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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 22 SEPTEMBER 2022 VOL 48 NO 78
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Thursday, 22nd September, 2022
The National Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two o’clock p.m.
(THE HON. SPEAKER in the Chair)
THE HON. SPEAKER: Order, Order! I have a list of those with points of national interest.
HON. MARKHAM: Thank you Hon. Speaker and good afternoon. My point of national interest is on the issues in the House. The first issue I would like to draw to your attention which I am sure you are aware of is that, Hon. Mliswa has mentioned it and I have counted 40 times, the attendance of Ministers at Questions without Notice. Nothing has changed in four years. I wonder when it becomes a dereliction of duty when Ministers do not attend. I am not going to hope on that.
Three months ago, the Ministry of Health and Child Care was asked to explain or give a statement on my request by the Deputy Speaker on why suppliers for the Ministry of Health had not been paid, some of them since October last year, particularly when their draw down at the supplementary budget stage was only about 25%. Is it the problem with the allocation from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development or it is the problem with the allocation or the request from the Ministry of Health and Child Care? We want to know as a House because the health services are an integral part of the country.
The next issue is also the same thing with the Ministry of Home Affairs. You ruled...
THE HON. SPEAKER: Order, one issue of national interest.
HON. MARKHAM: They are all in the national interest pertaining to...
THE HON. SPEAKER: Order, one. You are proceeding to a third issue now according to your deliberation and they are different issues.
HON. MARKHAM: Thank you Mr. Speaker. My problem is the dereliction of duty by the Ministers. I am giving examples to back up for the nation what we asked here which is being ignored by the Ministers and that is all I am saying. So I will list them just to give you an example of what is being ignored. We were promised a statement by the Ministry of Health and we were promised a statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs on I.D. registration. The Ministry of Home Affairs as you ruled, no one must be left behind with the registration of national identity documents. In fact he has been to our area and nothing has happened. The Road Repair Fund Programme, we asked for an update of roads because every Member of Parliament knows what is going on but nothing happened. We asked for a detailed performance from the Minister of Finance on the Special Drawing Rights but nothing has happened. We asked again about the ZAMCO list from the Ministry of Finance but nothing happened.
My point of national interest is: when does it become a dereliction of duty either from the Ministry or from this House or the Chief Whip who is asked to pass on the messages? I am at a loss on what to do or what we are doing. I thank you.
THE HON. SPEAKER: I will check on progress because some of the issues you raise, especially from Ministry of Finance, you were responded to directly. The Minister said he will not give details because of the issue of contractual agreement. Do you recall that?
HON. MARKHAM: The issue that the Minister was referring to on confidentiality was to the double settlement deed with farmers. That one I accepted but ZAMCO, he promised to give us and it is in the Hansard that he would release the list to us and we have not received it. He has not asked me to come and get it. I do not know what to do. I do not know how we can acquire debt when we do not know what it is for.
THE HON. SPEAKER: No, no, you cannot say you do not know what to do. You are surrendering. Do not surrender. You are a soldier, you soldier on. Can I have that list given to the Clerk and I want to give you an undertaking that I will personally write to the concerned Ministers with a deadline accordingly.
HON. NDEBELE: On that list, kindly add the Minister of Agriculture. I have waited for his statement for three years. Yes, three years, the desk may kindly assist as well. I had requested for a Ministerial Statement by way of a list of farms that his predecessor and himself have redistributed, province by province. I have been to these offices, they work so hard, they have phoned him and he has ignored us totally.
*HON. HAMAUSWA: I would like to thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I stood up on an issue of national importance. I stood up on the issue before that the registration blitz done in the past should be repeated. Why I am saying that is because we are going towards the end of mobile registration exercise which was done by the Registrar General’s Office. Those who managed to get their IDs did not get the opportunity to do voter registration. Regarding the 2023 polls, my request is that Government should return the voter registration exercise to all districts so that everyone is registered to vote. I thank you.
THE HON. SPEAKER: We have noted that. It is a noble plea.
*HON. MADZIMURE: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. My issue pertains to the state of our prisons, the population of prisoners in our prisons and also the issue that it takes a long time for prisoners to go to the courts. Some go for a long time without getting bail. Section 52 of the Constitution talks about the rights of prisoners who are allowed to go to the courts as soon as possible unless if there are issues which prohibit them from doing so.
The Criminal Procedure Evidence Act says that every individual has the right to be given bail before going for their final judgment. This allows the depopulation of prisons but the challenge is that there are some prisoners who are continuously denied bail despite the fact that they are not a flight risk. We also have prisoners who are incarcerated who include Members of Parliament of this august House who have 100 days in prison without being given bail. So I just want the Minister of Justice to come and speak regarding that issue. We have Hon. Sikhala and Hon Sithole who are still incarcerated – [HON MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.]–
THE HON. SPEAKER: Hon Hwende, you are a senior Member of Parliament. I need to respond to him. Hon. Madzimure, yesterday was question time and the Leader of Government business who is the Minister of Justice was here. Why did you not ask your question?
HON. MADZIMURE: I did not get the opportunity.
THE HON. SPEAKER: You must give your Chief Whip your name so that you pose a question during Question Time.
HON. HWENDE: I am saying they must allow you to explain to us because this is a very important matter to us. We have two Members of Parliament who are suffering in jail and they are making noise – [HON. TOGAREPI: Unoda kuenda kujeri here?]. He is telling me that I must go to jail. What is that? He is the Government Chief Whip.
THE HON. SPEAKER: I was responding to Hon. Madzimure. I said yesterday the Minister of Justice was here and he could have asked the question and normally we go by the list. If your question is still burning, approach Hon. Mutseyami so that you are at the top of the list for next week.
*HON. MUNENGAMI: Thank you Hon. Speaker. I stand up with a burning issue which I believe if it is not resolved, might end up in loss of lives. Every year in Glen View Area 8, at the Home Industries where a lot of furniture is manufactured, there are fire outbreaks. Nothing has been done so far by Government to intervene so that fires are prevented. As I am speaking, 80% of the complex was razed down. We are grateful that there was no loss of life but Glen View Area 8 residents and other people who work in that area are not able to work at the moment.
I spoke to the Minister of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to come and inspect Glen View Area 8 before we have a national disaster because there is a service station next to the complex. Every year there are fire outbreaks but we do not know whether it is arson or what, but we know that there are cotton sacks, planks, wood shavings and other things which are highly flammable. If this is left unattended, one day we will end up losing lives. So my request is that the Minister of SMEs should visit that complex and other stakeholders. However, the Hon. Minister is not visiting the complex. We do not know how we can be helped in this issue. Thank you.
*THE HON. SPEAKER: Yesterday when I left this place, the Minister of Small to Medium Enterprises was in this august House. Why did you not pose that question yesterday? You should have asked her yesterday because that is a specific issue – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – Order! Hon. Member, that one who is not sitting properly, do you want to go to the other side of the House. Why are you fidgeting? Please keep quiet.
Put that issue in writing as a written question for next week because it requires some research in terms of what has been happening. You said for the last three years or so, put it down in writing, I am sure the Minister will have some investigations and respond to your written question.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. TOGAREPI: I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 1 to 12 be stood over until Order of the Day, Number 13 has been disposed of.
HON. NDEBELE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
JUDICIAL LAWS AMENDMENT BILL [H. B. 3, 2022]
Thirteenth Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on the Second Reading of the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill [H. B. 3, 2022].
Question again proposed.
HON. MATARANYIKA: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir, for giving me the opportunity to present the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Portfolio Committee’s Report on the public hearings on the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill [H. B. 3, 2022]. I will briefly give the background to the Bill.
The Portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs conducted nationwide public hearings on the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill [H. B. 3, 2022], from 10-12 August 2022. The public hearings were conducted in compliance with Section 141 of the Constitution which stipulates that Parliament must;
(a) facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes and in the processes of its Committees;
(b) ensure that the interested parties are consulted about Bills being considered by Parliament unless such consultation is inappropriate or impracticable…"
Therefore, public participation and involvement in law making processes remains a central mandate of Parliament and complies with its vision of “…people driven” Parliament.
The Committee was divided into two teams that undertook consultations in seven different venues across the country (see appendix 1).
The Committee also received written submissions from Law Society of Zimbabwe after consultations with various legal practitioners.
This report therefore summarises the inputs received from the people of Zimbabwe with regard to the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill.
Overview of the Hearings
Team A managed to reach a total of 18 people comprising of 10 (56%) being male, 8 (44%) being female. Team B managed to reach a total of 59 citizens comprising of 31 (53%) being male and 28 (47%) being female.
The aggregate reach was therefore 77 people, where 41 (53%) were male participants and 36 (47%) were female participants.
The public applauded Parliament for the efforts made in reaching them to gather their views pertaining the Bill. However, Parliament was urged to identify and use venues which are convenient for people with disabilities.
Parliament was also urged to improve its advertising mechanisms by engaging local leadership so that the message reaches every citizen.
Members of Parliament were also urged to take up the central role of sensitising the public in their respective Constituencies, on all Bills before undertaking public hearings. This will ensure that the public makes meaningful contributions to the law-making process.
