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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 16 FEBRUARY 2023 VOL 49 NO 23

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Thursday, 16th February, 2023

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

PRAYERS

(THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER in the Chair)

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER

PETITION RECEIVED FROM THE CHIREDZI RESIDENTS AND RATE PAYERS ASSOCIATION

          THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have to inform the House that on Friday, 10th February 2023, Parliament received a petition from the Chiredzi Residents and Rate Payers Association requesting Parliament to exercise its oversight functions by investigating the corrupt practices of land barons on 750 hectares of land allocated to Chiredzi Town and Chiredzi Rural Council.  The petition was deemed admissible and the petitioners were informed accordingly.

BILLS RECEIVED FROM THE SENATE

          THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: I also have to inform the House that pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order No. 170, I have received the following Bills from the Senate: National Security Council Bill [H.B. 2A, 2022], Institute of Loss Control and Private Security Manager Bill [H.B. 5A, 2022], Police Amendment Bill [H.B.1A, 2022].

FIRST READING

MINERALS BILL [H.B. 10, 2022]

          THE MINISTER OF MINES AND MINING DEVELOPMENT (HON. CHITANDO) presented the Mines and Minerals Bill [H.B. 10, 2022]

          Bill read the first time.

          Bill referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

          THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Madam Speaker, I move that Orders of the day Nos. 1 and 2 on today’s Order Paper be stood over until Order of the day No. 3 has been disposed of.

          Motion put and agreed to.

 

SECOND READING

ELECTORAL AMENDMENT BILL [H. B.11, 2022]

          Third Order read: Adjourned debate on the Second Reading of the Electoral Amendment Bill [H. B. 11, 2022].

          Question again proposed.

          HON. GONESE: Thank you Madam Speaker for this opportunity to debate an issue which is very important and critical for the body politic of our country.  In terms of Section 117(2)(b), we as an institution are required to make laws for the peace, order and good governance for Zimbabwe.  Unfortunately, Madam Speaker, this Bill is the antithesis of that laudable provision.  To say that the Bill is not a good Bill is an understatement. I actually say that this is a horrible Bill, this is a terrible piece of legislation both from a procedural and a substantive point of view. 

          Madam Speaker, Hon. Members and Hon. Minister, everyone knows the history of Zimbabwe. We have had a history of disputed elections culminating in the elections of 2018 which also had its own controversies.  We had recommendations made by various observer missions.  We had a petition which was presented to this august House by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network.  We have had several other processes so I venture to say that as a starting point, the Bill which has been presented by the Hon. Minister is very narrow in its scope, in its memorandum, it simply refers to the alignment of the Electoral Law with Amendment No 2. 

          The first important point to note Madam Speaker is that Amendment No. 2 has been challenged in the highest court of the land in the Constitutional Court in terms of its passage through Parliament.  There is a pending challenge before the Constitutional Court and I want to ask the Hon. Minister, does he know the outcome of that litigation?  In the event that the Constitutional Court comes up with a ruling that the passage of the Bill was not procedural and if that – not the Bill but it is now an Ac,t Amendment No. 2 Act.  If the Constitutional Court has to come to such a conclusion, it means that all the provisions which are in the Bill would be rendered invalid.  I do not know whether the Hon. Minister is trying to tell us something that  shows the outcome of the Constitutional Court challenge.

          Unless the Executive knows that it has got the judges in its pocket, the outcome of any court process is unknown. It would have been prudent to wait until the determination of that Constitutional Court challenge.

          THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI):  On a point of order Madam Speaker.

          THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: What is your point of order?

          THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Madam Speaker, the country does not stop to function because there is a process in the courts, unless the court interdicts.  So the Hon. Member must stick to contents of the Bill and not digress to talk about issues that are not before Parliament.  I thank you.

          THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Gonese, please may you debate the contents of the Bill.

          HON. GONESE: Yes, but we are talking about the general principles Madam Speaker, with due respect. We are at the Second Reading, we are not talking about the specific provisions, and we are looking at the issue, that is why.  I will just explain that when we are dealing with the general principle, we can talk of the background to a particular piece of legislation.   The second point which I also believe is very important is that as a country, we must find each other. It is very important to move together as a country.  We have got a situation where in November 2017, we had the removal of Former President R. G. Mugabe.   We have told time without number that we are not in a second republic, that we are now in a second dispensation and I think it is very important and important to walk the talk. 

          If indeed we are in a new dispensation, it is important to depart from the past to have a paradigm shift, to have a consultative process particularly when we are dealing with a law as important as an electoral law.  The Hon. Members who are seated in this august House are the product of elections.  When we go to Chapter 7 of the Constitution, which is the section on elections, the principles enunciated in it are very clear and I will not talk of the process because I believe that the process is as important as the content. 

          I submit that we must have had an inclusive process and as a matter of fact, there were several processes that took place which have not been ignored.  Firstly, we had the process set in motion by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network. The petition was presented to this august House, it was referred to the Portfolio Committee of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.  We have had  several workshops in which the Speaker of the National Assembly was a participant.  The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was a participant, the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was a participant through Permanent Secretary and I believe at some stage the Minister was part of that process.  This culminated in the drawing up of a model law by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network which was presented to the Portfolio Committee.  This is a very comprehensive document which was a product of dialogue involving all the Members of Parliament in the Portfolio Committee which come from the three different political parties represented in this Parliament.   However, when we came to the gazetting of the Bill last year, we then had a very narrow Bill, dealing with very few issues.  I submit with due respect Madam Speaker Ma’am, that this is a flawed process.

          Madam Speaker, as a Portfolio Committee, we actually tried to engage ZEC and a copy of the Bill was sent to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.  They were supposed to engage with the Portfolio Committee as they alluded to earlier.  At the beginning, they were part of the process but all of a sudden they then disappeared; they did not come to the final workshop which was held in Kariba.  Also, I do not know whether it was by coincidence or accident, the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was also not there.  It might appear that there was malice afore-thought; they were no longer interested in the process, this inclusive process where we walk together as a nation so that we can have some consensus.  That is the first point.

          The second point Madam Speaker Ma’am, is that there was also a parallel process involving the three parties in Parliament facilitated by the Zimbabwe Institute where ZANU PF participated, MDC participated and CCC participated.  It was a tripartite process where each of those political parties gets engagement through the facilitation of ZEC.  Several recommendations, several inputs were put and the parties came up with certain agreed positions.  That again has been thrown out of the window.  So it was not just the Zimbabwe Election Support Network which has been thrown out of the window but also the political parties’ process represented in this august House.

          Then when it comes to the engagement of stakeholders, we have got political parties which are not represented in this august House and you have got civil society.  It was imperative for all those parties to be engaged.  I therefore submit that because of these procedural flaws, this Bill must be torn into pieces and thrown out and we start afresh.  I will explain that - we have got time to do so.  I do not know why this Bill is being fast tracked. When you look at the public consultation process which is envisaged in terms of Section 141 of the Constitution, in the past we have actually had a hybrid process in terms of which we have public hearings, physical public hearings throughout the country, in all the ten provinces. 

          Madam Speaker Ma’am, when it came to amendment (No. 2) Bill, we actually had more than one meeting per province.  I submit, because of the importance of this particular Bill, that is the direction we should have taken. Instead Madam Speaker Ma’am, the Portfolio Committee was forced to just conduct virtual hearings on Zoom and radio where some people do not have access.  As I have already indicated, there is nothing wrong with engagement through those virtual platforms but it must be complemented by the physical engagement of all those who may not be able to connect, either due to connectivity challenges or because they do not have the appropriate gadgets.   So they have no means of having that direct contribution.  As a matter of fact, I understand that the two other Bills before the Justice Committee are scheduled to go for physical public hearings.  I submit that this Bill must be withdrawn and we must speak collectively as a House to say let us withdraw this Bill. 

          Madam Speaker Ma’am, we have got enough time and I will explain why.  In terms of Section 157 (4) of our Constitution, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is supposed to make recommendations on changes to the electoral law.  Firstly, they played a game of hide and seek and they did not engage the Portfolio Committee and I do not know whether you have got any recommendations from them.  From my recollection, the Second Reading of the Bill was done by the Hon. Minister.  He did not specifically allude to any recommendations as having come from ZEC.  I believe that it is imperative that as provided for in terms of the Constitution, you must have recommendations from the Commission which is responsible for managing and conducting our elections.  Secondly, in terms of Section 157 (5), it is only when an election has been called and any changes to the electoral law which are made after the election have been called will not have effect for that particular election.  It is different to the delimitation process.  I believe that perhaps people are confusing the two processes. 

          Madam Speaker, it is only in terms of Section 161 that any delimitation, for it to have effect on the forthcoming elections, must have been gazetted at least six months before the date of that election.  That does not apply to the electoral law.  For all intents and purposes, we can debate and engage each other on processes leading to the enactment of the electoral law up to April, May as long as an election has not been called. 

          I therefore plead and implore the Hon. Minister and his colleagues in the Government benches, together with those from the governing party that this is a thing for us as Zimbabweans and this is not for one political party.  We do not want to continue with this unilateral process where Bills are fast-tracked, where we are always appearing like we are in a hurry. The point which has been made time and again is that we must move away from the issue of piece-meal amendments. 

          Madam Speaker, when we look at the current Electoral Act, Chapter 2:13, you find that it has had several amendments.  The original Act itself was enacted in 2004; you have had amendments through the Electoral Amendments, Act No. 17, 2007; the Local Government Laws Amendment Act (No. 1) 2008; the Electoral Amendment Act, 2012; the Criminal Prosecuting Act, 2015; the Electoral Amendment Act, 2014 as well as General Laws Amendment Act, 2016 culminating in the last Electoral Amendment, 2018. 

          What we need Madam Speaker Ma’am, is a comprehensive Bill.  Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network has come up with a model law which did not come from them alone but was also a product of various engagements including the Portfolio Committee and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission as well as the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.  I do not understand why the Hon. Minister does not want that particular draft which informs what we have to do as a nation being the cornerstone, the foundation of whatever amendments we are going to do. 

          Madam Speaker Ma’am, I will not go to what the Bill seeks to do. which is very narrow in scope, and misdirected in my view in some of the provisions and I will explain why I say that.  The first point that the Bill seeks to do is to stop the use of drivers’ licences as proof of identity.  I submit that this is a nonsensical provision for the simple reason that for one to be registered as a voter, you must prove your citizenship.  Once one is registered as a voter, it means automatically they will be able to satisfy because they are referred to as the claimant in the Act.  They were able to satisfy the officers from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of their citizenships status.  When it comes to the day of voting, it means that if you are not a citizen of Zimbabwe your name will not be on the voters roll.  I do not understand what mischief the provision in the Bill is seeking to cure, because if you are not a citizen, if you have not proved to the officers there, for you to be put on the voters roll, your name will not be on the voters roll.  So at the end of the day if someone comes with a driver’s licence on the day of voting seeking to get ballot papers, it is neither here nor there because if you are not a citizen you are not on the voters roll; if you are a citizen, it is just a question of comparing your identification number as it appears on your driver’s licence with that which is on the voters roll.  So at the end of the day, it is a meaningless provision and I do not understand why we are wasting our time with that kind of provision.

          The second provision deals with the election of the ten youth members of the National Assembly and also provide for the continued election of the women parliamentarians and the election of women on a party list system. I want to say that some of these provisions are not helpful and do not reflect what the intention was.

I will go to the election of the youth members. It is only one youth who is going to be elected in terms of that provision from each province. The Bill does not go on to explain how you are going to ensure that there is gender balance. In fact, what it does is to seek to have those nomination papers to be submitted in all the provinces and it eludes my wisdom as to what the purpose of doing that is going to be.

          Secondly, it does not provide for those people who are marginalised, who are referred to in the Constitution. It does not provide a mechanism as to how you are going to accommodate people with disabilities. It also applies to the members of the National Assembly who are elected in the ten provinces, the six per province. In terms of the amendment to the Constitution, it makes reference to the inclusion of young women and women with disabilities to be part and parcel of that list but it does not say how you ensure or guarantee that those people will find their names on the voters roll.

          The only other provision which I might not have talked about is the issue of the withdrawal of candidates. That one is an innocuous provision. Let me now go to what the Bill does not do which I believe should have been the cornerstone of any amendment Bill to the electoral law. First and foremost, the right to vote is a very critical aspect and the Bill does not make provision to enable every Zimbabwean to vote. I respectfully submit that we must have automatic voter registration so that anyone who attains the age of 18 find their name on the voters roll.

