breath of fresh air.
I do not think it serves the Government well to protect this one person whilst it is retiring other civil servants. Let us have new people who are progressive-minded and are not locked in the past but are of the future and not as conservative. That way, we will have great ease of doing business; we will be registering births from the comforts of our homes, from our laptops and so on and also getting passports. Mr.
Speaker Sir, there should not be contradiction in Government policy. This attitude that was shown by the Hon. Minister of Social Welfare actually undermines the new Government; the new thrust for ease of doing business, probity and good governance. It is my hope that in the interest of the children of Zimbabwe, there is Mr. Tobaiwa Mudede, if he is over the age of 65, he should also be retired.
If there is a need to closely monitor the operations of that office, it means there is a problem and sometimes we need to start right at the top. He served very well but I think it is time for more efficient and new ways of doing things. I can assure you Mr. Speaker, it will help us to ease congestion and to have more modern ways of doing things that are more progressive and in keeping with the way that the global trend is going. I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.
HON. RUNGANI: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. J. TSHUMA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 6th March, 2018.
On the motion of HON. RUNGANI seconded by HON. J. TSHUMA, the House adjourned at Twenty One Minutes to Five o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 6th March, 2018.