Majority of the public welcomed the amendments being proposed by the Bill. However; whilst the intention of virtual court sittings appeared noble to the public, some shortcomings were observed.
According to the Law Society of Zimbabwe, the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill potentially infringes on the right to ‘access to justice’. It felt that as we move away from the COVID era, courts should be fully opened to the public instead of holding virtual hearings.
The public, further highlighted that the practice of wearing wigs by Judges must be abandoned as it is old fashioned, a practice borrowed from the UK court system which has since dropped such practice.
Specific Submissions on the Proposed Amendments
Clause 1 (Short Title of the Bill): There was no objection raised concerning the short title of the Bill.
Clause 2 (Judicial Laws to be Amended): The public applauded Parliament for the efforts being made in aligning Judicial Laws with the Constitution.
Clauses 3, 4, 7, 8, 10 &14 (Virtual Court Sittings): These clauses provide for virtual court sittings in both civil and criminal proceedings, subject to consent of the parties involved.
Lawyers who attended the hearings submitted that, virtual courts violate Section 50 (5) (e) of the Constitution which gives accused persons the right to a public trial and civil litigants the right to a public hearing. In other words, both criminal and civil trials must be held in public.
A question was then raised whether or not virtual hearings are public trials.
According to Law Society of Zimbabwe, virtual court sittings create two types of litigants. On one end those who consent and on the other, those who do not consent to it. This is potentially confusing and discriminates as to what rules apply to them and what level of service they receive.
While the public welcomed the initiative to move with technology, concerns were being raised over the complexity of the system and the grey areas being created by the Bill.
The Law Society of Zimbabwe submitted that, while introduction of virtual court sittings is a progressive development, it should be noted that the traditional physical court sittings promote transparency and judicial accountability. As such any departure from physical court sittings should be an exception rather than the norm.
It further submitted that, the Bill falls short of making provision allowing interested parties other than the litigants to have access to the virtual proceedings.
It was further highlighted that, the ability to retain control by the Court will be minimised because any party to the proceedings may choose to excuse themselves at any given time for failing technical equipment or network challenges. In such scenarios the Court cannot enforce its authority effectively.
Furthermore, it was submitted that virtual appearances will undermine the warrant system.
The public therefore recommended that:
- The Bill should clearly specify circumstances in which virtual court sittings should be used and what will happen if the parties did not agree to virtual sittings;
- There is need to improve internet access and its related infrastructure nationwide.
- Virtual Court centres be established in all districts and be accessible to the marginalised communities.
- The Bill specifies the party to incur costs of virtual sittings. It was suggested that the State should bear all the costs of virtual sittings.
- Media and members of the public have access to the virtual hearings in compliance with Section 69 of the constitution.
- The Bill should specify the medium to be used for virtual sittings, if proceedings shall be audio or visual court proceedings or in-person trials.
Clause 5 (Limitations to Jurisdiction of the High Court): This clause seeks to amend Section 13 of the High Court Act [Chapter 7:06] by inserting a proviso that prohibits the High Court from hearing any claim or case which falls within the jurisdiction of any other inferior court or tribunal, except on appeal or review.
Members of the legal profession highlighted that the Clause is violating Section 171 (a) of the Constitution which gives the High Court inherent jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters in Zimbabwe.
It was submitted that Judicial Laws have to be aligned with the Constitution to avoid technical disputes about whether particular cases can be dealt with by the High Court or whether they fall within the jurisdiction of some other court.
Clause 6 (Notice by Chief Justice): This clause is amending Section 46 (a) of the High Court Act which deals with specific division of a specialized court. The Bill will be inserting a new subparagraph allowing the Chief Justice to specify the areas under the jurisdiction of each division.
Practicing Legal practitioners highlighted that some court divisions may be more efficient than others.
It was then recommended that there be a practice direction giving delimitations on which High courts should be approached by a specific litigant.
Clause 9 (Amendments to the Labour Act): This clause amends Section 85 of the Labour Act [Chapter 28:01] by aligning the qualifications of a Labour Court Judge with Section 179 of the Constitution.
The public applauded this development as it will ensure competence among Judges.
Law Society of Zimbabwe submitted that, the amendment is a positive development that will ensure that recruitment of judges for all courts is standardised as they have the same qualifications.
Clause 11 (Messenger of the Labour Court): This clause provides for the establishment of the office of the Messenger and Deputy Messenger of the Labour Court.
The public applauded this progressive development. It was submitted that the Labour Court is a critical and competent Court within the justice delivery system. As such, it should be allowed to enforce its own decisions through this new office of the Messenger of the Labour Court
The office of the Messenger of the Labour Court will bring convenience and completeness of services rendered to court users. It was however submitted that, there should be specific rules on how the messenger of court should operate.
Clause 12: This clause is amending Sections 92 (c) and 92 (f) of the Labour Act by deletion of “President of the Labour Court” and replace with Judge, in line with the Constitution.
The public applauded this development as it will ensure competence of Judges.
Clause 15 (Special Jurisdiction for Magistrates): This clause gives every Magistrate special jurisdiction to impose sentences prescribed in Section 60 (a) of the Electricity Act and Section 38 of the Railways Act and any other Act of Parliament wherein it is expressly provided that the Magistrate shall have jurisdiction in excess of its jurisdiction.
Lawyers were of the view that this special jurisdiction should be reserved for senior magistrates with greater experience in sentencing.
Law Society of Zimbabwe further submitted that, there should be continuous professional development of Magistrates by the Judicial Service Commission to ensure that they are kept up to date on trends in sentencing as well as other fair trial rights in the Constitution.
Clauses 16 and 17: These clauses propose to alter sentencing levels for scrutiny and review provided for in Section 57 of the Magistrates Court Act.
The Bill proposes that cases will be sent to a Judge for automatic review only where a Magistrate has imposed a fine beyond level 10 or more than two years imprisonment. In the cases where a lower sentence has been imposed, it will be sent to a Regional Magistrate for scrutiny.
Some members of the public were of the view that Magistrates, despite any ranking should not be allowed to scrutinise cases of other Magistrates.
Law Society of Zimbabwe submitted that, the provision for scrutiny by regional magistrates does not necessarily provide the correct level of supervision. The justice delivery system should be geared towards fostering excellence and ‘world class justice’.
Law Society of Zimbabwe opined that, Clause 17 lowers the standard of checks and balances by the superior courts over the inferior courts. It was recommended that, the best way to resolve the challenge of work overload at the High Court is to increase the number of judges rather than compromise the quality of the accountability mechanism.
Clause 18: This clause will insert a new Section 194 (a) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act that will require remands other than initial remands and bail proceedings to be conducted virtually.
It was submitted that facilities for virtual hearings must be available and easy to access. Moreover, accused persons and prosecutors will be given the right to question witnesses and observe their reactions.
Lawyers further submitted that, this clause has to be reconciled with Section 50 (5) (e) of the Constitution which gives detained persons the right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in person before court.
Clause 19 (Sign Language Interpreters): This clause places an obligation upon the State to provide a sign language interpreter in cases involving an accused person with hearing or speech impairment or both.
Failure by the State to provide a sign language interpreter, the clause empowers to the court to release the accused person on bail or remove such person from remand.
The public applauded this clause since it will go a long way towards ensuring equal protection, access to justice and benefit of the law for persons with disabilities.
It was further submitted that, the Bill should also provide for braille and facilities for people with visual impairments, as they are equally affected by the current court mechanisms.
Clause 20 (Human Rights-oriented Terminology for People with Disabilities): This clause will remove derogatory words found in Section 246 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, like idiocy, mental disorder, malady and adopted internationally recognised terms in line with the Convention of the rights of persons with disabilities.
The public applauded the proposed amendment since it uses terms more in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008).
Additional Clause: The public recommended that the Bill should insert a new clause on fees and access to justice. It was highlighted that, the 0.01% of amount claimed by the Courts is inhibiting access to Justice.
It was submitted that Court user fees should not hinder access to justice for those without means. Therefore, there is need to charge reasonable fees.
The Committee made the following observations:
- The technical nature of the Bill did not generate enough interest among the general public; hence low turnout among the public;
- There were mixed feelings on how the virtual courts will be conducted, with the majority being concerned that it will be unfair and unjust for an accused person to be tried on a closed-circuit television or even in the comfort of his or her home especially for those remanded out of custody;
- Concerns were being raised over access to virtual court infrastructure and affordability of resources to majority of Zimbabweans and marginalised communities;
- The Bill is not clear on how to proceed in cases were parties cannot agree on the use of virtual court sittings;
- There is no clarity on the medium to be used for virtual court proceedings, whether it is by way of visual or audio or both;
- The Bill is silent on the number of participants allowed during the virtual proceedings and whether observers can also be part of the proceedings;
The Committee therefore recommend the following:
- There is need for Parliament to undertake public awareness engaging local leaders before conducting public hearings in order to enhance public participation;
- These “electronic or other means of communication” for virtual court proceedings, must be clearly specified to allow transparency and accountability and informed consent;
- The virtual court systems being put in place must give efficacy to the Bill of Rights and the same systems and institutions must facilitate the realisation of the rights enshrined in the Constitution;
- Virtual sittings must be well crafted in order to not infringe on the right to a fair and public trial, in order to foster accountability;
- Virtual proceedings must be able to accommodate multiple participants such as court staff, clerks, lawyers, the public, journalists and court interpreters;
- Lawyers and Prosecutors must also be able to have a ‘confidential link’ to consult privately with their clients using secure systems, as would happen during physical courtroom sittings;
- Virtual courts must be accessible to mobile devices such as phones to enable those without access to computers;
- Marginalized populations who are not familiar with the vast technological advances must be fully accommodated in line with the right to equality and access to justice;
- Administrative reform measures should accompany the Bill to ensure smooth court operations;
- Chamber applications can be done virtually because by their nature. However, criminal trials, bail and remand proceedings must be conducted within physical court sittings;
- Clause 6 must clarify on what the Chief Justice is being empowered to do.