          There is a gross under-registration of voters, particularly in the province of Harare. This is an issue which should have been addressed by the Bill. We have got a situation where ZEC has been guilty of some shenanigans in terms of publicity for example. I believe that one of the reasons is that there is little voter education and any amendment Bill should include the provision which expands the responsibility to conduct voter education beyond the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which does not have the capacity to do so.

          I believe that it is imperative for us to have transparency in the printing of ballot papers and their distribution. We must have a provision in the electoral law which provides for a tender process where everyone is involved so that there is a system of transparency which includes everyone. We must also have provisions as you know Madam Speaker, that whenever we have elections, you will find that there is unfair coverage. If you go to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, if you listen to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, watch the Zimbabwe television, you find that it is dominated by one political party. It is important that we have binding provisions which enable the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to deal with the public media if they fall foul of the provisions in the Act to allow fair coverage and balanced coverage to all political parties. We must also have a binding code of conduct because time and again, issues of violence have flared up but we do not have a mechanism to ban those people who are guilty of fanning public violence. The electoral law must have specific provisions, a binding code of conduct which allow for the disqualification of our candidates which allow for the suspension and a lot of other remedies to ensure that we do not continue having violence.

          This reminds me of another issue which I had left out which is in the Bill; the disqualification of candidates on the basis of previous convictions. It is a dangerous provision. Firstly, it is unconstitutional because the Constitution sets out the disqualifications. It is only if a person was convicted during their term as a Member of Parliament and that person will be barred. It does not have any other disqualification related to the commission of offences.

          [Time Limit]

          HON. MUSHORIWA: I move that the Hon. Member’s time be extended.

          HON. CHINYANGANYA: I second.

          Motion put and agreed to.

          HON. GONESE: Lastly Madam Speaker Ma’am, the issue of disqualification of candidates can be used as a political tool. We already have selective application of the law. Why should we go beyond what the Constitution has already provided? I therefore submit that, that particular provision should be expunged from the Bill. Let us deal with the disqualifications already set out in the Constitution. As we speak, we have got some people who are being accused of different and various offences and if they are convicted, an appeal would not set aside that disqualification and for that reason, I would therefore submit that, that provision be deleted.

          It is also important that any Bill – we have had situations where some electoral challenges have lapsed and so on. We now need to put in mechanisms which enable election petitions to be dealt with on the merits so that we remove the issue of technicalities which can be used to scuttle petitions and challenges which would have been made to the election of certain candidates. We also need to ensure the role of chiefs who, in terms of the Constitution, are supposed to be non-partisan and apolitical.

          We need to have enshrined in the electoral law, specific provisions which provide for the neutrality of our traditional leaders. When you are a traditional leader, you are presiding over all people in your constituency or in your area of jurisdiction, irrespective of which political party you belong to. I also want to submit that it was imperative to have a situation where the international instruments to which we are a party – I know that as a country, we delayed in signing the African Charter on democracy, elections and governance.  We have to ensure that we inculcate all the principles in that instrument into our electoral law and this needs more consultations. We are seeking readmission into the Commonwealth and it is very important that the values which are listed in the Charter of the Commonwealth on Democracy are also inculcated or incorporated into the provisions of whatever electoral law that we enact.

          In the circumstances, I submit that it is important because we can have proposed amendments and so on but if you have got a Bill which is very narrow in its scope, it is very difficult to have all like we have this particular model law which incorporates a lot of provisions, including the right to vote for people in prisons.

People in the diaspora, I know that an argument has been made that the Constitution will need to be amended and I respectfully disagree. For people in the diaspora, their right to vote is clearly enshrined in Section 67 of our Constitution which gives every Zimbabwean citizen the right to vote and to be voted for. We also have got people who will be in prison at any particular time. The Bill does not provide for mechanisms to enable these people to vote. An argument can be made that those in the diaspora are not belonging to any particular constituency but an exception can be made. You can say that all the people in the diaspora who wish to participate and to vote in elections are confined to vote in the presidential election. They have a right to choose which President they want to lead them so that you dispense with the issue of wards and constituencies.

          I submit that it is important to appreciate that those people in the diaspora are sending their remittances to this country. When you go to Western Union, Mukuru and World Remit, you find that on a daily basis, citizens in the diaspora are sending money to Zimbabwe and as you remember, when we had the American War of Independence, they were saying no taxation without representation. So those people are sending money to Zimbabwe to assist the development of Zimbabwe and they should also have a right to shape the destiny of this country. We have got civil servants, Madam Speaker, who would be deployed outside their constituencies.  Let us have a provision which allows for a special vote.  We have got media practitioners who because of the nature of their work as journalists, may be deployed to areas outside the place where they would normally vote.  We have got people who are serving long prison terms, I do appreciate that those short term admissions may be difficult to deal with, but those who are in hospital, if they are there for a long period, it is important also to have provisions for special voting to be incorporated so that you know you have every Zimbabwean who wishes to participate being able to cast their vote.

As I come to a conclusion, Madam Speaker, I really plead with the Hon. Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to say that we have got sufficient time to start all over in an inclusive and consultative process.  This business of bringing in Bills and try to fast track them in the sense that the public consultation process jut took place over two days when you have got a Bill which shapes the destiny of this country, when you have got other Bills having had their public hearings - let us rectify that.  Let us go back to the drawing board.  Let us go back to engagement of all political parties represented in this Parliament.  We also had a process which I understand was done by those representatives in POLAD, all that was just thrown out of the window.  I believe that you have to take all those inputs into consideration and come up with a consolidated Bill which addresses the concerns of all Zimbabweans

Before I sit down, I would like to say to my colleagues seated on your right, this is not supposed to be a partisan process.  This is our country. If we accuse each other of not being patriotic and so on, some of the things which result in some of those misconceptions, is the lack of consultation, lack of dialogue and the lack of negotiations.  Let us have genuine negotiation.  If we say we are in a new dispensation, let us show that there has been a paradigm shift, that there has been a departure from what used to happen because those who were in the last Parliament will remember that we had a similar promise when we passed the last amendment to the Electoral law in 2018.  The Election Resource Centre also came up with a petition and public hearings were conducted, but at the end of the day, all the processes done by the Portfolio Committee were just ignored.  We do not want to have a repeat of that situation.  We do not want to have this sense of déjà vu where one says the more things change, the more they remain the same.  Let us move away from that.  I rest my case Madam Speaker.  Let us walk together.  Those will be my parting shots.

HON. CHINYANGANYA:  Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me this opportunity to debate on the Electoral Amendment Bill.  To begin with, Madam Speaker, the Bill does not really encompass the electoral reforms that the general populace in this country were expecting but rather, I would say it is simply the insertion of the provisions of the Constitutional Amendment No. 2.  It lacks the provisions which we were expecting. 

Much has been said by Hon. Gonese, so I will not dwell much on that except that we were expecting to see amendments such as the inclusion of the diaspora vote, the transitional mechanisms, educational qualifications for public office bearers and so on.

I will move on to the next point which is the inclusion of the public in Parliament processes.  Section 141 of the Constitution is clear that when Parliament is conducting its businesses and more precisely the business which concerns the public, then Parliament has to consult widely in that regard by undertaking public consultations.

The Committee undertook processes which I believe left out the majority of the population of Zimbabwe because the consultations were done on radio.  Currently we are experiencing massive load shedding and as such, most areas will not have transmission for ZBC.  Madam Speaker, I will give an example of Chegutu, Kadoma and Binga.  When there is no power, the public does not have access to radio and as such, it means that people will not have access to these consultations.  People did not have the chance to make their input and the next process was done virtually.  How many people afford data to connect to these proceedings?

So Madam Speaker, this disenfranchised the majority of the population of Zimbabwe in giving their input in these public hearings.  During the COVID-19 era we undertook public hearings despite the fact that there was COVID.  We would move around the country as the Justice Committee gathering public views.  So why was this not done?  We have moved past the COVID era.  Next week, Madam Speaker, the Justice Committee is going to be conducting public hearings on two Bills.  So why was this Bill excluded from the public consultations that are usually done by Parliament?

So I propose that these public hearings should be redone so that we include all the views of the general population, be it the people in Kadoma, Binga or Muzarabani.  They have to have their input in this Bill Madam Speaker.  I thank you.   

HON. MUSHORIWA:  Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me this opportunity to put my views in respect to the Electoral Amendment Bill that is before this House.  Firstly, Madam Speaker, in a democracy, of which Zimbabwe is supposed to be, elections play a major role and to that extent Madam Speaker, our electoral laws need to be seen to promote democratic ethos  and should also be seen to be aligned to the continental and regional norms.

          The second issue is to say that any law that we make should also be done in a process, a process that gives confidence to the people of Zimbabwe.  You do  not want to have a situation where you make a piece of law that members of the public feel that they did not fully participate in the process of coming up with that law.  Madam Speaker, you are aware that the Hon. Leader of the House had to suspend the rules of this House to make sure that we quickly go through the processes; including this Electoral Amendment, to the extent that Parliament, for the first time, public hearings were then done on radios whereas we were supposed to have a hybrid situation where people could have public hearings in various provinces, including radio and virtual.

          HON. MATARANYIKA: On a point of order.  The Hon. Member is misleading this House.  When we did the Constitutional Amendment Number 2, we did it on air, we did it on television.  I just thought I should correct that mistake.

          HON. MUSHORIWA: Madam Speaker, I think the Hon. Member is either deliberately trying to mislead the House himself or he did not hear what I said.  The issue even on Constitutional Number 2 that he talks of, there were physical hearings and some of them we know because they happened during the tenure of this Parliament.  It was a hybrid process.  It was not exclusive – [HON. MOLOKELA-TSIYE: It is a different issue vaMataranyika.] –

          THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Molokela, you are not supposed to shout.  Please order.

          HON. MOLOKELA-TSIYE: He is also responding, he is talking.

          HON. MUSHORIWA: Madam Speaker, the essence of it is to simply say it does not matter where they are told by the radio station that five million people are listening because how often do you have your radio tuned on when you are not even listening to the provisions of the radio?  Or probably the radio is in the dining room and you are busy doing some chores, so you cannot then say that you have consulted the people of Zimbabwe, especially on a Bill which is important as this one.

          Turning to the provisions of the Bill, my view and I want to support what Hon. Gonese said, that the provision that you want to say that you do not want drivers’ licences to be used as identities for voting, it does not make sense.  We know, for instance here in Harare, quite a number of people are finding it difficult to actually get their lost IDs primarily because of the challenges that the Registrar General (AG) is facing.

          As Hon. Gonese correctly pointed out, for a person to be registered as a voter, obviously that person had actually proved that he/she is a citizen of Zimbabwe and accordingly, a driver’s licence should be used.  All the polling officer needs to do is to just check the identity number of the person and compare to see whether it is actually correct. 

          The second issue relates to the question of voter registration.  I am aware there is a provision which now then says that proof of identity, all you simply need is your Identity Card for you to register as a voter but I actually believe that we need as a country to move further.  We need to ensure that registration for voter should actually be automatic.  Whenever a person attains the age of voting that person should actually be put on a voter’s roll, using the address which they used when they obtained their identification. 

          I am aware that there is a challenge in terms of the powers of the RG vis-a-vis, the powers of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) but I actually believe that we need to make sure that we take some of the powers that we had given ZEC and give it back to the RG so that there is an automatic registration of voters once they attain the age of voting, which is 18 years so that at least we do not have a problem that we currently have.  If you go and check and it is across the political divide, people are finding it difficult; if you go to, especially in Harare, you go to Makombe, go to Cecil House, there are long queues of people trying to register to vote.  We are aware that ZEC may not have their offices open in each and every constituency but if we do an automatic registration, it would actually help.

          The other issue which I think is also crucial is the voting of the diaspora and even the prisons.  I believe that we need to make sure that every Zimbabwean who wants to vote should actually be given the opportunity to vote.  We know, for instance Madam Speaker, and I am glad the Minister of Finance is here, he is aware of the quantum of the foreign remittance that we are getting from our brothers and sisters who are outside the country.   I believe that it is also fair that they are given an opportunity to cast their vote.  I believe it is actually doable because other countries do it.  Countries like Mozambique and Malawi, actually allow their people who are even in this country to vote.  I think it is something that as a country we need to be doing.  I do not see a reason why we should not bring it on board.

          The other aspect relates to the cost of democracy, the nomination fees.  We need to make sure that we come up with a mechanism; a clause in this Bill that talks on making sure that democracy is affordable. We say that anybody has a right to run for an office and to vote if you are 18 years.  If you are 21 years, you can be elected as a Member of Parliament.  You can be elected as a councilor if you are 40 years and you can also be elected as a President or as a senator.  I think to then have a situation where nomination fees are charged at a higher rate and making sure that it removes a number of our people from actually participating in democratic systems creates a huge challenge.  I believe that we need to make sure that all these things are actually provided for in our Constitution. 

          Madam Speaker, I believe as we go to the Committee Stage, I believe there are many of these clauses that are contained in this Bill which will require a lot of amendments because we do not believe that this Bill in its current state can actually take us forward as a country.  We want a situation that when we go to an election the outcome of the election is not disputed.  Those who would have lost would be in a position to congratulate those who would have won.  So the best way of doing it is to make sure that you have got very good electoral laws in the country.  I thank you.

          THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI):  Madam Speaker, I move that the debate do now adjourn.

          Motion put and agreed to.

          Debate to resume:  Tuesday, 28th February, 2023.

SECOND READING

INSURANCE BILL [H. B. 1, 2021]

 

Fourth Order read:  Second Reading: Insurance Bill [H. B. 1, 2021].

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development having sought leave to move for Committee Stage:

          HON. MUSHORIWA:  On a point of order Madam Speaker. The Hon. Minister neither moved for the Second Reading nor did the Committee present their report.  The Hon. Minister is actually confusing the Insurance Bill and the IPEC Bill.  What we had was the IPEC Bill that is at Committee stage. 

          THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE):  Madam Speaker Ma’am, Hon. Mushoriwa is correct.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order Hon. Members, I am being advised that the Minister responded and moved for the Second Reading.    The report of the Committee was however not presented to allow the presentation of the report and the debate.  The Bill remains on the Second Reading until the report has been presented.

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Madam Speaker, I move that the debate do now adjourn.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume: Tuesday, 21st February, 2023

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

HON. TOGAREPI: Madam Speaker, I move that Orders of the Day Nos. 1 to 9 be stood over until Order of the Day No. 10 has been disposed of.

HON. CHINYANGANYA: I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

SECOND READING

MEDICAL SERVICES AMENDMENT BILL [H. B. 1, 2022]

Tenth Order read: Adjourned debate on the Second Reading of the Medical Services Amendment Bill [H. B. 1, 2022].

Question again proposed.

HON. KWARAMBA: Thank you Hon. Speaker, I am going to present the first report of the Joint Portfolio Committee on Health and Childcare and Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS on the evidence gathered during the public hearings on the Medical Services Amendment Bill [H.B. 1, 2022].  

INTRODUCTION

Following the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2013, the Government committed to aligning the various legislative pieces to the provisions of the Constitution. This also included the amendment of the Medical Services Act (Cap 15:13). Thus, the Medical Services Amendment Bill seeks to align the provisions of the principal Act to the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Secondly, the Bill seeks to provide a legal framework toward attainment of universal health coverage by ensuring that every person in Zimbabwe has access to quality, affordable, available and accessible health services.  

Following the gazetting of the Bill on 20th May, 2022 and  consistent with Section 141 of the Constitution, the Joint Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and Thematic Committee on HIV/AIDS conducted public consultations to gather the views of the people.

The public hearings were conducted from 18th to 22nd of July 2022 with Team A covering Karoi, Kwekwe, Bubi, Beitbridge and Bulawayo while Team B covered Beatrice, Masvingo, Mutare, Mt. Darwin and Harare. 

METHODOLOGY

The Committee considered submissions received from the public consultations and written submissions from the public and stakeholders.

3.1 COMMITTEE FINDINGS

Clause 1 – Short Title

This clause provides the short title of the Bill which will be known as the Medical Services Amendment Bill, 2022. There were no submissions for or against this clause. 

Clause 2 - Key Definitions.

The Clause provides for interpretation of terms in the Bill such as basic healthcare, chronic illness, emergency medical treatment, healthcare provider, health service, health institution and reproductive health care. The findings from the public hearings revealed that there was consensus that this Clause was progressive as it defined key terms in the health and medical sector. 

Some stakeholders welcomed the attempt to define “reproductive health care” but added that there is need to broaden the definition to read as:

“provision of information, services, commodities and an environment that ensures a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being of an individual in all matters relating to the reproductive system and its processes and functions, but not merely the absence of

disease or infirmity”.

Clause 3 - Treatment and Care for Persons Under Arrest, Detention or Imprisonment. 

The Clause provides for the provision of treatment and care services for persons under arrest, detention and imprisonment at the expense of the State. Findings from the public hearings revealed that this was a positive step towards universal health coverage in Zimbabwe. It was further added that it was imperative for the Government to prioritise the recapitalisation of district, provincial and central hospitals to ensure that they have the requisite infrastructure to effectively and efficiently provide health services. Some of the services highlighted included psychosocial support as well as the strengthening of the health facilities at the prisons and correctional facilities. However, it was also submitted that the Clause could be amended to the effect that it specifies that these services will be offered by public health institutions and exclude private health institutions as they reserve the right to serve patients as they deem fit.  

Clause 4 - Amendment of Section 8  

Clause 4 amends Section 8 of the principal Act on (“Fees and charges at and admission to Government and State-aided health institutions”) by the deletion of “fix” and the substitution of, “after consultation with health care providers, fix the maximum”. This is a move away from the situation where Government would fix the maximum fees and charges without the involvement of the service providers. The majority of the submissions received noted that this was a welcome clause - it sought to involve the service providers in setting the maximum fees payable. Further, it was observed that this clause was reflective of the letter and spirit of the devolution agenda currently being implemented by Government. The submissions also proposed that consultations should be extended to the public as they are the major stakeholders of the Government and State-aided health institutions. Furthermore, it was proposed that the fixed maximum fees payable must be charged in the local currency. Other submissions proposed that the clause emphasises that “The right to health and survival of the patient shall be prioritised at all times while appropriate arrangements are made for payment of the services.”

Contrary opinion noted that the pegging of fees by the Minister was tantamount to micro-management as it was argued that operational issues should be left to the technocrats. It was proposed that the Bill should create an Advisory Panel to work on the general principles rather than drawing the Minister to set fees. Involving the Minister in such operational issues was deemed to affect the turnaround time, given the hyper-inflationary environment.

Clause 5 - New Part Inserted

Clause 5 inserts part 8, which spells out the general standards and practises applicable in health care delivery. These include:

Information that Health Institutions Must Give to Patients

This Clause provides that health care providers must provide information pertaining to the patient’s health status, the range of diagnostic procedures and treatment options, the attendant benefits, risks and consequences and the patient’s right to refuse the health services. The majority of the submissions noted that the proposed Clause was a step in the right direction as it ensured that patients would be provided with the requisite information pertaining to their health and related procedures.

However, there was a suggestion to amend 8A (1) (b) to read as: “the range of diagnostic procedures, treatment and future prevention and mitigation options’ 

It was emphasised that for health care providers to be able to afford information provision on time and comply with this clause, there is need for government to ensure that centres operate at full staff compliment.

It was also suggested to insert the phrase “without any discrimination” after the word “literacy” on Sub-clause 2 (1) to safeguard the rights to information and services to the vulnerable persons.

8B – Consent of Patient

This Clause spells out the circumstances under which health services may not be provided to a patient without their informed consent. The majority of the submissions welcomed this clause as a step in the right direction towards universal health coverage. However, it was proposed that section 8B part 3 read as follows: 

For the purpose of this section, “informed consent” means consent for a provision of a specified health service given by a person with capacity to understand the relevant facts about the health services sought, readiness, related risks and available alternatives. This is to ensure that children and young adults could gain access to sexual and reproductive health services without parental/guardian consent. 

It was further proposed that there is need to insert a part which states that:

In terms of conditions like sex ambiguity at birth, consent to any surgery or corrective sex assignment procedure must be withheld until the child comes of age

to exhibit the dominant traits and or choose their sexual orientation.”

8C – Participation in Decisions This Clause provides for the patient’s participation in decisions affecting their health. This was welcomed as a positive development.

8D-Health Services to Children

This clause provides for criminal sanctions against a parent or guardian for preventing or withholding consent for a child to receive health services which may be in the best interest of the child. The submissions received pointed out that while this clause sought to enhance access to health care services, criminal sanctions against the parent or guardian were not the best option as this will result in social conflicts or conflicts between parents/guardians and minors. It was also observed that some vulnerable children, orphans, child-headed families and children whose parents are in the diaspora would find it difficult to access health care services in the absence of a parent or guardian. Therefore, it was recommended that the clause should explicitly spell out that children can also access health care services unaccompanied.  Other submissions recommended that the Ministry of Health and Child Care together with the Civil Society Organisations must implement awareness campaign programmes for the parents and guardians on the right to health and the importance of ensuring that children gain access to health services, in some instances without the consent of the parent or guardian. Further submissions proposed that the Clause should also allow other duty bearers the ability to take children to health care facilities to access treatment for example, Doctors, Social Workers, Psychologists, Police Officers, Church leaders, Neighbours, and Teachers. It was also submitted that criminal sanctions should be extended to religious and traditional leaders that discourage or prevent their congregants and people within their jurisdiction from accessing health services.

8E-Obligation to Provide Discharge Report

This clause places an obligation on health institutions to provide a patient with a discharge report at the time of discharge from the health institution. This insertion received both positive and negative reviews from the public. Submissions in support of this Clause argued that reports are important as they contain information that can be used for future reference. Submissions to the contrary argued that this Clause would compromise the privacy of the patient in the event that they lose this report or the report is accessed by people who may use the information for malicious purposes.

It was recommended, that there was an urgent need to develop a database accessible by healthcare service providers that will contain information on the medical history of the patient.  

8F-Health Service for Experimental or Research Purposes

This clause provides for informed consent of the patients for participation in medical research and experiments. The majority of the submissions received pointed out that this Clause was progressive as it gave the patient the power to decide whether or not to participate in research and experiments. However, it was proposed that there be an insertion of a new sub-clause that obliges a health practitioner to disclose the experimental treatment that enables the patient to make an informed decision.  The proposed new sub-clause would read as follows. “A health practitioner shall disclose to the patient the nature of the experimental treatment and anticipated side effects including any relevant medical information that will enable the patient to make an

informed decision whether to take the treatment or not.”

8G & H- Confidentiality and Establishment of Control Measures

The Clauses enjoin healthcare service providers to ensure confidentiality of patient’s health records and establish control measures which include a storage facility and a system to prevent unauthorised access to patient’s records. Clause 8G outlines the types of offences in relation to the protection of health records and the fine thereof. The majority of the submissions viewed the Clauses as progressive as they ensured the protection of patient’s records and information. It was further recommended that Government had to establish a digital platform accessible with patient’s medical records and accessible by the healthcare service providers. On the contrary, it was submitted that the clause was contradictory to clause 8(e) which mandates the service providers to provide the patients with a discharge report. This contradiction would leave a grey area in the event that the patient’s medical records are made public or the records are lost.

8I-Complaints Procedure

This clause mandates every health institution to establish a complaints procedure. Majority of the submissions agreed to the proposed clause and further recommended that the procedure should go beyond the health facility up to the district, provincial and national levels as the cases may require in order to ensure transparency in handling complaints. The submissions also implored that the established complaints procedure should ensure that patients’ grievances are addressed and there is an efficient feedback mechanism. The submissions further suggested that the Clause indicate the timeframe within which the complaints are expected to be fully addressed and proposed 30 days to be a reasonable period to allow for thorough investigations.

8J-Duties of Patients

This clause spells out the duties of patients and the majority of the submissions stated that it was progressive.

8K-Rights of Health Care Personnel

The majority of the submissions observed that this clause was progressive as it protects the rights of the health care personnel. However, others felt that more can be done to improve the provision of the Clause by adding a sub-clause that speaks to the protection of health care workers from civil and legal liability in the provision of services to children as long as the provision of such a service uses technical medical practice and due process and procedures.

Clause 6 - Provision of Incentives

The Clause provides for provision of incentives to persons who intend to build health institution in marginalised areas. The submissions received showed that this was a positive development in the drive towards universal health coverage in Zimbabwe. However, it was submitted that there is need to define the term “marginalised areas” and to clearly spell out the incentives that may accrue to those who intend to establish health facilities in the remote areas to minimise chances of arbitrage and corruption. It was also submitted that Government should remove barriers that delay the processes of securing permits to establish health facilities. 