The Committee noted that although there was low turnout in areas visited, pertinent issues were being raised. Members of the legal profession participated by making submissions through the Law Society of Zimbabwe and some in their individual capacity. The Committee therefore believes that passing this Bill after strong consideration of the views of the people and their recommendations will help to shape our justice delivery system, with the basic concepts of fairness that lie at the heart of the country’s procedural law. I thank you.
HON. PROF. MASHAKADA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I rise to give my views on the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill and say that you lawyers often say that justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done. The problem with this Bill is that it treats civil matters quite differently from criminal matters. The Bill says in terms of civil matters, the two parties can have consent to go for a virtual trial, but in the case of a criminal matter, this Bill does not provide for consent. Already, it is treating the civil and criminal matters in a very different manner and I think it makes justice inequitable. We need equity and fairness in the discharge and dispensing of justice.
Mr. Speaker Sir, there are a lot of practical and administrative questions which are not answered by this Bill. Imagine in a criminal trial, the presiding officer, magistrate or judge is seated in his own office, the witness seated in their own offices, the prosecutor sitting in his office, the accused sitting somewhere in that office. How does this happen? You know that in court proceedings, when an advocate is representing me, there are times when he or she has to consult me in person, whisper to me or consult me on certain issues pertaining to my case but now if this is a virtual trial, how does that happen? I think the dispensing of justice will be seriously compromised by these virtual trials.
The other challenge Mr. Speaker Sir, is that imagine the trial commences and in this case or in casu, the presiding officer decides not to admit me to bail but remands me into custody. How does this happen when this is a virtual hearing? Will there be policemen waiting at my door-step to listen to the proceedings of the virtual trial or suppose I am convicted at the end of my trial and it is virtual, how does that happen? I will just skip the border because it is a virtual trial.
So these I think are practical problems that the Executive did not correctly apply itself in coming up with this amendment Bill, but most importantly Mr. Speaker Sir, we all know that internet connectivity and internet penetration is very weak in Zimbabwe. Most areas in this country are not easily accessible via internet or mobile networks. It is very difficult even when you are in Harare. The internet is on and off and the network is on and off. So how does a fair public trial get under way under those circumstances of uncertainty in connectivity?
I think it is premature at this stage to go full blown on virtual trials in criminal cases. We should still guarantee that trials are public and they are in person, they are physical so that justice is seen to be done, is seen to be disbursed. So for these reasons Mr. Speaker Sir, I think this Bill should be withdrawn. I thank you.
HON. T. MLISWA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I think the issue which I thought needed to be looked at, there was a mention of the dressing of the judges with white hats and all that. If there is anything it exposes, it is that we are still not yet independent and I think it talks about many institutions in this country, the judiciary, Parliament itself, the way it conducts its proceedings when we are opening a Rolls Royce and all that. A Rolls Royce is a well known British vehicle but at the same time we also attack the British yet we go into their vehicles and I do not know how hypocritical that is. We say they have imposed sanctions on us, but we are driving their cars and we are a sovereign nation. So I think it is an issue that needs to be looked at in most institutions.
We have changed names of roads but we have not changed the British culture. We still wear ties and suits in Parliament. It is only me who has decided to be African and a few others. I know Hon. Markham too would like to come to this House in what he really thinks is comfortable. So even the dress code itself is British. It is something that really needs to be looked at.
COVID-19 was temporary and I see we are spending more time as a country trying to prepare for the next pandemic and we do not know what it is going to be. So if it is going to be of a temporary nature, why are we coming with permanent solutions for a temporary issue? Look at the money which is being spent. The real welfare of the people is not being looked at yet there is money for virtual courts. Do we need virtual courts?
When COVID-19 was there, measures were taken and Zimbabwe as a country and the Government must be congratulated, commended for a job well done in tackling the COVID pandemic. I think we did well as a country, but we did well because we followed what had to be followed, but COVID is gone now, still virtual. There are certain things in life that you cannot do virtual. I do not know what else they will say they will not do virtual. It is kind of confusing that conceiving of babies might even go virtual because we are just going virtual. So when is this going to stop? So to me, it is quite disturbing that we are putting all these resources for virtual processes. Like what Hon. Mashakada said, you need to consult your lawyer and not only that, the judges must also see you physically and when you are seen physically, you can tell whether one is lying or not. That physical contact is important in terms of interaction for you can be able to tell if one is calm or not. So that is part of the procedure and the process of the judge or the presiding officer arriving to a fair verdict.
So to me, I am totally against this, I do not see how it will help. What they are probably trying to say is, a civil case is just as important but the criminal case seems to be prioritised, it must be physical but the civil matters must go virtual. We have court buildings, so we might as well destroy all the infrastructure; what is the point of them being there and what purpose will they serve? To me, there is going to be judicial prudence in what we do and I do not see this being judicial prudence. In what we are trying to do, there must be justice and real justice but I do not see justice here. I see selective application of justice emanating from verdicts which are not comprehensive trial. So it is important and there is the aspect of conflict in virtual, you are in a trial and you do not know who is around me and you do not know who is giving me information and all that. It totally kills the aspect of justice of a trial.
A trial requires individuals but one can be given information by someone, one will be at home and might be getting information from other people; so how does it end up being a trial? To me, it is a no brainer. We cannot pursue this avenue for it is detrimental to a fair justice delivery system and it cannot be judicial prudence at the end of the day.
I would like to really conclude by saying that we have people who go and study civil criminal law and all that, putting in a lot of effort and all that. They must be able to enjoy their profession by going through what they would have been taught, which if anything, is more physical in terms of conducting trials and so forth. So that will be my contribution to that, I thank you.
HON. TOGAREPI: Thank you Mr. Speaker, I also want to add my voice to this important debate. It is very important that we follow what is happening around the globe that technology is changing. Now that the environment is changing, technology has come to facilitate things that would otherwise delay justice. In my view, what the Executive is trying to do is not to say we are going to have virtual trials on everything. This will only be done where one is not able to attend court but must be tried – [AN HON. MEMBER: Does it say so?] – My view is, when you are looking at COVID-19, it brought challenges but also opened our minds to say if a situation like this was to end and another situation similar to COVID-19 cropped up and some urgent trials will have to be stopped, it means someone’s rights will then be infringed. It is better than to find an avenue of facilitating a trial. I do not see any challenge in my view that we should allow this to be there but ensuring that where the possibility of having virtual trials outweighs that of a physical trial, then that should be the first option.
Should it be that you cannot go to court or your lawyer cannot go to court but you need representation and your lawyer is in Masvingo, you want to be tried; if you want your lawyer to be part of the proceedings, you should be allowed, the court must allow this. There are however challenges that will come with this change like - do we have the media to facilitate virtual trials? Do we have the technology ready to accommodate this? These are other areas that will be looked at after we have the law to ensure that when one wants to be tried, the trial must proceed and not be delayed and your rights will be protected. I thank you.
HON. BITI: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker for allowing me to add my voice to the debate on the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill which is currently before the House. My honest view is that the Bill was rushed, the Bill is premature, and the Bill is addressing a problem, a problem that we are out of. The problems being the challenges we had with COVID-19 but now that we are relaxing COVID-19, we now need to come up with a law that is comprehensive that goes beyond the immediate challenges that we had with COVID-19. What we had with COVID-19 was a situation where courts were paralysed, there were no sittings, remand was being forced and long remands were being granted, trials were suspended. So we are now trying to come up with this Bill to deal with a mischief that is no longer a mischief at the present moment.
The Bill as it stands, has got a lot of problems. The first problem is that it is unconstitutional in many respects and the Committee on Justice has pointed it out. The Constitution is very clear in Section 50 that a person is entitled to a free and fair trial by an independent impartial court. That same Constitution in Section 50, makes it very clear that the trial must be open to members of the public and particularly a criminal trial; it is so important that a criminal trial is open to the public. What is on trial is not just the accused person who is in the dock but also the conduct of the judicial officer, the conduct of the judge, of the prosecutor, the conduct of the assessors if it is a criminal trial in the High Court, the conduct of the defence lawyer too because defence lawyers sometimes go to court without preparation. Also, some of the trials, their very nature demands openness. Take for instance trials to do with corruption, serious crimes, murder for instance - relatives and members of the public want to sit in the gallery to witness the trial. This Bill says criminal trials will be virtual, but forgets the fundamental reason why the Constitution guarantees and provides that criminal trials should be open. Hon. Speaker, we cannot pass a Bill that collides with the Constitution. There is no way that we can allow criminal trials to be virtual.