Clause 7-Prohibition against Discrimination

The Clause amends section 12 of the principal Act by extending the grounds of nondiscrimination and it was positively received by the participants. However, some stakeholders stated that Section 56 (3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe lists a wide range of categories of persons and personalities and characteristics and makes use of “every person.” They observed that while some may argue that every person means that everybody’s right to get fair access to health care has been protected, including categories that are not specified in the non-exhaustive Section 56(3) list, there remains groups that have a strong stake in especially STIs prevalence, transmission and control, who already suffer untold discrimination and stigma in society, including in the health care sector. They asserted that the key national HIV and AIDS management documents acknowledge the impact includes Key Populations, among them Sex Workers and the LGBTI community have, in HIV and AIDS management and rightfully includes them. Thus, to ensure that there is clear expression of intent and clearing of any doubts in the health services, in this bill, they recommended recitation of Section 56 (3) broader list by the insertion of sexual orientation and gender identity on the list.

Clause 8-Prohibition against Refusal of Emergency Treatment

The Clause prohibits private healthcare institutions from refusing to offer health services to a patient requiring emergency medical treatment that may threaten that person’s life.  Apart from stipulating that private health institutions should stabilise a patient for not less than 48 hrs before transferring him/her to public health institutions, the clause further states that “The Minister and the concerned private health institution may conclude or facilitate the conclusion of an agreement, for the recovery of all or portion of costs of the treatment…” Although the majority of the submissions were in support of the clause, observing that it was a positive step towards ensuring health for all, those who represented the private health institutions strongly objected. They argued that prescribing minimum hours for patient stabilisation is problematic as this does not take long in most cases and 48hrs may become expensive for the patient if he/she is asked to pay their own bill or even the State. They also argued that the reimbursement model where government reimburses for services rendered is not working effectively, for example, local authorities are owed huge sums of money by government. Private institutions are businesses, and cannot afford to have funds locked up for inordinate periods. It was further submitted that it was imperative that the criteria on who qualifies to be assisted by Government and who may not, be clearly spelt out to ensure efficiency in the delivery of the emergency treatment.

Another area of concern to the private health players was on sub-clause 3 which they alleged that essentially the amendment ropes in the private sector to fulfil the State’s constitutional obligation to offer healthcare to citizens. They called for a limitation clause to be placed with respect to the duty of private institutions to provide services as contained in the Bill, stating that the duty should be subject to availability of resources as contained in its memorandum with respect to government’s obligation to provide healthcare services. The submissions also stated that Government seems to be delegating its responsibility to the private health sector but is making registration restrictive for the private health sector to thrive. Private health sector should complement government not the other way round. Thus, it was recommended that the Government should strengthen and capacitate the public health service facilities to be able to provide emergency treatment services. Other submissions recommended for the deletion of the whole of this Clause as it seems to be geared towards destroying the private health system.

Clause 9 - Fees and Charges Payable at Private Health Institutions

This clause amends section 13 of the Principal Act by repealing the whole section which provided for the fees payable at health institutions. The Minister should concern himself with the revision of charges in public institutions and in the institutions that government gives grants to. i.e. mission hospitals and local government health facilities.

Clause 10 - Amendment of Section 16

Clause 10 amends Section 16 of the principal Act by empowering the Minister to make regulations in respect of: 

  • The health care to be afforded to children, persons with chronic illnesses, persons over the age of seventy years and veterans of the War of Liberation and persons with disabilities. The concerns raised by the general public where as follows:
    • Access to Healthcare Services for Children—should remove age restrictions and provide the service free of charge for children under the age of 18 years.
    • Access to Healthcare Services for the Elderly—the age limit should be reduced from 70 years to between 55years and 65 years considering the low life expectancy in Zimbabwe which is currently hovering around 62 years.
    • Access to Healthcare Services for the War Veterans—this should include widows, widowers and children of the war veterans and should be free of charge.
    • Access to Healthcare Services for Persons with Disabilities—should be free of charge.
    • Healthcare should also be afforded to people with neurological illness, street kids and orphans.
    • Above all, the Government must finance the public health sector to ensure that these institutions are adequately resourced in terms of human resources, equipment, infrastructure, medicines and other critical consumables in order to protect, uphold and defend the right to health for the above-mentioned groups of people.
  • the health care packages which shall be available at Government primary health care centres, district health institutions, general health institutions, provincial health institutions, and central health institutions for specialist services. Majority of the participants agreed with the proposed clause, observing that the State should ensure that healthcare service providers must be proficient in sign language to ensure that no one is left behind.
  • For the purposes of any consultation with the public, the establishment and composition of a national consultative health forum. This clause was viewed as a positive development as it was reflective of the Government’s agenda of devolving decision making to the people through consultative platforms and forums.

OTHER SUBMISSIONS

It was submitted that the Bill should also provide for access to free testing/screening and treatment of terminal illnesses including cancer. It was further submitted that the Bill should provide for free medical services by affected vulnerable persons, especially in situations of disasters and pandemics including children under the age of 18 years. 

COMMITTEE OBSERVATIONS

The Committee observed that:

The penalties given to parents or guardians who deny or prevent a child from receiving any health service which is in the best interest of the child concerned in the Children’s Amendment Bill are different from those given for the same offence in the Medical Services Amendment Bill. For ease of reference, the two Bills provides as follows:

Children’s Amendment Bill

Section 9 (“Medical examination and treatment of children and young persons”) of the principal Act is amended by the insertion after subsection (12) of the following subsection— “(13) Any parent or guardian who, without reasonable cause, denies medical treatment or access to medical treatment to a child in their care who is in need of such treatment, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 or imprisonment for period not exceeding six months or to both such fine or such imprisonment.”. 

Medical Services Amendment Bill

Clause 5: 8D Health services to children 

It shall be unlawful for any parent or guardian of a child to prevent a child from receiving any health service which is in the best interests of the child concerned, or to withhold consent for any health service in contravention of section 60(3) of the Constitution. (2) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 8 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

The phrase “leaving no one behind” on clause 7 was not explicitly clear.

There seem to be no financial strategy to support what the Bill provides for and this may negatively affect the smooth implementation of what the Bill envisages to achieve.

Persons who are suffering from chronic illnesses such as epilepsy, cancer, heart disease diabetes, hypertension among others have been finding it difficult to access health care services, especially those accessing facilities in the rural and some urban areas that may not have the necessary testing equipment and the requisite drugs for patients. 

COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS

The Committee recommended as follows:

There is therefore, need to harmonise the penalties that are stipulated in the Children’s Amendment Bill and Medical Services Amendment Bill.

On Clause 7 of the Bill, there is need for more clarity on the phrase “leaving no one   behind” to avoid any doubt.

There is need for a financial strategy to support what the Bill seeks to achieve

The following phrase should be provided for on Clause 9 of the Bill; “Access to free healthcare services for all those who suffer from chronic illnesses.”

On Clause 8 of the Bill, the Ministry of Health and Child Care and medical practitioners should craft a policy that clearly stipulates the magnitude and execution of critical emergency services.

          CONCLUSION

In the view of the Committee, the provisions of the Medical Services Amendment Bill [H.B 1, 2022] were generally accepted by the public and the law perceived as progressive in improving access to health care services in the country in order to attain the universal health coverage. However, gaps were noted, some of them have already been mentioned in the report, while others will be addressed by the proposed amendments listed below.

PROPOSED AMMENDMENTS TO THE MEDICAL SERVICES AMENDMENT BILL [H.B 1, 2022]

CLAUSE 5 New Part Inserted in Cap. 15:13

The principal Act is amended by the insertion after Part II of the following Part—

“PART IIA

GENERAL STANDARDS AND PRACTICES APPLICABLE IN HEALTH CARE DELIVERY

 8B (3)

For the purposes of this section, “informed consent” means consent for the provision of a specified health service given by a person who has been informed in terms of section 8B, and in the opinion of the health care service provider primarily responsible for the care of the patient, having the requisite capacity to do so. 

8B (4) (new provisions proposed)

         (a)  For the purposes of this Act, the following principles apply

  • A person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity.
  • A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help them to do so have been taken without success.
  • A person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision merely because they make an unwise decision.
  • An act done, or decision made, under this Act for or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done or made in their best interests.
  • Before the act is done, or the decision is made, regard must be had to whether the purpose for which it is needed can be as effectively achieved in a way that is less restrictive of the person’s rights and freedom of action.

8B (5) (new provisions proposed)

  • For the purposes of this Act, a person lacks capacity in relation to a matter if at the material time they are unable to make a decision for themselves in relation to the matter because of an impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain.
  • It does not matter whether the impairment or disturbance is permanent or temporary.
  • A lack of capacity cannot be established merely by reference to—
    • a person’s age or appearance, or
    • a condition of their, or an aspect of their behaviour, which might lead others to make unjustified assumptions about their capacity.
  •          In any proceedings under this Act or any other enactment, any question whether a person lacks capacity within the meaning of this Act must be decided on a balance of probabilities.

8B (5) (new provisions proposed)

  • For the purposes of this Act, a person is unable to make a decision for themselves if they are unable—
    • to understand the information relevant to the decision,
    • to retain that information,
    • to use or weigh that information as part of the process of making the decision, or
    • to communicate their decision (whether by talking, using sign language or any other means).
  • A person is not to be regarded as unable to understand the information relevant to a decision if they are able to understand an explanation of it given to them in a way that is appropriate to their circumstances (using simple language, visual aids or any other means).
  • The fact that a person is able to retain the information relevant to a decision for a short period only does not prevent them from being regarded as able to make the decision.
  • The information relevant to a decision includes information about the reasonably foreseeable consequences of— (i) deciding one way or another, or (ii) failing to make the decision.

8B (6) new provision proposed

  • For the purposes of this Act, in determining what is in a person’s best interests, the person making the determination must not make it merely on the basis of—
    • the person’s nationality, race, colour, tribe, place of birth, ethnic or social origin, age, language, class, religious belief, political affiliation, opinion, custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, pregnancy, disability, or economic or social status, or whether they are born in or out of wedlock or appearance, or
    • a condition of their, or an aspect of their behaviour, which might lead others to make unjustified assumptions about what might be in their best interests.
  • The person making the determination must consider all the relevant circumstances and, in particular, take the following steps. They must consider—
  • whether it is likely that the person will at some time have capacity in relation to the matter in question, and
  • if it appears likely that s/he will, when that is likely to be.
  • whether it will be detrimental to their health if the service provision is delayed until they have the capacity in relation to the matter in question
  • They must, so far as reasonably practicable, permit and encourage the person to participate, or to improve their ability to participate, as fully as possible in any act done for them and any decision affecting them.
  • Where the determination relates to life-sustaining treatment they must not, in considering whether the treatment is in the best interests of the person concerned, be motivated by a desire to bring about their death.
  • They must consider, so far as is reasonably ascertainable—
  • the person’s past and present wishes and feelings (and, in particular, any relevant written statement made by them when they had capacity),
  • the beliefs and values that would be likely to influence their decision if they had capacity, and
  • the other factors that they would be likely to consider if they were able to do so.
  • They must take into account, if it is practicable and appropriate to consult them, the views of—
    • any parent, close relative, sibling, friend or independent advocate of the person concerned.
    • anyone named by the person as someone to be consulted on the matter in question or on matters of that kind,
    •         anyone engaged in caring for the person or interested in his welfare,
    •          any person appointed for the person by the court, as to what would be in the person’s best interests provided that medical services must not be denied to any person merely on account of not having made the consultations upon the patient being advised of the need to so consult.
  • For the purposes of this Act, an Independent Advocate includes the health care provider primarily responsible for the patient’s treatment, the head of any health institution concerned, or other person to whom that authority has been granted by the health institution concerned.

8K (3) new provisions proposed)

No health care service provider who acts reasonably, in good faith and without culpable ignorance or negligence shall be held liable for any act done in terms of this Act.

8L: Act to Prevail (new clause and provisions proposed)

This Act shall prevail over any other enactment inconsistent with it except in so far as the determination of the best interests of the child is concerned.

Amendment of section 35 of the Public Health Act [Chapter 15:17] (new clause and provisions proposed).

                    Section 35 of the Public Health Act [Chapter 15:17] is amended as follows: - 

  • By the deletion of the word “legal” in subsection 1
  • By the deletion of subsection 4. I thank you.

HON. DR. LABODE: Thank you very much Madam Speaker Ma’am. The issue of access to health services for adolescence has become like a broken record in which the Ministry of Health seems to be helpless. They cannot help it. We know that our teenagers are indulging in drugs and drugs lead to you losing your capacity to control your body. This is where you hear vuzu parties, multiple partner sex. I am saying we hear of vuzu parties where young people  of ages  13 to 14 are having multiple client sex, being infected and getting pregnant.  It is almost like we live in two worlds.  The Ministry of Health and Child Care lives in some heaven of some kind and we live with these things every day.  We read them, they are in the press and yet we fail to do one thing, that is to handle Section 35 of the Public Health Act which restricts the child, a 15-year old, from going to get health services - yet we know because of the life they are leading, they end up with STIs and you expect a parent to take a child to the hospital and say my child has been infected with an STI, please attend to him.

It is impossible.  That child will not seek medical attention because there is no way they will say it.  I would kill my child if the child came to me and said he or she has an STI.  I would be emotional, but  we have the Public Health Act with that restriction.  We bring medical amendment Bills with the same restriction.  So why are you wasting people’s time?  You know we hide behind that we are Christians.  Read your Ten Commandments.  Lying is a sin.  It is as good as killing.  Divorcing is a sin, konke elikwenzayo is a sin and you kill also.  Fornication is a sin.  Go and read your Ten Commandments and then you know that really we are being unfair on our children.  Do we want to have more street kids, because this is what is happening?

When we went to the public hearing, the children demanded that they want to go and seek health services at hospitals by themselves because when they indulge in sexual activities, they do not ask for permission from their parents.  They also want to receive free treatment because they do not have money because they do not go to work but are still school children and they now know that they have a problem.

Hon. Labode having been code-switching

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Hon. Dr. Labode, please may you use one language.

HON. DR. LABODE:  Sorry Madam Speaker.  Please allow me to say something in Shona.  I will debate in English but I have to tell the Minister here – vana vedu vajamuka.  They are just out of control.  If you do not understand that, then you should not be a Minister of Health and Child Care.  It is really sad.

If you look at the numbers, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education said 10 000 pupils did not come back because of teenage pregnancies.  What are we waiting for?  What exactly do you want?  You want them to come and demonstrate at Kaguvi Building so that you see that the children are getting pregnant?  When we went for public hearings on this Bill in Nyathi, we were received by over 50 teenage pregnant girls who came to meet us. 

That is a rural constituency.  It is not even Bulawayo or Harare.  So Minister, we really need to be proactive.  These things will cut the costs for health.  You talk of going to India to get drugs.  First of all, deal with these small things at home.  Dealing with the simple tinkering of Section 35 of the Public Health would save a lot of trouble.  Now there is a booming black market for contraceptives coming from Zambia and South Africa.  You know why, because our children are not allowed to go to the hospital. So I the dealer now see an opportunity.  I go to Zambia and bring contraceptives.  I am known, I am just selling for US$1.  In the meantime, there is a Minister who is sitting somewhere saying I am in control.  You are not in control.  No, you cannot be in control.  Vana vajamuka, just remember that.

Also the Ministry of Health and Child Care has opted to say a service provider should use their discretion.  As I am talking, for example the Family Planning Council, when they move around with their mobile clinic, which is good, they actually attend to 15 year olds because the assumption is if you are coming to the Family Planning Council mobile team, it means you are having sex.  So they provide a service and this is now a true story Madam Speaker.  A 15-year old was given a jadelle.  When she got home, she forgot to put on a long sleeved top and the mother saw a little bandage.  So she thought let me share with my mother what I have done.  She says mother, I saw a Zimbabwe Family Planning Council mobile team and I went there and they put Jadelle.  The mother runs to the father, the father beat the girl up.  The following morning, they went to the Zimbabwe Family Planning Council offices and said if you do not remove the Jadelle which you have put on my child, I shall sue you. 

That is where we are talking of protection of the health worker because the law does not protect the health workers.  As long as the law says this is wrong, it means if someone can find money, we can actually take these people to court everyday because it is happening every day.  Then the Zimbabwe Family Planning Council had to remove the Jadelle and after removing it, we followed the child and she is now pregnant and she is now 16.  Now she is eligible for family planning because she is pregnant.  In Zimbabwe, as long as you have not gotten pregnant, you have no right, but if you get pregnant, you have the right to family planning, the right to go to school for free, right to do this and that which means we are promoting child pregnancy.  Literally, that is what we are doing.

I will now move away from that issue.  Clause 8, which talks about prohibition against refusal of emergency treatment, Minister, the people who are in the private sector are in business.  They are not NGOs.  So if you arrive at an institution and you cannot pay, you will not be taken because the emergency care is very expensive.  It is drip, it is blood – all these things are costly. 

Minister, I was involved in a head on accident 10km before Kwekwe.  I thank God I had a cut on my arm only.  I was taken by ambulance to a private institution.  The nurse came to the ambulance.  They did not take me in with a stretcher.  She came to the ambulance and wanted to know my medical aid.  I then said to her it is PSMAS.  She then said no, we do not take PSMAS.  I could have paid but I knew I was not really severely injured so I said it is okay, I will go to Kwekwe hospital and Kwekwe hospital gave me a very good service.  I am trying to tell you that the private sector is there for business, they are not NGOs.  So do not include them in your plans especially these plans of dishing out things for free.

Also Minister, please forget this thing of saying the Minister will be in charge or control of the fees paid to private hospitals or private doctors. You cannot control those.  Those again are in business.  Let us make sure that our own health services - I know I am going to sound like a broken record with Kagame because I was sent there to learn, when I went to Rwanda.  More people actually go to the public institutions because public institutions are not fancy, they do not have leather chairs but they have the service, the drugs and the equipment.  You heal come out and go home.  That is what we should do.  Let us not try and impinge on the people who have set up their nice things and you say Mater Dei, you cannot charge US$100 you must charge US$10.  That will not happen, let us forget about that.

When we went out, Madam Speaker, chronic patients cried out and said they need treatment but we know their treatment is monthly and it is expensive.  I am diabetic and hypertensive, so I know what I am talking about.  A lot of these drugs, the basic ones are quite cheap.  If we were to order them and make packages for them to ensure that every chronic patient that is diabetic, suffers from hypertension, epilepsy, and renal problems get these things for free; we should make an effort because people are dying in a country where we have diamonds, gold and we have this and that.

Madam Speaker, I am urging the Minister, we do not want you to come back and say there is nothing we can do about it because we are a Christian nation.  No, you are not a Christian nation.  Most of you if we want to say out your sins, you will not like it.  Thank you very much.       

          (v)+HON. L. SIBANDA: Thank you Madam Speaker.  The President of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Hon. Mnangagwa, has said in his mantra “nyika inovakwa nevene vayo” “Ilizwe lakhiwa ngabanikazi balo” meaning a county is built by its own people.  There is no-one who can say children should abort or that children should bear their own children. A child should go to the hospital on her/his own to get help, be it she wants tablets to prevent pregnancy.  Madam Speaker Ma’am, what more the street kids, do you not see that these children now are getting pregnant because the Minister is saying children should not go on their own to the hospital?  If we say children should not go to hospital on their own - how many children, what are we saying?  Some of them are now going for backyard abortion and dying and some of them, their wombs are getting damaged.

          I remember the Hon. Minister, VP Chiwenga, he came to this august House and said that he was going to come up with a Bill that was to going to see to it that young girls do not get pregnant.  Like what we are seeing now, young girls are getting pregnant.  If children need services without their parents they should get those services because this is what the children were saying.  It does not matter what disease they are suffering from because if they do not get the services, they will die. It would be difficult for them to approach their parents to tell them what they are suffering from. They should be allowed to get those services without their parents because some of the parents are out in the diaspora.

          *HON. PETER MOYO: Thank you Hon. Speaker.  I would like to add a few words to this debate.  My main contribution is with regards to children as they suffer a lot in this country, because in trying to figure out how to assist them,, we go against God.  The reason why we seem to be lost is because there is no Ministry in this country that does not deal with issues to do with children.  All ministries deal with children’s issues.  We have the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, and Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.  It is all mixed up, just mixed up with everything - salt, sugar, milk, it is all mixed up.  We need to have one Ministry that solely looks into children’s issues because if all ministries just mix up those issues, that is the reason why we now have them abusing drugs - that whole generation is lost.

          The doctor spoke about the Bible; there is a whole generation that was abandoned by God in the Bible.  It was left to extinction by God so that another generation comes up.  This generation is not going to be wiped out by God, but we are doing it ourselves.  The reason is, there is no Ministry that specifically deals with children’s issues. 

So my request is, all these laws should be taken away from all the various ministries and come up with one law which is placed under one Ministry to deal with children’s issues.  In the SADC region, that is what they have done.  There is a law that deals with children only but here in this country we have many ministries that speak about children’s issues.  So, this is my humble request that we take this issue seriously and have just one dedicated Ministry to deal with children’s issues.  This is why I stood up.  I thank you.

          *HON. MATSUNGA:   Thank you Mr. Speaker for awarding me this opportunity to add my voice on the issue of children’s rights. Mr. Speaker Sir, I am troubled with issues that affect youths, especially drug abuse.  Many youths do not have a bright future because of drug and substance abuse. Most of them indulge in early sexual activities under the influence of drugs without proper protection. These children later seek medical attention at health facilities but they fail to access these services because there is need for a parent or guardian. This is a problem we are facing in different areas where we come from.  Mr. Speaker Sir, where I come from, young children are infected with sexually transmitted diseases under the influence of drugs. May we enact a law which helps these kids? The supreme law of the land, which is the Constitution of Zimbabwe talks about children’s rights, children must have access to healthcare.

In addition Mr. Speaker Sir, there is another issue where children are prevented by their parents or guardians to access health services. Most of them are sick but they are not being taken to health facilities.  They are allowed to access health services later but the damage would have already been done. I suggest that this report must include that parents who deny their children access to health services must be arrested.

There is another issue of adults who indulge in sexual activities with the children and some of the children do not know much about sexual activities. I suggest that we must have a Ministry which focuses on children alone. The current Ministry is looking at a lot of things and it does not focus on children alone. Children are affected because there are people who are selling and giving them drugs.

It seems as if security at our ports of entry is very weak because drugs are smuggled into the country through these ports. Right now, even the way the youths speak has changed and their health has deteriorated due to drugs and substance abuse.  If you go to Harare Hospital, there is a ward that has boys and girls who use broncleer who now have problems with their internal organs.  If you visit the psychiatric hospital, there are youths with mental illnesses due to the use of drugs.  My plea is that there should be a Ministry that deals with children’s issues.  It will be the responsibility of the Ministry to stop trafficking of drugs and to ensure that there are rehabilitation centres that assist these youths.  Mostly, the children reside in high density areas and cannot afford to visit rehabilitation centres that charge services in foreign currency. 

The report should also touch on the issue of localised rehabilitation centres where youths can access services at low prices.  It is important that our children should be able to get help.  It is pertinent that in all areas where we come from, there must be psychiatric nurses who deal with children’s issues. Sometimes these children are not affected by drugs alone.  Children need other forms of assistance but they might lack parental or guardian care. The children might end up falling pregnant because of lack of help. Most people do not care much about children who seem to be mentally disturbed. It is important to have health facilities where the children are examined to see if they are mentally fit. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. 

          *HON. MUCHENJE:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir, for awarding me this opportunity to add my voice on the Bill which is being debated in this House on the issue of protection of children. Looking at the issue of drug abuse by children in this country, this august House is not doing its job properly.  We are the ones who enact laws and represent the people. I say this Mr. Speaker Sir, because the issue of drugs has been discussed in this House for many years. This House has not come out with anything binding or stopping drug abuse. We are the ones who must come out with a law to ensure that people who are involved in drug business are arrested. This law is the one which will be used against all people who are involved in drug activities. Looking at other countries, they have imposed death sentence to people who are involved in drugs.  People who take drugs are greatly affected to the extent that some of them will die. The drugs affect health for both young people and the elderly. It should be clear that when we are talking of children, we are not referring to those who are above 20 years of age. Due to our economic situation, parents can financially support a 35-year old but in terms of decision making, this person graduated from being a child to an adult at 18 years.  As a parent, I still refer to this person as a child but he or she is an adult.  Laws which are applied to adults must be applied on them. 

Hon. Speaker Sir, I want to talk about children who are 18 years and below. These are children that need protection.  We must fight for these children. Those who are above 18 years must face the full wrath of the law. Parliament must come up with a law that protects children.  Another thing is that drugs do not come outside the country only. Some of the drugs are manufactured here in the country. Where I come from, people who sell drugs say they buy them from Mbare. This means in Mbare, people are manufacturing drugs, they then pack and put labels like whisky or any other brand.

 One of these days, I was travelling to Buhera to lay flowers on the grave of the late President Morgan Tsvangirayi.  May his soul rest in peace. I came across people who were selling drugs which they said treat constipation. One of the passengers bought this drug around Boka area and forgot it in my car. The mood of this person changed and I asked him but he denied it.  I asked my husband to taste the contents of the drug which was left in my car and he said it was a drug because he started to feel dizzy. The drugs are sold in the streets by elderly people like us.