The second challenge is on civil trials. Civil trials, again the Constitution says they must be open and public. Many civil trials are big commercial disputes and many civil proceedings are big matters of national interest. There is a case in the High Court right now; Sybeth Musengezi and whatever, it is a matter of public interest, so you cannot bar the public. The pre demand that two parties must consent is forgetting that members of the public, including the press have an interest in the case and the administration of justice is served by public scrutiny. It is served by Members of the public being allowed to sit in the hearing despite the consent of the two parties and the two protagonists that may be before the court.
I have no problem Mr. Speaker in Chamber Applications being made virtual because they are already in Chamber, they are already in the private precincts of a judge and the law already defines what Chamber Applications are. These are just procedural issues; they are not substantive issues. They are interlock applications, they are not substantive issues. But I want to say Mr. Speaker Sir, that as I am talking to you right now, courts are actually conducting virtual hearings in respect of Chamber Applications. Only this morning I was in one but we are experiencing serious problems even in Harare, problems of connectivity, problems of the platform that they are using not being compatible with some devices, particularly IOSC devices, apple devices, so you spend a lot of time, if a hearing is supposed to start at 1000 o’clock, I am telling you the hearing will start an hour later as both the judges and the lawyers try to find commonality on the platform of the software. Here in Harare you are having those connectivity and software challenges, what more Dotito, Tsholotsho, Gutu-Mupandawana, Zaka-Jerera, Odzani and so on. Mr. Speaker Sir, I do not think that we have sufficient infrastructure to support this progressive idea that we have virtual sittings in situations that we do not infringe the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Another issue of concern is the provision of Section 5 of the Bill. The provision says the High Court should not have jurisdiction in matters where other lower courts have got jurisdiction. So, Labour Court matters are being taken out of the High Court, Magistrate Court matters within the jurisdiction of Magistrate Courts. This is a direct infringement of the Constitution because the Constitution grants the High Court inherent jurisdiction so the High Court must have the total jurisdiction over every matter. That is important that inherent jurisdiction of the High Court must be maintained because the High Court is not a creature of statutes, the High Court is a creature of the common law so that jurisdiction must be maintained.
There are so many problems in the Judiciary which must be addressed by a Bill such as this one. Unfortunately, this Bill is not addressing those problems. I want to mention some of them which everyone in this august House knows.
The first one is the infrastructure of our courts. There are some courts where if you go and sit on a chair with your suit, you will come out naked because a nail will lacerate your trousers, unobva wakashama, vanhu voona colour yenguwo yawakapfeka mukati. So the infrastructure is a disaster Mr. Speaker. Go to some of the courts at Harare Magistrate Court, the criminal side but the waste court in Harare is the Stables at the Corner of Fourth and Samora Machel. The Magistrate Court is being conducted in a building that used to be the stables of former Rhodesian Prime Minister, who used to come to Munhumutapa house. There is no air conditioning, there are no chairs and desks. People are in a court room which if you were to wake up Mbuya Nehanda today, she would not be surprised that it is the same court room that hanged her.
We need a brand new civil court in Harare. They can use the same architecture of the building in Rotten Row but if you go to the outskirts, there is a Magistrate Court in Chivhu, it is prehistoric, it is as if that a freeze was put on that court, people literary sit on drums. These are the kind of issues that must be addressed by a Judiciary Laws Amendment Bill.
The other issue is of libraries, you have magistrates and judges that are operating without any library. You have magistrates and judges that do not have access to one single version of the Zimbabwe Law Report. So, should we not concentrate our energy in ensuring that every court has a decent library with number 1, all Zimbabwe Law Reports, all Acts of Parliament and all Statutory Instruments and most importantly there are programmes and people such as OPTMA in Zimbabwe, where for a small subscription, you have the entire world library at your finger tips whether it is South African Law Reports, England Law Reports, American Law Reports, African Law Reports, Zambian Law Reports and so forth.
Mr. Speaker, the problem you now have now is that lawyers can actually mislead, will go to court to magistrates who do not have libraries with nonexistent case authorities. I urge that the Ministry of Justice should spend a lot of time in ensuring that wherever there is a courtroom sitting, staff, the prosecutors and the lawyers have access to libraries. I have been to courts where the court does not even have a copy of the Zimbabwean Constitution, where a magistrate is using notes of criminal procedure and civil procedure that she or he was taught by Lovemore Madhuku at the University of Zimbabwe many years ago. It is happening. At most, you will find a prosecutor or a magistrate operating with a scruffy copy of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, a scruffy copy of the Criminal Codification and Reform Act and a scruffy copy of the Constitution which has been photocopied for so many times and in the margin some key cases are written State versus Kasukuwere, State versus Jabangwe or State versus Chivayo. It is not adequate.
The third thing that we need to address is the conditions of service of the Judicial officers. Judges are being paid RTGs 200 000 and magistrate are earning less than RTGs 100 000 per month. So naturally, corruption will take root. State capture will take root because justice cannot be administered if the judicial officer cannot reproduce himself or herself, and any practicing lawyer or prosecutor will tell you that judicial corruption is now rampant in Zimbabwe because of the conditions of service. Some of the magistrates do not even have vehicles to bring to work but look at the state of our roads and congestion. That magistrate is going to be given a Honda Fit by an accused person, you cannot complain Mr. Speaker.
So we need to adequately reward judicial officers starting with the Chief Justice going to the judges of the Constitutional Court and so on. Many of those judges would have forgone a profitable legal career in the private sector to go to a situation where he/she cannot even afford to pay school fees for their children. Many of them end up being farmers but you know as a farmer that if you want to make anyone poor, you give them a farm because farming is expensive. In Zimbabwe, because our farmers do not have title deeds, the land is not collateralised and they have to wait for Command Agriculture which comes in unequal circumstances. So, we are exposing judicial officers to corruption. The Judicial Services Amendment Bill needs to address that. One of the things we could do is allow them to retain the money that is paid to them in the form of fines and so forth.
Fourth is the issue of the technology infrastructure at those court rooms. There is no WiFi at the High Court and the Magistrates Courts yet we are expecting them to go virtual. Let us invest in fibre optics so that all the courts have fibre optics and can function.
Next is the condition of the law schools. Every university now has a Faculty of Law. I have no problem with that. I think lawyers are now like teachers, they are everywhere but the problem is that there is no adequate staff and material to teach those students. I take interns at my law firm and some of the kids cannot even write their names. I was asking them to say surely you ought to know this and they said for the past two years we did not learn because of COVID. So, we are releasing dangerous, ill-trained, ill-prepared, under taught and under cooked graduates onto the market.
When I went to law school myself, it was a vibrant community. We had international lectures, Law Journals that we used to write as students. We used to invite senior lawyers like Stanford Moyo to come and give us lectures at the University of Zimbabwe. That is gone and if you kill the university you have killed the profession. These are the things that the Judicial Bill should address.
I want to conclude by saying that the Bill is premature. I propose that the Minister sends a team, including Members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice on a fact-finding mission on a study of countries that are introducing virtual courts in their jurisdictions, starting with South Africa, then Kenya and developed jurisdictions. You will see models there; both on the procedure, software and hardware issues which are missing in our country. To simply introduce this Bill in a country where we are still operating on second generation technology when other countries are on sixth generation will be a disaster, apart from the legal and constitutional issues that the Committee has raised and my esteemed colleagues, Hon. Mashakada and Hon. Mliswa have raised.
I submit that let us go back to the drawing board. We need to embrace technology but technology must be put in the context of the condition of the country and I doubt whether Zimbabwe is there. Technology must also be introduced in a situation where we are not breaching the country’s supreme laws, in particular the Constitution of Zimbabwe. I thank you.
HON. NDEBELE: Thank you Hon. Speaker for the opportunity to add my voice to this discussion. I appreciate the sentiments by the Government Chief Whip that the Bill, through video conferencing might be advantage in terms of speeding up court proceedings and reducing costs that are attached to the same proceedings. However Mr. Speaker Sir, I must hasten to say that this advantage is heavily outweighed by problems that attach to this Bill. If you go to Section 69 of our Supreme Law in this country, it guarantees accused persons and civil litigants the right to a public trial or public hearing.
Where is the mischief that the people of this country were trying to arrest Mr. Speaker Sir? It is simple that the participation of the public in an open trial guarantees transparency, integrity of the whole process and fairness. If I am accused of rape, I should appear in an open court of law so that everyone gets to know how it began and ended. Open trial guarantees transparency, integrity and fairness. Virtual processes have another practical problem as has already been indicated by the other Hon. Members. I do not want to repeat this ad nauseum but they are prone to interruptions.