          Mr. Speaker Sir, I am saying this august House must investigate and see how the drugs are transported and manufactured and we can get to the source of the drugs. Our police force in Zimbabwe is very efficient.  If they fail to apprehend perpetrators, it is either they are reluctant or they are prevented by something to do their work. We do have a police force which knows how to do their work. We have Hon. Members of Parliament and Ministers who are very clever and talented. We cannot say we failed to contain drug abuse. It is only that we are reluctant. Let us fight for our children.  Children as young as grade 7 are now taking drugs. These drugs are affecting them mentally and physically because we are failing to defend their rights.  Where are we failing as the representatives of the people?  We should enact a law that protects the rights of the children.  We must have a Ministry that deals with children’s issues.  I thank you Hon. Speaker for the opportunity that you have given me.  I thank you.

          HON. MOLOKELA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir, for this opportunity to debate the report from the Joint Committees with regard to the Medical Services Amendment Bill.  I am a member of the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and I was part of the public hearings and consultations with regard to this proposed Amendment Bill.  First and foremost, I need to share my excitement with regards to this Bill.  It is one of those pieces of legislation that I have personally supported in this Parliament and there have been few such Bills that I have personally supported.  I see this Bill as a progressive Bill and even the public hearings, we got a lot of feedback towards this Bill.  It was very progressive and supportive.

          As you might be aware, the Bill is in line with the right to health which is protected by the Constitution of this country in terms of Section 76 which gives every Zimbabwean, in line with the 2013 Constitution, the right to healthcare and obligates the Government of Zimbabwe to provide quality healthcare for the people of Zimbabwe.  This Bill speaks directly to the fulfillment of this constitutional provision.  Added to that, it also speaks to achieving Sustainable Goal Number 3 which seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote well being at all ages.  In line with the sustainable development goals that are supposed to be met by 2030, this Bill speaks directly to that.  This Bill also comes at a time when the quality of public healthcare in Zimbabwe is at an old time law.  We have never experienced this kind of situation that we have today.

          This Bill comes at a time when our public health services is at an old time law.  It is important that as we consider this Bill, we do not lose sight of the fact that what is happening in our public healthcare facilities is something that is not desirable and it is far away from the expectation of Section 76 of our national Constitution.  As I speak this afternoon, the majority of Zimbabweans cannot access quality healthcare.  As I speak this afternoon, there are no medicines in most of our public healthcare facilities.  There are archaic, anachronistic diagnostic machines in most of our public institutions and in some health institutions, they are not there at all.  If you are a cancer patient and you are on dialysis, it is a death sentence for this country.  As we meet this afternoon as I debate this report, I need to underscore the fact that we are disappointing our millions of citizens as a country and there is need for drastic change in terms of how we approach public healthcare.

          To that end, I think I need to emphasise that this Bill will not add value to improving quality public healthcare services in this country, unless and until we keep our commitment towards funding for health.  I am happy that the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development is in the House and I take this opportunity to reaffirm Zimbabwe’s commitments towards the Abuja declaration of 2001 where the Government of Zimbabwe was one of the many African heads of State and Governments that were represented in Nigeria.  That said enough is enough, it is time for Africa to fund its healthcare and Zimbabwe committed itself to fund healthcare.  What we have seen 21 years later is a failure by the very same Zimbabwean Government.

          I know there are occasions in this august House, parliamentarians tried desperately to separate both the so called first republic and the second republic.  I want to say today and in no uncertain terms that both the so called first and the current second republic have failed dismally to fulfill the commitments of the Abuja declaration. They have failed dismally to prioritise funding for healthcare.  What we see at Parirenyatwa, Mpilo, UBH and all across our public healthcare facilities;  the main reason is because the Government of Zimbabwe is failing to fund healthcare.  The Minister of Finance is here and I want him to take it to Cabinet that you are failing the people of Zimbabwe.  You must fund healthcare; at least 15% of our gross domestic product in terms of our budgeting should go towards public healthcare.

This is not something that is being forced on you with a pistol on your head; this is something that you committed to yourself as a Government that you are going to fund 15% of your budget.  You are not doing that and please, I appeal to you, let us fund public healthcare.  Let me go directly also to the Bill.  There is a very important Clause in the Bill that I wanted to underscore, I know those who have spoken before me have emphasised some of the points so I just need to highlight that point.  It is in regards to the way we approach provision of healthcare services from the prospective of the professional healthcare workers. 

This report has made a very important recommendation that might change the way we approach this issue, how we make decision especially in cases that do not need a lot of consultation that needs an urgent decision. If you look at what we have proposed in this report, a new provision, Section 8 (K) (III) that says, “no health care service provider who acts reasonably in good faith and without culpable ignorance or negligence shall be held liable for any Act done in terms of this Act”.  It is a very important Clause because what it does is that it gives a little bit or more flexibility to health professionals who sometimes are caught between a rock and a hard place and they have to make a decision.  The process of getting consent and the process of getting personal approval can be very long and protracted.  Why are lives at stake? Sometimes it is about people who are below age and so on.

If you are professional, your most important demand is to serve life.  This Clause is very important because it allows our healthcare professionals when it is really needed and essential to have that flexibility to make decision and hopefully serve lives. They may not necessarily do so but at least they have a chance. Why is it very important?  Under the current legislation, it is possible for someone to sue the healthcare professional for making a decision which in that particular time they thought could be in the best interest of the patient and to follow all the due process and legal procedure, life would have been lost.  It is important that we give flexibility that in a reasonably justified circumstance, those who have been trained to save lives are given that leeway.  Yes, it is open to abuse but we cannot put a blanket and say you are not allowed to make a decision.  The current form of legislation is the one that is prohibitive and inhibitive, so this proposal is one of the key progressive proposals in this Bill.  It is going to help especially when we know that our health care system is not really trusted by the public. 

          For your own information, our health care seeking behaviour has gone down over the years.  Most people do not go to hospitals until when it is too late and by the time they arrive there, they will be in a very desperate situation.  This clause is very important because it is going to allow the health care professionals to respond urgently to the situation and hopefully save life.  I want to encourage everyone to support this proposal and I want to urge everyone to endorse it and make sure that it passes through as proposed. 

          Last but not least, I wanted to talk about the right to universal health coverage.  As a country, in line with Section 76 of our Constitution, I want us to use laws such as the Medical Services Bill to fulfill our obligation to improve access to health care, to fulfill the obligations of Universal Health Coverage.  As a country, we are not doing enough.   It is important that once this Bill is passed, once its terms and conditions are implemented, we use it to improve our ability to achieve Universal Health Coverage.  The aspiration is by 2030 and I know that it is 2023; it is not really possible but we are not talking about perfection here, we are talking about making sure that at least there is some quality health care in our public facilities.

          I want to emphasise that in terms of Universal Health Coverage, there is a direct link with this Bill that we are discussing.  It is important that we pass this Bill and make sure that we do everything in our power to improve access to health care.  Related to Universal Health Coverage – and I am happy that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development is here,  I do not understand why in Zimbabwe we are not taking advantage of two concepts that other countries are taking advantage of in terms of improving health care.  The first concept, if you go for example to Zambia in Lusaka, they have a university teaching hospital.  Where they have students who are at school – sorry I noticed that the Deputy Minister of Health is here.  Sorry Hon. Deputy Minister.   I think this point is very important. 

          Mr. Speaker Sir, we have the University of Zimbabwe School, we have Midlands State University and NUST, they have medical schools.   There is a concept of university teaching hospitals where you actually use students, professors, academics to provide health care at a very subsidised expense.  As long as you improve funding for those institutions for higher learning, then they are able to provide quality health care service to the public at a subsidized rate and allow us as a country to improve in terms of medical research.  It is an opportunity that Zimbabwe has not taken care of.

          Mr. Speaker Sir, the Medical School that we have is one of the oldest in the continent, the one in Harare, Godfrey Huggins Medical School.  I wish it could be a public sort of broadened into a university teaching hospital in such a way that it is directly related to the strategy around improving public health care.  I want to challenge you, to sit down with the institutions for higher learning that provide training for health care professionals so that you use this concept because it can subsidize funding for health and improve quality to health care.

          The second thing, I am surprised that Zimbabwe does not have private-public partnerships. Our referral hospitals should actually partner with the private sector so that within those institutions like UBH, Mpilo and Parirenyatwa, there should be private sections which subsidize the public section where the latest equipment, the latest diagnostics and so on are there and people pay at a commercial rate.  If you go to South Africa today, they have got what you call private wards where those who have got more money are able to pay at a public institution.  For example, there is Pretoria Hospital; if you go there, they have got two sections, it is a public government hospital but there are parts where the private sector has invested.

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. KHUMALO):  Hon. Member, you are left with five minutes.

HON. MOLOKELA-TSIYE:  Okay, I am about to finish.  I am saying instead of waiting for the entire budget to fund Mpilo or Parirenyatwa, there is opportunity to allow – because a lot of Zimbabweans are paying a lot of money for private health care, a lot of Zimbabweans are going to Zambia, South Africa, Botswana and Malawi to access private health care which we can easily access here in Parirenyatwa.  Our wards are deserted, they are obsolete, they are empty, why do you not sit down with the private sector and invest and use the profits from the private sector to subsidize the public section?  If you are not sure you can do benchmarking visits to other countries like South Africa and see how you can learn from them and make sure that you commercialise health care.  Even in these public institutions, they do not need to wait for the budget. All we need is the private sector to invest and the Ministry of Finance to do seed funding or capital investment in a short term and then they become self-sustenance.  

Mr. Speaker, it is not difficult, can you imagine the amount that our senior politicians, including the Hon. Minister of Health when he is not feeling well, he has to go to India, South Africa, China.  It is important that we have those world class facilities here in Zimbabwe so that even our senior business people, our senior politicians, when they are not feeling well they do not need to travel internationally.  We lose a lot of money as a country by going internationally for health care. 

Mr. Speaker, if you go to South Africa, how many politicians get treatment internationally but in Zimbabwe it is normal, using tax payers’ money for that matter.  Why do you not use the same tax payers’ money we are paying our senior politicians to go to Singapore, to go to India to create that commercial section so that they can go there when they are not feeling well where there will be world class facilities?  This is my request to the Hon. Deputy Minister of Health and the Hon. Deputy Minister of Finance.  Please, please go and see what is at Parirenyatwa.  It is a museum; something needs to be done, go and see the abandonment that is there.  Thank you so much Mr. Speaker. 

HON. MARKHAM: Thank you Hon. Speaker.  I just want to buttress what my fellow Members of Parliament have said.  I will not go and dwell on that, they have covered the Bill quite extensively.  I would like to however expand on the last point which Hon. Molekela brought up on the issue of public-private partnerships.  With the health service, this is a major issue where I see the public coming and I will state in my constituency and it is not me, it is my residents.  The supply of medicines or the funding of medicines can be done by corporates in a lot of the urban areas.  This would relieve whatever limited funds that the Ministry of Finance is being given to use on drugs elsewhere.  The issue of public-private partnership does not have to be complicated. We can push the corporated and the residents to look after where they can have their clinics.  I fully understand that 90% probably cannot but if we take 10% of them looking after, the turnover in those clinics will increase but it will leave the Government to look after the procurement of medicines for the rest of the country. 

The issue is the modality to get it done; it is very complicated and I have discussed it with the Deputy Minister. He has been forthright in us to move up and step up again and do it but it should be adopted and I think the Bill should look at it. 

Hon. Dr. Labode mentioned the main problems we have in the country now if we start; the reality is, we cannot give universal health care, we cannot do it, we do not have the money and our infrastructure is not in good shape.  What we need is to identify where we have the most problems and it is in the diseases as mentioned by Dr. Labode.  Supply the medicines, supply the equipment, initially to look after that. That is where we have got major pressure of people leaving us. So the issues of the two go together. I just want to add my final support – I am in total support to anyone who walks into a family planning clinic because they are not just walking in to have a look but they need help. The earlier you intervene in any problem, the less the problem is. When it comes to young children, they must have the ability to access, and coupled with what Hon. Molekela said, we must protect our health worker who supplies that for the under age. I thank you.

          *(v) HON. DUTIRO: I would like to add my debate on this debate in relation to healthcare. Rural hospitals are mostly built by traditional leaders such as village heads. Some wards have two hospitals and that shows their willingness to do so but the problem is, if we build such hospitals, it must function properly and it must also have medicines. People seek services when medication is available, so we must find a way of ensuring that medication is available. On the Abuja Declaration, it means Government has to put in the requisite resources. It is true that our people earn low wages or salaries but sometimes they earn substantive amounts in a year.