We have seen it in this House. A member wants to make a contribution from wherever they are; they get interrupted by internet problems. Without attacking the Speaker’s recent judgement, it is so difficult for anyone to say I have left Lupane and driven to Bulawayo, therefore I am guaranteed of stable internet. ZESA will pounce on you and even the network itself will just fall on your feet, and you will be unable to participate in an important trial.
It is also important because what happens if I am convicted and I am sitting in my House as Hon. Dr. Mashakada indicated? What stops me from getting into the next malaicha and disappearing into South Africa? Who will be guaranteeing that I am handed over to the nearest police station so that I am taken to Khami Prison or wherever. These are some of the very important problems that are attached to this whole process. Even if we address the technical troubles, lawyers may find it very difficult to cross-examine a disembodied head on a computer screen. There is body language that a lawyer wants to tap into as he/she cross-examines a person and the magistrate or judge as an independent umpire is also looking into their demeanor or conduct to establish whether indeed they are a reliable source of information or of any assistance to the court. This whole process makes immediacy of person to person confrontation. It is nice in that way when it becomes adversarial and my lawyer is able to dig into the other party physically.
I also have misgivings when it comes to those living with disability. How are we going to provide for them? Suppose I am living with blindness and I am suddenly expected to participate in proceedings on a computer, we are possibly leaving out those with disabilities. What about those without computer literacy? Justice then becomes a privilege for the affluent, the educated. So, what happens to the indigent? Justice must be for all. I believe Mr. Speaker Sir, the amendments that this Bill proposes come at the expense of fundamental human rights. The Bill requires extensive amendments to make it compliant with the Constitution and the basic concepts of fairness that lie at the heart of our procedural law.
With these few words Mr. Speaker Sir, let me conclude by saying it is an idea whose time has not yet come. I therefore urge the Minister to take on board suggestions that have been put across by Hon. colleagues that have spoken before me to the effect that Hon. Mataranyika’s Committee may need to research further on how other jurisdictions of influence to ours have duly handled this issue of virtual proceedings. I wish to thank you and also indicate that in my honest view, this Bill is entirely low on politics and should see us on either side of the aisle agreeing on the way forward. I thank you.
(v)HON. R. R. NYATHI: I want to add my voice to this Judicial Laws Amendment Bill. I want to emphasise the point that the Judiciary is one of the most important institutions of Government which should have the greatest respect and honour by all who are living in a country.
I was listening to the presentation that was given but I did not hear the presenters talking about how this Bill has fared and how it has been taken by other countries. I do not see a comparison of what this Committee did in comparison with other countries. By virtue of that, I want to think that because of that reason, this Bill has been brought into Parliament prematurely.
Secondly, I also want to mention that I understand it is difficult to come up with a Bill. Generally, people are not comfortable with change because they are used to doing things the way they are used to. This is not what I am trying to emphasise but there are things like the beliefs, the norms and values, the way we do things. I am not saying we should continue doing the court system that we found in 1950 and now but I am simply trying to emphasise the point that when we talk about virtual court proceedings, have we considered the problems we have had as a Parliament, which is one of the highest body which is well respected and well organised? However, managing only a few MPs and the kind of problems we sometimes have on virtual; now I am visualising the number of courts that are all over in a country, in Harare, Bindura, Rusape, Shurugwi, Gweru, all over. One province might have six, seven or eight courts and everyone is trying to manage a virtual platform. You will understand Hon. Speaker that this creates a number of problems in our own homes and if I am doing fine, it means that my family must be there sitting in my sitting room and I am on virtual and the magistrate or judge is sitting in his house, maybe after having a marital argument or with a child who has done wrong and that person is supposed to be giving a verdict on you. So, I do not see it happening very well. It would not augur well. More-so, how do you then know that you are calling me for a trial when I am in Zimbabwe or maybe I am already in South Africa and I am just going virtual to just hear the case but given the fact that I am convicted, how are you going to pick me up from South Africa and say Nyathi, you have been arrested and you are going to jail?
When we talk about virtual sitting, it should be done very equitably and the internet connectivity must be superb and by virtue of that, it makes it very difficult for this Bill to sail through. It will not be able to accommodate many people. So effectively, I am saying instead of us trying to put a lot of planning into making a court virtual, why do we not accommodate the welfare of many people that are working in the courts so that those people are able to get better salaries, better working conditions, tools of trade, computers, desks, etcetera instead of us going into it now when we are not yet ready to do so?
I also want to mention the issues that Hon. Biti always talks about how we should accommodate people from other places. I am thinking of how you would run a court system for somebody who, Hon. Biti always speaks of people from Chiendambuya. I also want to add people from Dotito, Muzarabani, Tsholotsho and peripheries of our country. How do we then get to those people so that we can dispense justice to them? I see that currently; this Bill is a bit rushed.
Currently Hon. Speaker Sir, you understand that the Government has been busy building courts in our provinces. I am also very happy because the Government built a very good court in Shurugwi North where I am Member of Parliament. I am very happy because the court was built professionally and when people go there, they feel comfortable and things are done above board. Are we now saying that we invested all that money to build those court rooms all over our provinces in order for them to become sleeping giants with no one utilising them? I do not think we are ready yet for that.
So I propose that it is better that we look more into the welfare of the civil servants who are working in our court rooms rather than for us to derail His Excellency, Cde. Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa’s Vision 2030 whereby we are now taking money that is supposed to benefit employees and invest it in something that is a trial and error.
Hon. Speaker Sir, decisions are made only when you are certain that this decision is going to come out positively. We do not make decisions when we think they may be 50% successful or may fail. So if we are not yet sure whether this Bill will be able to service our people comfortably, I would therefore, recommend that we set this Bill aside for a short time until we have gotten to a point where we are quite automated, our internet connectivity is almost 100% and where we also assess the literacy rate of our people and whether they have also comprehended the use of Ipads, computers and cellphones to be in court. So, I want to stand with other Hon. Members and say, may we please set this Bill aside until it is well cooked. I thank you.
HON. MARKHAM: Thank you Hon. Speaker. My contribution is very simple. I have a problem when the public are restricted in their access to cases of public interest.
My second issue is I have no problem with preparatory work right up to the stage of filing to be done. However, where I do have a problem is the issue of connectivity. We know, ourselves, from this House how difficult it is and in fact, you cannot follow debate when you are online when figures are being debated. Here we are talking of an issue of right and wrong. Now if we, in Parliament, cannot get the connectivity right, what more so in a court of law?
My issue with this is the example of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill that was discussed here. There were numerous issues wrong; when people could not get connected; they were not recognised when they wanted to contribute and in this House, there were Members of Parliament, in this House, hackling the Speaker not to accept people who were on virtual. When we are debating this in Parliament, we accept that but we do not accept it in a court of law. Therefore, I go back to one of the previous speakers who said, ‘It is a good idea but well before its time’, connectivity is our Achilles’ Heel in this country. I thank you.
HON. TOGAREPI: Mr. Speaker, I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. NDEBELE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 27th September, 2022.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. TOGAREPI: Mr. Speaker, I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 14 to 20 be stood over until Order of the Day Number 21 has been disposed of.
HON. NDEBELE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
JOINT REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HIGHER AND TERTIARY EDUCATION, INNOVATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT AND INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE ON THE OPERATIONS OF VERIFY ENGINEERING’S VE GASES PROJECT
HON. MAPHOSA: I move the motion standing in my name that this House takes note of the Joint Report of the Portfolio Committees on Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development and Industry and Commerce on the operations of Verify Engineering’s VE Gases Project at Feruka and the National Biotechnology Authority’s Mapfura Value-Addition and Processing Plant in Mwenezi.
HON. HAMAUSWA: I second.
HON. MAPHOSA: Introduction
The Joint Portfolio Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development and Industry and Commerce conducted an enquiry into the operations of VE Gases Plant in Feruka and Mapfura Value-Addition and Beneficiation Plant in Rutenga. Verify Engineering Gases is one of the several projects being spearheaded by Verify Engineering (Private) Limited, a private company wholly owned by the Government of Zimbabwe. The VE Gases project comprises of two plants, one for oxygen and nitrogen production and the other for acetylene production.
The Mwenezi Mapfura Value Addition and Processing Plant is one of the various projects undertaken by the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe. The enquiry was motivated by the need to have an in-depth understanding of the socio-economic utility of these projects, progress made in the implementation and challenges being faced by these two entities. These plants are still in their infant phase and are yet to realise profits but they have their profit projections after a certain period of operations.
The objectives of the enquiry were:
- To assess the progress made by Verify Engineering at the VE Gases Plant at Feruka in Mutare and the Mapfura Value Addition and Processing Plant in Mwenezi at Rutenga;
- To appreciate the operations and establish the socio-economic benefits of the plants to the country; and
- To understand the challenges faced by these plants to realise their full potential.
The Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development held oral evidence meeting with Verify Engineering on 20 September 2021 during which the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) apprised the Committee on the progress made in the operationalisation of the VE Gases Project. The Joint Committees then conducted verification visits to the VE Gases and Mapfura projects on 9 and 11 May respectively to ascertain the progress made by these two ventures.
COMMITTEE’S FINDINGSVERIFY ENGINEERING (PRIVATE) LIMITED – VE GASES PROJECT AT FERUKA.
A Brief Background to the VE Gases Project
According to the CEO, VE Gases is a Strategic Business Unit of Verify Engineering (Pvt) Limited whose total investment at completion will be above USD20 million. The plant was commissioned on 19 August 2021 by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Hon Dr. E.D Mnangagwa. The Committee was informed that the project would be Zimbabwe’s largest industrial gas production capacity and would thrive to be the same by market share and value.
The plant produces medical and industrial oxygen, and nitrogen both in liquid and gaseous forms. The CEO also explained that by end of June 2022, VE Gases was set to add acetylene gas whose plant was at 80% completion at the time of the visit. He further informed the Committee that VE was carrying out installations of gas reticulation systems and their maintenance including installation of on-site liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen tanks. VE Gases also does consultancy and support services on issues related to gases and chemical engineering in general. It was opined that the long-term objective was to develop technology that produce all hydrogen-based products.
Progress made by VE Gases since commissioning - the CEO first explained that the project was still in its nascent stage and therefore, had not even reached the break-even point. He apprised the Committee that the company was producing nitrogen and oxygen in both liquid and gaseous form using reverse engineering.
The Committee was informed that VE Gases Plant had the capacity to produce 50 tonnes of oxygen and nitrogen per day. The product is sold and circulated under the name VE Gases. As mentioned earlier, an acetylene gas plant was at 80% completion stage and this was expected to produce 2, 5 tonnes of acetylene gas per day.
As part of its consultancy and support services, the CEO explained that VE Gases also managed to successfully put up an oxygen, acetylene, and nitrous oxide reticulation system for Africa University’s Atomic Absorption Spectrometer as well as supplying nitrogen to Chinhoyi University Technology for the university’s artificial insemination programme.
The Committee learnt that VE Gases will be supplying Liquid Oxygen to Mozambique. Under this arrangement, VE Gases will supply liquid oxygen to several hospitals in Beira and Tete Provinces. The Government of Zimbabwe had entered into an agreement with the Government of Mozambique to that effect. The Committee was informed that the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, President Hon. Dr. E.D Mnangagwa was going to donate liquid oxygen to Botswana in a few weeks’ time after the Committees’ visit.
The company had bought two tankers, that is, one 25 tonne tanker and another 30-tonne tanker to ferry the liquid gases. The delivery of the two tankers had been delayed by COVID-19 pandemic. The company however, was expecting the delivery of the 30-tonne tanker in July 2022 and the other one in August 2022.
Socio-Economic Impact Of The Project To The Country - The CEO emphasised that supplying of nitrogen to Chinhoyi University of Technology for its oxen semen laboratory was important in the creation of synergies among local institutions, thereby cutting on importation bill for the country.
Air Commodore Dr. Eng. Kamusoko, the Verify Engineering Board Chairman, submitted that Zimbabwe required 630 000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate annually and the bulk of this was imported. He added that Verify Engineering as the centre for research, was working on reducing the import burden by aiding in the production of nitrogen and together with another Verify Engineering Project of Coal-To-Fertiliser established in Mkwasine had the capacity to make ammonia-based fertiliser. The CEO also informed the Committee that other companies such as Sable Chemical were willing to partner with Verify Engineering in this project.
The CEO explained that Verify Engineering was devising strategies to distribute its products across the country by establishing off-site gas cylinder filling stations. The Committee was shown eight (8) filling station equipment which was bought from China, ready to be transported to different substations across the country. He reassured the Committee that the substations will be equally distributed across the country to cover outlying areas.
The CEO emphasised that the production of acetylene gas, which is an important raw material in fabrication and welding in the country, would lead to the reduction of the price of the commodity. Acetylene gas is so expensive and yet an indispensable material in both industries and SMES. VE Gases informed the Committee that the company had SMEs in mind and its product will go a long way in guaranteeing affordable acetylene gas to the sector.
MWENEZI - MAPFURA VALUE ADDITION AND PROCESSING PLANT
A Brief Background to the Mapfura Project
The Project was commissioned by the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, President Hon. Dr. E.D Mnangagwa on 25 October 2021. It is in Mwenezi District at Rutenga Growth Point. The project is wholly owned by the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe. The idea was envisioned by the NBA team after working closely with the local communities in Mwenezi. The NBA learnt about the making of the Mapfura traditional beer known as “Mukumbi” in Mwenezi. However, the NBA observed that the brewing of Mukumbi brought no economic development to the communities. The NBA realised the gap in the value chain and decided to build the plant with funding from Treasury through the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development.
Progress Made by NBA since Commissioning of the Mapfura Plant
Dr. Savadye, the NBA CEO, submitted that they worked with local farmers (collectors) who brought the fruit to the factory. To augment the efforts by the farmers, NBA purchased a truck that also aided in transporting the fruit to the plant. One thousand and forty (1040) tonnes of Mapfura fruit were received during the first season of January to April 2022.
The Committee heard that the factory received delivery of the fruit from an average of 320 farmers per day during the first season. The collectors were paid USD5/kg for Grade A fruit. The CEO apprised the Committee that a total of USD55 800 was paid to the collectors for the first season.
The Committee was informed that at the peak of production during the first season, 128 people were employed at the plant and of these, 114 were locals with some employed on permanent basis. Further, to ensure sustainability of the project, NBA was working on ways to increase the base of Mapfura by propagating Mapfura trees.
For the first season, 52 000 litres of wine were produced and 15 tonnes of pulp was preserved. The project also aimed at realising many value chains from Mapfura and embarked on pressing the Mapfura seeds for cosmetic oil. The company was able to exhibit at the 2022 Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and the Committee heard that the response was overwhelmingly positive. The company was on its way to commercialisation.
The company had three pulpers, that is, machines used to crush the Mapfura Fruit and separate the pulp from the skin and seed. There were two smaller pulpers which produced 1,500 litres each per day. However, one bigger pulper which had a capacity to produce 30 tonnes of pulp per day was imported ready to be used in next season. The Plant Manager submitted that they needed two more pulpers to reach their full capacity.
Socio-Economic Impact Of The Project To The Country - The Committee was informed that the plant does not produce beer only but also produced wine, mahewu and cosmetic oils from the Mapfura fruit and seed. The project brought economic development to the Mwenezi community and surrounding areas through creation of employment.
The Committee was informed that at the time of the visit, there were 100 youths working at the plant and the number was expected to increase as the plant reaches its full capacity. Local communities were also benefitting through the supply of fruits to the plant and getting paid, hence improving households’ income. There were over 1000 registered farmers (collectors) who were supplying fruits to the plant.
The project used Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) to improve the national bio-economy and the sustainable use of natural resources. The project aims to add value to the knowledge that existed in the local communities since time immemorial. The Mapfura was used to make the Mapfura wine which was a modification of the Mukumbi beer which is locally made.
The value addition chain also aimed to improve biomass utilisation and reducing environmental pollution. As such, the Mapfura nuts, which were left-overs from the fermentation of the beer, were pressed for oil. The oil was used in cosmetics as a topical tissue oil to reduce intensity of blemishes, moisturising and nourishing the skin. The Committee learnt that the oil could also be applied to the hair to minimise hair breakage and protect the scalp.
The Committee was informed that the project was in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS-1) and Vision 2030. The CEO emphasised that the use of natural resources will increase exports and consequently foreign currency to the country. Mr Moyo, the Vice Chairman of the NBA Board, emphasised that NBA was working harmoniously with the local people and the traditional leadership, that is, the Village Heads and Chiefs. This was corroborated by the local community’s representative, Mr Baloyi, who also applauded the scientific experimentation taking place at the plant. He further submitted that more than 3000 households were participating in this project and expected the project to continue as it had resulted in employment creation. The Committee was informed that the long-term vision was to replicate the factory in other areas where the Mapfura fruit was in abundance.
Under its 2022/2023 income and expenditure estimates, NBA projected an average monthly cost of USD680,232 resulting in a monthly average profit of USD319,767 in its winery project. This was based on a production target of one million bottles of wine per month from 412, 000 litres of pulp and a direct labour requirement of 50 people. NBA provided the items needed to produce the one million bottles of wine per month.
The NBA projected that for the 2022/2023 income and expenditure estimates, it would make a monthly average profit of USD67.227 with a cost of monthly average of USD37.772 in its oil extraction project. The assumption was that from 1000 tonnes of Mapfura fruit, the factory would realise 100 tonnes of seed which should produce 50 tonnes of oil at 50% extraction rate. Ten (10) employees will be assigned to the oil making plant. The oil will be packed in 100ml pegged at USD5 per bottle that covers costs.
Quality Assurance at The VE Gases Plant and Mapfura Factory - The Committee was informed that the medical gas produced was in step with the required standards in terms of purity. The CEO reiterated that the company adhered with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines which are mandatory before the product hit the market.
It was submitted that Verify Engineering has consistently maintained a purity of 99.6% gaseous oxygen. The Committee was advised that further Quality Assurance Systems were being put in place so that the distribution process is up to scratch.