          As to how they are capable of contributing to funeral policies, I am sure they cannot fail to do the same for health insurance like medical aid. We also see a lot of remittances from the diaspora, which means those in the diaspora also wish their parents can access medical care. So if we can have such a facility where they can contribute in small figures, I think that will also reduce the burden on Government. If we look at referral hospitals like Parirenyatwa, that burden could have been reduced if people can access medical services and healthcare facilities. So many people these days no longer seek medication at healthcare facilities but prefer faith healers.

          I suggest that Government makes a programme where people can pay or subscribe for medical healthcare. For example, where I come from, we have tobacco growers. We cannot say those people are poor but they should be allowed to pay for their medical insurance during the time they earn their money. That way they can access health services together with their families after subscribing for the whole year. That is all I wanted to say. Thank you.

          THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF HEALTH AND CHILD CARE (HON. DR. MANGWIRO): Mr. Speaker Sir, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to respond to the Hon. Members who have contributed to the debate on this Bill. I should say their contributions were quite important. The main thrust is on age and drugs. I am a doctor myself and I have seen children being treated every day. I have not had an opportunity to see a child being sent away because they did not come with their parents. If we are going to relegate our responsibility to say children must look after themselves as parents, I think we are lost.

          We cannot say children, because they are now drinking and drugs are all over, then children can go and look after themselves. As a doctor, if a child is nine or ten years old, I need someone to be telling and supporting that child and if the child comes alone and is critically sick, I call in a colleague. We look at the child and treat the child. We never turn away children. If a child is sick, a person who is sick, no matter where you are, it is a criminal offence to send away a very sick person. You always call a colleague as a witness and you assist each other and exchange ideas.

          I go to private institutions that they are in business and their main focus is money. I tend to say if we say private practitioners and institutions should focus on money only and not on health, it is a dangerous precedence because you have an accident ten metres away from a private institution, you are bleeding and you are unconscious. It will be difficult for you to decide to say my medical aid is here and they wait and you bleed to death while they watch you. It is a criminal offence.

          If a person is in emergency, we all know an emergency. Of course, if you go with a scratch, no-one will attend to you but a person who is unconsciously bleeding and has got air in the chest and is failing to breathe, anyone must take action, even along the highway. A medical practitioner who is real must serve anywhere. The idea is to save lives. Private institutions must make their money but the essence of this Bill is to save a person’s life, everybody has got a right to life. If we forget that and say the focus is money, we are lost.

I go to the other topic of drugs.  Yes, our children are getting drugs, but they are getting this from us the parents.  Those children cannot cross the border to go and get those drugs.  They are being brought by the same people here in this Parliament, the adults.  I would like to say to the Honourable Members, we must be more responsible.  We need to look after our children.  We need to deal with the source of the problem. We cannot say an adult is allowed to abuse a child because he is drunk.  We must be more responsible.

I remember the Vice President saying we must deal with the perpetrators of these crimes.  We know who has raped this child and we keep quiet because it is a relative.  We need to say if a child is drunk, you have no right. It is just like for example your mother is drunk and you rape her.  That is wrong.  When a child is on drugs, no matter what it is, it is important that they get taken for treatment, but it is not right to say children can be made pregnant by someone because they are drunk.  As parents, we must be more responsible.  We can say our children are a finished generation but we must look into ourselves and say what kind of parents are we who have created this generation.

Hon. Moyo went on to emphasise on a Ministry to deal specifically with children and be very specific.  I think it is very important that we really tackle these children’s problems head on like you said.  Then Hon. Matsunga, again it is drugs, treatment and contraceptives.  What are we saying?  Are we saying we let loose our children to say go and have sex every time you want.  No, the idea is we need to reign in on our children.  What kind of a parent would allow a 12-year old child to say mother can I go and buy condoms and you say please go and buy them?  Next time the same child will come and say mother, I am getting married to Honourable so and so who is 75 years old.  Will you accept that? No.

So when a child is pregnant, let us attack the source of the problem and let us not burden the children with our problems.  What kind of a parent would say my child got pregnant so she must have an abortion and let loose the old man who perpetrated that crime?  We need to look after our children.  We cannot be responsible by saying a 10-year old child should be given contraceptives because next time she will say I want to have sex with your husband, mother.  What will you say because you have allowed her?  I have the Jadelle - these children are on drugs - saying mother, let us exchange beds.  You go and sleep in my room and I will sleep with father.

So we need to be more responsible and be proper parents.  Let us not get excited to say a child must just walk in and say today I want to have sex.  They will walk in here and pick you – a 10-year old boy will say mother, let us go and have sex.  So we need to be parents, we need to be responsible.

She also mentioned that we must deal with drug dealers drastically because they are the ones bringing these problems.  She really hit the nail on the head to say if we do not attack the source of the problem, we will waste time arguing and all that.  I also agree very much that we must have community psychiatric centres.  As Government, we have already said old bars and post offices should be converted into these areas.  You saw the Vice President opening one in Gweru.  They are in many places.  So we need to have those things there, but let us attack the source of the problem.

Hon. Chifamba also said we must enact laws as Parliament.  As Parliament, let us not relegate our duties and burden the child whom we are supposed to protect.  Let us enact laws that protect children.  I think this must be done urgently because if we do not enact the laws in this Parliament, who do we expect to take the responsibility?  We cannot say a 15-year old will then decide.  These are children.  That is why we said they cannot even vote before 18 because we need to be deciding and helping them and if this Parliament does it, you will find that things will change because right now, the perpetrators of those crimes and drug dealers are having a nice time in heaven because they know nothing happens to them and we are busy fighting children.

Yes, but the source of the problem must be attacked and I want to agree with her 100% to say, let us enact laws that deal with the perpetrators of these problems that are made in Zimbabwe that we know.  We even know where the drugs are made and we just sit and wait and say they are being made in Mbare.  So we need to enact laws that allow us to curb this problem.  Drugs are being made here.  We know who is making them.  We know who is distributing them.  Go to schools and you are told teacher so and so is the distributor of these drugs and children are drowsy and they are not doing anything and we leave the teacher to continue.  So let us be responsible as Zimbabweans.

Police must protect and they must be empowered to protect the children.  Someone said the police are very good and if they are not something is wrong. So if as Parliament we empower them to enforce what we have empowered them, these things will come to an end.  There are countries where you know that if you hold something that is illegal, you are in big trouble.  Here now someone was saying a man was drinking in her car and got drunk and he continued to say it was medicine for his abdomen and this is wrong and this person gets away with murder.

Hon. Molokela says this is a progressive Bill because as a practitioner, you can see that someone is dying.  Hemoglobin - we measure the amount of blood in milligrams or whatever. The normal one for women should be above 13.  For men it can go up to 16, but it can be as low as 2 and someone will say to you because of my religion, you cannot give me blood.  Do something.  The only solution is to give you blood, but you say to me I cannot accept that.  If I do not do something, that person will die and relatives will come and say doctor, our relative died because you did not do anything.  So I think if we protect health practitioners, they will be able to do things.  Even the children who come with abortion material in their uterus or vagina we can look after them better because a doctor will say for me to be able to save this child is to stop the bleeding and they know how to do it.

So I want to agree very much with that one to say that the Ministry of Health and Child Care should be funded, it is the bottom line.  That people contribute more to their death than their health is a point.  If we really say a person comes into hospital, pays US$1 or US$2, by the end of the day, a hospital would have collected maybe US$2 000 which can buy a lot of medicine.  So we need to have the Ministry of Health and Child Care funded because we definitely know what to do, we definitely know what we want and we definitely know how to save lives, but if the funding is low, it is difficult for us to be able to do anything.

The SDGs by 2030 will be difficult to achieve, but I think we also need to have a paradigm shift to think that is it more important for people to stand at your funeral saying good bye when you are dead rather than you saying good bye to others when you are still alive.  So I think it is very important for us as Parliament to also encourage people to change our thinking.

          I have talked about the Universal Health Coverage.  Definitely, we need funding like what was said by Hon. Members.  About medical school, Hon. Molokela, it is important that Parirenyatwa and Gomo have got university lecturers and most students are taught at Parirenyatwa, including nursing students but this may not be very visible because the services, if there is no funding, it is difficult.  We definitely appreciate that this can be increased; with four medical schools we can have a big outreach, like you suggested to make our health facilities world class.

          The issue of PPPs, our policy is that we invite those who want to go into PPPs and we are open.  Parirenyatwa has got private wards.  Most of our hospitals have got private wards where people go for private services but we definitely want you as Parliamentarians to encourage most of our corporates to get involved in the making of good health facilities.  This would definitely go very far in making our health facilities good because if you have a corporate and you get sick and the health facilities are not good, you may not have the opportunity to invest in other countries other than your own country.  So let us encourage PPPs and as a Ministry, we wait for those who want to come; they are welcome and we can say please join Parirenyatwa, go to Kadoma Hospital, Gokwe Hospital, etcetera.

          There is also mention by Hon. Dube about traditional healers that people end up going to traditional healers.  Yesterday, I was talking about traditional healers.  We now have a council that will help traditional healers.  We make sure they also are able to screen patients properly.  As Government, we are going to offer them training on basic ways of handling patients.  We expect them to have blood pressure monitoring machines, temperature monitoring machines and to check people’s sugar and be able to differentiate to say this I can manage, this I cannot manage, then they refer to the next level if they are not able to deal with it.  We will be registering each practitioner, even if you are a n’anga, mudzimu, dreamer or a pastor, bishop or evangelist, we expect you to have a licence and we want to licence your place of practice and give you a practice number.  If you do not have that number you are liable to two years.  Parliament here did that Bill and it is very nice that we are able to take charge.  So patients will be protected by the pretenders or those who are genuine, fine but we are saying this is important Hon. Dube about traditional healers. 

Most of the things were very similar and I want to thank Hon. Members who have supported the Bill and for the suggestions and we definitely want to encourage everyone to support the Bill and that we continue with it because it actually gets us much closer to international medical practice. 

          HON. R. R. NYATHI: I move that the debate do now adjourn.

          HON. TEKESHE: I second.

          Motion put and agreed to.

          Debate to resume: Tuesday, 28th February, 2023.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

          HON. R.R. NYATHI: Hon. Speaker, I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 1 to 13 be stood over until the rest of the Orders of the Day have been disposed of. 

          HON. TEKESHE: I second.

          Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

REPORT OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE ON NON-COMPLIANCE TO THE SUBMISSION OF FINANCIAL STATEMENTS TO THE AUDITOR GENERAL

              HON. CHINYANGANYA: Thank you Hon. Speaker.  I would like to present the report of the Public Accounts Committee on non-compliance with regards to the submission of financial statements to the Auditor General by some local authorities.  The Public Accounts Committee is mandated by Standing Order Number 17 in that ‘There must be a Committee of Public Accounts, for the examination of the sums granted by Parliament to meet the public expenditure and of such other accounts laid before Parliament as the committee may think  fit.’

INTRODUCTION

  • Section 119 (3) of the Constitution states that all institutions and

agencies of the State and Government at every level are accountable to Parliament.

  • Section 35 (6) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) stipulates that-

Every accounting officer of a Ministry shall submit financial statements within sixty days of the end of the financial year to the Auditor-General for audit.

1.3 In terms of Rural District Council Act, Chapter 20.13, section 137, Rural District Councils compile financial accounts that are to be audited and submit them to the auditor representing the Auditor General for auditing. After the audit has been done and certified by the council, it will then be submitted to the Auditor General. 

 1.4   In executing its mandate, the Committee noted that some local authorities did not submit financial statements for audit to the Auditor General. The Committee then resolved to invite for oral evidence, those local authorities that contravened Section 35 (6) of the Public Finance Management Act.

2.0    OBJECTIVES OF THE ENQUIRY

 

The key objectives of the inquiry were to:

  •      Ascertain the reasons for failing to honour section 35 (6) of the Public Finance Management

Act (PFMA) which stipulates that 

Every accounting officer of a Ministry shall—

  •     keep or cause to be kept proper records of account; and
  • submit financial statements within sixty days of the end of the financial year to-
    •           the Auditor-General for audit; and
    •      the Accountant-General for consolidation.
  • Establish the dates of submission of accounts in arrears by respective local authorities.
  • Propose the way forward to avoid repeat of the violation of the PFMA.

 3.0   METHODOLOGY

This report is based on the oral evidence that the Committee held with sixteen local authorities listed in the table below. The Committee also requested further written submissions on issues arising from the oral evidence. The Committee then analyzed the written submissions. 