There was an NBA Quality Control Department at the Mapfura Factory which is tasked with quality assurance along the production chain, from the fruit to the final products. The department randomly picked the fruit to physically check for quality and check any blemishes on the fruit. This in turn informed the grading of the fruit. The Committee heard that NBA went out into the community and educated the collectors on how to pick the fruit which would fetch high prices.
The fruit is washed and disinfected to get rid of any dirt and bacteria. The company used approved chemicals for preservation and clarifying the wine. For clarifying, they used calcium bentonite which was said to be in short supply in Zimbabwe. The wine was subjected to extreme conditions to check quality. The Committee was informed that samples were taken to the Standard Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) and the results indicated that the samples were meeting the standards’ requirements.
Challenges Faced By The Plants - At Mwenezi Mapfura Plant, the Committee was informed that the factory was just a small demonstration hence the company needed more funding to construct infrastructure commensurate with the projected operations. There was need for additional buildings, underground storage tankers and a cellar to age the wine.
The NBA CEO also informed the Committee that the project needed funding to purchase 10 tonne refrigerated trucks. The plant also needed a bigger tanker to pasteurise the pulp. The company submitted that a 2000-litre per hour pasteuriser was needed. The Committee also heard that the company needed two more pulpers and a solar system in times of power cuts given the perishability of the Mapfura pulp. The Factory Manager revealed that six tonnes of pulp were lost due to power cuts during the first season.
The factory was heavily manual, especially the packing and branding stage. The Committee was informed that the company has plans for automation and there was need for funding towards purchasing of automated equipment.
Committee’s Observations - The Committee noted the importance of the two projects in the economic development of the nation if they are to be capacitated and reach full potential. There was unanimous agreement that the two projects presented immense opportunities for Zimbabwe, particularly in employment creation and empowerment opportunities.
The projects undertaken by both Verify Engineering and the NBA are innovation-focussed and research based and hence need Treasury support. The Committee was taken aback by the manual system at the Mapfura Plant, especially the packing and branding stage where everything was done manually.
The VE Gases projects positions the country strategically in the SADC region as evidenced by the synergies already established with Mozambique and Botswana.
The Committee also noted that the Mapfura Project dovetailed well with the Devolution Agenda as espoused by NDS1 with its emphasis on the participation of the local people in the process. The Mapfura project could be a springboard for devolution for the Mwenezi community to develop its own niche in the devolution discourse.
The symbiotic and affable relationship between the NBA and the local community was commended and was a testament of the respect the institution accorded to the local communities. This was also corroborated by the submissions from the representatives of the locals who interacted with the Committee during the visit.
The Committee observed that there was potential in NBA Mapfura Value-addition project and that its current location was restrictive for expansion given that it the factory was surrounded by other institutions.
The Committee observed that Verify Engineering has several projects which it is currently pursuing. It was noted that all these projects were of national importance. The need for massive capital injection for projects of such magnitude is inescapable and it would be a daunting task for the Government to finance all these projects.
The Committee recommends funding towards purchase of automated filling and packaging machinery which include a bottle fill machine, bottle caper, temper evidence seal and label machine, all valued at approximately USD53,000. The Committee recommends that the automation of the whole plant should be completed by December 2022.
The Committee recommends that Treasury avail funding for a bigger 2000 litre per hour pasteuriser given the perishability of Mapfura Pulp, this purchase should come together with the purchase of the three 2000-litre pulpers needed by the organisation all valued at USD145,000. Funding for the purchase of the pulpers and pasteuriser should be availed by December 2022.
The broad portfolio of VE Gases is instrumental in both industry and the health sector. The Committee recommends that Treasury provides funding for the finalisation of the Acetylene Gas Plant which was at 80% from completion. The funds should be provided for expeditiously to allow the acetylene gas to be on the market by end of August 2022.
The Committee hence recommends that the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development together with the Treasury facilitate funding of these projects and bring them to bankability hence allowing them to attract investors and partners.
The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science, and Technology Development should work with the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works to identify land on which NBA should put up its Mapfura Value-Addition Plant as the current location does not allow expansion of the project. This should be achieved by October 2022.
The Committee recommends Treasury to provide funding for the construction of a bigger Mapfura Value-Addition factory since the current plant is visibly small and was put up as a demonstration plant. Funding for the construction of the expanded plant should be availed by December 2022.
The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science, and Technology Development should identify higher and tertiary institutions which should be capacitated to design pulpers tailor-made for the crushing of Mapfura fruit and dehulling the seeds. The Committee was concerned that the NBA was using imported pulpers which were not designed for crushing Mapfura while there was potential among local institutions to come up with such machinery. Designing of the equipment should start by October 2022.
Given the erratic power supply, the Committee recommends that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development provides funding for the installation of a solar plant and a three phase-generator to keep the pasteurisers and refrigerators running during black-outs at the Mapfura Value-Addition Plant. This requirement is urgent and should be in place by December 2022.
The NBA needs to learn from other institutions that are doing well in the winery project to ensure that its projects become competitive at both local and international level. This can be achieved through benchmarking with other countries.
It is imperative to note that the VE Gases and the Mapfura Value Addition Projects are research-based and innovation-driven projects. The Committee is satisfied that these are ground-breaking projects that will have a domino effect across the economy and society if their full potential is unleashed.The VE Gases is critical in the health systems and the industrial sector where acetylene gas is demanded by larger manufacturing plants and SMEs alike. On the other hand, the Mapfura Project is a community-based project with the potential to drive devolution and to be replicated across the rural communities of Zimbabwe. This will promote the incorporation of IKS in the development of the nation. These projects however, require funding for them to be commercialised and it is the clarion call by this Committee that Treasury prioritise these projects, some of them will be a step towards self-reliance. I thank you.
HON. HAMAUSWA: I rise to support the motion raised by Hon. Maphosa which is so important especially when we look at the current state of the economy in Zimbabwe. Having Verify Engineering and NBA pushing national projects that can produce products, is an important step forward, which needs budgetary support.
I am happy that we are presenting this motion to this august House towards the beginning of the budgetary process. As such, we will emphasise the need for Treasury to put more resources to Verify Engineering and NBA especially to consider the products that are being produced that are already on the market like gas and mapfura wine. You can notice from the motion that if we are going to support Verify Engineering on gas production, we are going to cut importation bill in a big way because they will be able to support the production of ammonium nitrate by producing nitrogen which is an important element in fertilizer production. We know that Zimbabwe is importing more than 300 000 tonnes of fertilizer every year. If we are going to cut this importation bill, it is going to aide economic development within the country. We should be worried as a country why such important products are not attracting huge funding from Treasury. It is something that was supposed to attract even the interest of Treasury during the Supplementary Budget as we are focusing on empowering our agricultural communities.
I know Treasury is focusing on creating a US$12 billion mining economy but the World Bank has said that the growth in agriculture is actually 5% better than the growth in the mining sector because growth in agriculture will not leave behind a trail of environmental damages as is the case with the mining sector. This is an important area which we need to support. This can lead to the development of flagship products which will carry the Zimbabwean flag. If we are going to export gas to Mozambique and Botswana, we are going to see that we do not continue to cry as a land locked country but we will realise that the positioning of Zimbabwe will become a land linked country where we are linked to other countries and we will be exporting these products and bringing in the much needed foreign currency. We can even end up exporting fertilizer to DRC, Malawi and Zambia. As an important step forward, it is more important for Treasury to start researching which countries are also importing fertilizer from South Africa so that we try to earmark those markets because these products are going to create employment opportunities. We have high levels of unemployment but if these products are going to be supported, we are going to see drivers who are going to distribute gas, retailing shops and farmers who are collecting the mapfura fruits thereby creating opportunities for income generation.
In the case of mapfura, it is not just mapfura alone but it is indicating something that is important to indigenous knowledge systems. We heard that they can also produce blackberry drink. We can also have the water berries; they can be used to manage our wetlands. We can have the berry trees in Harare where we have a challenge of land barons actually encroaching into wetlands. If we are going to plant the water berries there, we know that we are also going to harvest the fruits and those fruits are going to be used to produce consumable products like drinks and at the same time we are managing our environment. Planting of more mapfura trees will also play a key role in reforestation and environmental management. We are going to see that we can fight climate change through such products. Funding these products will actually bring into reality the concept of Education 5.0 where we are going to see the production of services and goods from our universities.
We have already seen that there is a ready market for them not only within the country but there are linkages with other institutions like the linkage between gas and Chinhoyi, the linkage between gas and welding industry in Zimbabwe, gas in health sector – they are going to benefit. This is a project which really needs more support and funding. I hope we are going to see more funding and players coming in.
As I said, our farmers are going to have more income into their pockets through natural fruits which we never thought are going to be so important but now because of the innovation and plants that are being set up, we are going to see more farmers clamouring to see setting up of such plants in their communities.
I would want to recommend that there is need to bring in public private partnerships to make sure that commercialisation of such products will actually be easy and be made a reality. Without public private partnerships, Government may not be the best institution to run these products at a commercial scale but to bring in other players, for example in the case of mapfura, we have Delta Beverages who can actually be brought in to buy shares into NBA and commercialise these products. It is something that can be easier. Sable Chemicals is happy to partner with Verify Engineering. If there are going to be modalities that are going to be put in place, these are some of the key products especially that agriculture is the mainstay of our economy. Why not push for those public private partnerships to make sure that commercialisation is actually an easy and faster way of making Zimbabweans enjoy these knowledge based innovations?
As I conclude, I also want to recommend that there is need to set up an inter-ministerial committee which brings together members from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprise Development and also to include representatives from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education. Without this Inter-Ministerial Taskforce, the drive for industrialisation remains a pipe dream in Zimbabwe. If we are going to bring all these players together, they are going to come up with a roadmap with timeframes on when we are going to expect the first production of 100 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate in Zimbabwe. If we have this Inter-Ministerial Taskforce, we are going to see that even the much popularised Vision 2030 can be a reality. These are simple practical steps which can actually bring Zimbabwe back to its real position in the international community and in the region as the bread- basket of Africa. So it is my clarion call that we need an inter-ministerial taskforce which will make sure that such products will not die a natural death but they will see the light of the day by also pushing for more support.
It will be difficult to try and convince the Treasury/Ministry of Finance during budget debates if they do not have representatives who are acquainted with what is actually going on on the ground. We are happy that with the Committee on Industry, we are now at the same level because they were able to drink the mapfura wine. They were able to taste the mapfura wine; they were able to see what is actually happening and because of that, there is much value and we see the need for more financial support. The financial support that is going to be given will not be a waste of resources. These resources will also enable the country to cut the importation bill; create employment opportunities and create linkages to bring in the much needed foreign currency into the country. I submit Mr. Speaker Sir.
HON. TOGAREPI: I want to thank Hon. Maphosa for her report, which I think was an eye opener and well done report that spoke to areas that I have so much interest in. I really feel that we are sitting on opportunities. If as a country we take advantage of – I just want to speak on the issue of mapfura and other fruits that we have in Zimbabwe in abundance. When you look at the fruits, like mapfura, it has already demonstrated that it can create income for people in those communities where the plant is found in abundance. In terms of the machinery that have been put there to produce wine and the other products that she was mentioning, those people can start earning incomes.
What we may want to do as a Government is to come up with studies. How long does it take for a mapfura tree to grow and then give us fruits? Can we start growing these plants so that we can make more income for our people from mapfura? I also want to say our universities should also start studying some of the fruits. In my constituency Gutu South, we have a lot of chechete. If Hon. Members and you Mr. Speaker would know, it is a very nice and carbohydrate rich fruit. If you travel along Gutu-Chiredzi road and if you eat that, you will see it is so nutritious, maybe so nice eating. We do not find chechete in our hotels for some strange reasons. We find some fruits that we do not even know. We end up eating them. Are they healthy for us, we do not even know. People come up with all funny stories about those fruits but chechete, we have eaten those since I was a young boy. If somebody was going to carry out a study on chechete, you may discover that it has some heath benefits. It may be very nutritious that we can also sell it abroad. We have those nice trees naturally. We have them in abundance but nobody is taking advantage of that and taking to commercialise them.
We have fruits like mazhanje, during their season, you see them being sold along the roads. We see that there is a market for them. You see very big cars full of mazhanje but nobody has even thought of how to preserve them in order to eat them throughout the year. I think Hon. Maphosa and your Committee, we may want you to sit down with the ministries that are in charge – seeing the advantages that we have derived from mapfura, can we not take those advantages to other fruits that we have?
In Masvingo and part of Matabeleland South, we have got tsubvu, that black fruit. It is so nice eating. Matohwe, they are so nice eating, you see people, they like them but what are we doing to value add them or to popularise them and maybe find them everywhere as a commercial crop? When we look at apples, wherever they are coming from, I would believe that they started as wild fruits and somebody then said we need to grow more. Maybe studies were done even to graft or to do anything that improved the production of those trees. Why can we not do that? These are God-given. They are found in our communities, free of charge. If we start planting more of those trees and start selling them because it is about popularising; you hear apple is popularised in many ways and you start liking an apple, but surely we do not know what is in an apple. It may be one of the sources of cancer or something because we are not used to them. We are not eating what was designed for African people.
So, I really want to encourage that we encourage our Government, ministries and universities to start serious studies on Zimbabwean fruits. It is critical that you go today in a hotel and you find it is all English food. If you go to their countries you will never find sadza rezviyo. You would not get it until you ask for it. You would not eat what you eat here until you ask for it but here, our people have to look for our own food. It is not found anywhere because we are not strategically placing our food so that it also has a commercial value. I think as a Government, we can start such new ventures like the report said. The production of the gas and mapfura wine, it is a new area that we have ventured into. If we can look at many other areas and start on those new ventures, they will create employment. They will create more expertise among our people.
So, we will develop from our own resources. We must realise that we still have potential within what we have to develop our country before we even think about developing from imported or other ideas. From our own resources, we can develop this country if we can only target looking at the availability of the specific resources.
Mr. Speaker, I really felt I should contribute to this. I am so excited that Mapfura has already demonstrated to us as a people that it can give employment, wine and all the other bi-products that can come from it. Let us go to another resource and tape from the expertise of our people and see what happens to the development of our country. I thank you.
HON. I. NYONI: Thank you Hon. Speaker Sir. Let me start by thanking the Chairperson, Hon. Maphosa for presenting a detailed report supported by Hon. Hamauswa on the very important subject. Traditionally, mapfura fruit or amaganu, I am sure you are all aware that this fruit has been used to produce traditional beer. Some of us have tested it before. It is called umkumbi. It is quite important that this fruit is now being used to try and produce more products and do it commercially so that people can get more value addition on this fruit. The products that are being produced by Mapfura value processing plant in Mwenezi are mapfura wine and some cosmetic oil. I hope it is an improvement from the traditional umkumbi. Fortunately, I had the luck to also test the mapfura wine that was produced at the mini plant. It was quite tasty. However, it appears that the wine is still not readily available in most shops but it was being displayed at the Zimbabwe Trade Fair this year. Perhaps, it is due to the size of the production plant which is small and on an experimental basis.
Mapfura processing plant in Mwenezi is a good example of empowerment of locals and devolution. Locals collect the seeds and sell them to the manufacturer and the product that comes out, as I have mentioned earlier, is the mapfura wine. The full potential of the project might go a long way in improving the lives of the locals and earning of foreign currency for our country. The projects from Verify Engineering and Mapfura Value Processing Plant need further support from the fiscus so that there is growth. This will go a long way in promoting import substitution and exports that will earn our country the much needed foreign currency. It will also go a long way in job creation for locals in particular. Hon. Speaker Sir, thank you very much.
HON. TOGAREPI: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. NDEBELE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 27th September, 2022.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. TOGAREPI: I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 22 to 35 on today’s Order Paper be stood over until Order of the Day Number 36 has been disposed of.
HON. NDEBELE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
REPORT OF THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE ON NON-COMPLIANCE WITH REGARDS TO SUBMISSION OF FINANCIAL STATEMENTS TO THE AUDITOR-GENERAL BY SOME STATE OWNED ENTERPRISES AND PARASTATALS
Thirty-Sixth Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on non-compliance with regards to Submission of Financial Statements to the Auditor-General by some State Owned enterprises and Parastatals.
Question again proposed.
HON. SANSOLE: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I rise to wind up the motion on the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the non-submission of financial statements to the Auditor-General by some State-owned enterprises and parastatals.
Mr. Speaker Sir, in winding up this motion, I would like to express my gratitude to those Members who contributed to the debate, particularly Hon. Mushoriwa and Hon. B. Dube the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee. Hon. Mushoriwa emphasised the need for all Government entities to submit their financial statements for audit within three months of the end of their financial year as well as the need to comply with the Constitution in as far as financial management is concerned. He also emphasised the need to comply with the Public Finance Management Act and the Audit Office Act.
However, several entities failed to submit their accounts for audit citing various reasons ranging from COVID-19 restrictions, failure by their parent ministries to appoint boards of directors and failure to have competent technical staff to prepare accounts for audit. Hon. Mushoriwa also cited several places of contravention of the Public Finance Management Act as well as the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act. He called for transparency and accountability in order to curb corruption.
Hon. B. Dube, the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, also called for transparency and accountability in public entities. He pointed out that by failing to present themselves for audit scrutiny, such entities were actually acting illegally and unconstitutionally. They were also making it difficult for Parliament to exercise oversight over their entities. Hon. Dube also said that accounting officers or Chief Executive officers of such entities were being unpatriotic by failing to subject their entities for audit scrutiny.
The lack of adequate skills and IT infrastructure was also cited as a major impediment to the production of financial statements for audit as well as the issue of underfunding for some parastatals. With these few remarks, Mr. Speaker, I now move for the adoption of the report.
Motion that this House takes note of the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the non-compliance with regards to submission of Financial Statements to the Auditor-General by some State owned enterprises and Parastatals, put and adopted.
On the motion of HON. TOGAREPI seconded by HON. A. NDEBELE, the House adjourned at Nine Minutes to Five o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 27th September, 2022.