 4.0   BACKGROUND

At the time of enquiry, the following local authorities had outstanding financial accounts as shown in the table below:

Table 2: SUMMARY STATUS OF ACCOUNTS NOT YET SUBMITTED FOR AUDIT IN THE 2019 AG REPORT – CURRENT STATUS AS AT JULY 30, 2021

NAME                       OF                                                                    LOCAL ACCOUNTS NOT STATUS AS AT JULY 27,

AUTHORITY                                                                  SUBMITTED FOR 2021

AUDIT AS AT 16

JANUARY 2021

 

CITY COUNCILS

 

1.

Gweru City Council 

2017-2019 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

MUNICIPAL COUNCILS

 

2.

Gwanda Municipality 

2018 & 2019 

2018-2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

TOWN COUNCILS

 

3.

Beitbridge Town Council 

 

2018 & 2019 

 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

 

LOCAL BOARDS

 

 

 

4.

Hwange Local Board 

 

2016-2018 

 

2017 – 2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

 

RURAL DISTRICT COUNCILS

 

 

 

5.

      Bubi         Rural         District

Council 

 

 

2018 & 2019 

 

2018 – 2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

6.

      Buhera       Rural

Council 

 

District

2018 & 2019 

 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

7.

Bulilima Rural

Council 

 

District

2018 & 2019 

 

2018 & 2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

8.

Chimanimani

District Council 

 

Rural

2018 & 2019 

 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

9.

Chipinge Rural

Council 

 

District

2018 & 2019 

 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

10

. Guruve Rural

Council 

 

District

2018 & 2019 

 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

11

. Gutu             Rural

Council 

 

District

2018 & 2019 

 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit

 

12

. Hwange Rural

Council 

 

District

2016-2019 

 

2018 – 2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

13

. Insiza            Rural

Council 

 

District

2018 & 2019 

 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit

 

14

. Makonde Rural

Council 

 

District

2016-2019 

 

2018 -2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

15

. Masvingo Rural Council 

 

District

2018 & 2019 

 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

16

. Matobo Rural

Council 

 

District

2018 & 2019 

 

2019 Accounts not yet submitted for audit.

 

5.0    FINDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE

 

 5.1   Gutu Rural District Council

This local authority had a transition of its accounting system from Pastel Partner to Sage Evolution. This transition delayed the production of the 2019 financial statements. It was impossible to produce the 2020 financial statements whilst the 2019 financial statements were still being processed. To that effect, the 2020 financial statements were also delayed. 

Gutu Rural District Council indicated that they will submit the 2019 financial statements by 10 September 2021 and the 2020 financial statements by 15 October 2021.

          5.2    Beitbridge Rural District Council

The council officials informed the Committee that the upgrading of the council’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, that is the Pastel Evolution from Version 8 to Version 11 caused much of the delay.  There were teething problems that came with the upgrade of the system and the software vendor took a considerable time to resolve the challenges. 

          However, he promised that the council will submit the 2019 financial statements by 6 October 2021 and the 2020 financial statements by 31 January 2022.

          5.3    Gwanda Municipality

The CEO for Gwanda Municipality explained that the journal ledger was not properly set up as it should have been and this contributed to the failure to quickly reconcile and finalise financial statements.  For example, the loans and creditors modules were not functional. They contacted the system vendor, Excess Solutions, and they were not able to solve them timeously and that kept on adding to the delays.

          Gwanda Municipality indicated that they will submit the 2018 and 2019 financial statements by 30 October 2021 and the 2020 financial statements by 4 February 2022.

          5.4    Bubi Rural District Council

Mr. Mlilo CEO for Bubi Rural District Council explained that the Treasurer resigned and they had to recruit another one who was approved in February 2021. This resulted in the queries taking long to be resolved. 

          The council bought new accounting software package in 2016 which was used for producing 2017 final accounts. The staff had challenges with the new software and council eventually hired a qualified system administrator in 2018. This contributed to the delays in finalising financial accounts for 2018. 

          The council promised that the 2018 and 2019 financial statements will be submitted by 24 December 2021 and the 2020 financial statements by March 2022.

 5.5   Chimanimani Rural District Council

Mr. Deure, the CEO for Chimanimani Rural District Council indicated that council financial statements were ready for submission but they had no auditing firm to submit the accounts to. Auditors present the audited financial accounts to a council Audit Committee there to a full council meeting where they are signed by the council Chairman and CEO. After that they are submitted to the Auditor General. He explained that council was up to date on submission of accounts up to 2017 when Chimanimani Rural District Council accounts were being done by KLM Chartered Accountants as offered by the Auditor General’s Office.  Then the Auditor General appointed Gattstar Accountants to audit the 2018 financial statements.

          At the time of receiving evidence, the auditors were yet to show up for the audit. The council did a lot of correspondences with the Auditor General’s Office which then cancelled the contract for Gattstar.

          The process of cancelling the contract for Gattstar protracted and the Auditor General only appointed to audit the 2018 accounts in December 2020.  Gattstar Chartered Accountants failed to travel to Chimanimani after roads were destroyed by Cyclone Idai.

          The council indicated that the 2020 financial statements will be submitted by 30 September 2021.

5.6 Makonde Rural District Council

The officials from Makonde Rural District Council informed the Committee that the predecessor CEO left the council and the Internal Auditor for the council was fired leaving the council operating without these two critical officers for some time. This led to the delay in the finalisation of financial accounts. The council is still on manual system and to that effect, it is time consuming when preparing financial accounts. However, the council will be on Computerised Accounting System by 31 December 2021. The council promised to submit the 2019 financial statements by 10 September 2021.

5.7    Gweru City

The council officials informed the Committee that its accounting software had problems. The council was not producing financial statements online and they had to extract the trial balance from the system and produce the financial statements on Excel. The council then hired an IT expert to help resolve the problem and there is hope that in future the system will be running smoothly.

          The council promised to submit the 2019 financial statements by 30 September 2021 and 2010 financial statements by 30 November 2021.

          5.8    Matobo Rural District Council

The officials from Matobo Rural District Council informed the Committee that the auditing firm, Gattstar Chartered Accountants was supposed to audit the 2017 and 2018 financial accounts. They audited the 2017 and failed to submit the final accounts. The council then contacted the office of the Auditor General and were advised that Gattstar’s services were cancelled by the Auditor General. This delayed the submission of financial accounts. A new Audit firm was appointed, Creston Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants in 2020. However, the council promised to submit the 2020 financial statements by 30 September 2021.

          5.9    Chipinge Rural District Council

The council officials informed the Committee that from the year 2017 going backwards, UDICORP was the auditor for the firm. The systems audit done by the Ministry of Local Government resulted in the council seeking the replacement of UDICORP as auditors. The systems audit said that UDICORP had stayed long (9 years). For the year 2018, PNA Chartered Accountants was appointed to audit the council.

          The appointment letter took long to come and by the time PNA wanted to come for the audits, Chipinge was hit by Cyclone Idai. COVID-19 lockdowns also affected the operations of PNA which in turn affected movements.

          High staff turnover at the council resulted in the council losing two of its accountants to Manicaland State University. The recruitment process took long. This in turn resulted in more delays in the submission of accounts. The council promised to submit the 2020 financial statements by 22 October 2021.

          5.10 Guruve Rural District Council

The Committee was informed that the council’s Assistant Accountant passed on in 2017. The Treasury was fired for fraud in 2018. The replacement process for the two took long. The Accountant was replaced in 2018 and the Treasurer in 2019. In 2019, the council embarked on a process to migrate from manual system to a computerized system, and this, coupled with shortage of personnel, resulted in a huge backlog. The council promised to submit the 2019 financial statements by 30 September 2021 and 2020 financial statements by 17 December 2021. 

 5.11           Hwange Local Board

The council officials informed the Committee that it had an incompetent Treasurer whom it had to part ways with. In addition, the council has indicated that it has funding challenges. They explained that approximately five million RTGS dollars was needed as audit fees to audit the council in arrears by five years. However, the council is engaging the Auditor General and is working on a road map for addressing the issue and is dedicated to clear its due accounts as soon as possible. The council promised to submit the 2018 and 2019 financial accounts by 30 December 2021. The financial statements for 2020 will be submitted by 28 of February 2022. The 2021 financial statements will be submitted by 29 April 2022.

          5.12 Insiza Rural District Council

The Committee was informed that the accounting system which was used by council experienced technical problems. The Pastel Version 14 crushed and the data was recovered later in January 2021. The council committed itself to change the accounting system to Sage Evolution which interacts well with other software such as payroll and housing management.  The council workers were trained in the use of Sage Evolution. The council also recruited more workers to speed up data capturing process. The council promised to submit the 2020 financial statements by 30 November 2021 and 2019 financial statements by 31 March 2022. 

          5.13 Hwange Rural District Council

The council officials informed the Committee that it had to appoint a substantive Treasurer following a lengthy court row with the former Treasurer. The council’s migration from a manual system to a computerized system also led to delays in the production of financial statements.  

The council promised to submit the due accounts as follows:

  •      2016 financial statements by 14 October 2021
  •      2017 financial statements by 12 November 2021
  •       2018 financial statements by 31 December 2021
  •       2019 financial statements by 7 February 2022
  •      2020 financial statements by 31 March 2022

          5.14 Buhera Rural District Council

The Committee was informed that in 2018, the council was audited by Gattstar. When they intended to audit 2019 financial accounts, lockdown restrictions were imposed. The auditors were affected because they were not categorised as essential service. After the lockdown, Gattstar was supposed to start auditing in September 2020 but the contract was terminated by the Auditor General. MNK, the new auditors for the council were appointed in December 2020.

          The auditors were working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions. Some of the delays were also caused by lack of smooth transfer from Gattstar to MNK which took three months. When the new auditors requested some information from Gattstar, it was not forthcoming, as a result, there were some delays in carrying out their work.

          The council indicated that the 2019 financial statements will be submitted by the 9th of September 2021. The 2020 financial statements will be submitted by the 20th of October 2021. The 2021 financial statements will be submitted by the 29th of April 2022. 

          5.15 Masvingo Rural District Council

Masvingo Rural District Council officials informed the Committee that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in skeleton staff coming to work, and this led to delays in the preparation of accounts. The council auditors cited lockdowns as a contributory factor in delaying auditing the council’s accounts.

 Masvingo Rural District Council indicated that they will submit the 2019 financial statements will be submitted by the 3rd  of September 2021 and the 2020 financial accounts will be submitted by 30th  of September 2021.

 6.0      COMMITTEE’S OBSERVATIONS

The Committee observed that failure to comply with section 35 (6) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) with regards to submitting audited accounts to the Auditor General was caused by the following:

  1. Failure by some local authorities to back up their accounting data which resulted in delays in case of systems failure.
  2. Lack of sound accounting packages like PASTEL and SAGE in some local authorities.
  3. High staff turnover in some local authorities resulted in inadequacy of staff. This was caused by poor uncompetitive remuneration leading to skills flight and brain drain.
  4. Incompetent Treasurers as in the case of former Hwange Rural District Council Treasurer who was not executing his duties well.
  5. Delays by Auditor General in appointing auditors in time resulted in some councils having to wait for a period of time before being assigned an auditing firm.
  6. COVID restrictions hampered progress. The lockdown restrictions of March 2020 made it difficult for entities to fully function.
  7. Some local authorities are still using manual accounting system which are not as efficient as computerised system.

  7.0 RECOMMENDATIONS

The Committee makes the following recommendations:

  1. The auditing firms and local authorities should embrace the use of technology and must adapt to conduct audits online in line with COVID restrictions by 30 June 2023.
  2. The Auditor General should conduct due diligence before appointing the accounting and auditing firms to carry out the work on its behalf as some were failing to carry out the assigned audits on time or at all. These appointments must be done by the 8th February of each year as to allow the local authorities to comply with the Public Finance Management Act and the Constitution.
  3. The local authorities, in consultation with the Ministry of Local Government, must procure current accounting software by 30 June 2023.
  4. ZACC must carry out systems compliance audits across all local authorities by 31 July 2023.
  5. Local authorities must train their staff on use of newly acquired accounting packages by 31 April 2023.
  6. The local authorities should with immediate effect, put in place backup systems for information.

 8.0   CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the Committee is very concerned with the local authorities’ trend of late submission of financial accounts to the Auditor General. The Committee trusts that the local authorities shall react with urgency to the findings of this report, especially that they comply with the dates of submission they presented to the company. I thank you.

HON. R. R.NYATHI: Mr. Speaker, I move that the debate do now adjourn.

HON. TEKESE: I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume: Tuesday 28th February, 2023.

On the motion of HON. R. R. NYATHI, seconded by HON. TEKESHE, the House adjourned at Twenty-One Minutes past Five o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 28th February 2023.

 

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