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SENATE HANSARD 03 NOVEMBER 2021 VOL 31 NO 6
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Wednesday, 3rd November, 2021
The Senate met at Half-past Two o’clock p.m.
(THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. SEN. MUZENDA: I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 1 and 2 on today’s Order Paper be stood over until Order of the Day, Number 3 has been disposed of.
HON. SEN. CHIMBUDZI: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
PRESIDENTIAL SPEECH: DEBATE ON ADDRESS
Third Order read: Adjourned debate on motion in reply to the Presidential Speech.
Question again proposed.
+HON. SEN. MKWEBU: Thank you Madam President for giving me this opportunity to add my voice on the Presidential Speech. The motion was tabled in this House by Hon. Sen. Kambizi, seconded by Hon. Sen. Mabika.
Madam President Ma’am, I will touch on farming which was highlighted by the President. He encouraged people to work hard. I will talk about the Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme. The President is encouraging everyone to concentrate on farming and try to improve so that they do not depend on donors every time. There are some who managed to make this programme a success and some were unable to do it well. Some highlighted challenges of lack of rain in their areas. However, in areas that are dry, they are asking that the Government should assist, especially in areas that are in Region 5, which is Matabeleland. There are some areas where they received enough rainfall and other areas did not, for example Gwanda up to Plumtree. There are so many people who could not harvest anything.
They were given seeds under the Presidential Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme but they were not able to harvest anything because of the little rains they received. Also, they are not given enough advice from the agronomists. Some of them stay far away from Agritex offices. It is therefore my wish that we should have Agritex offices in all the areas so that they assist all the farmers in their day to day farming activities.
The President encouraged that people should try and do their best in farming so that they can alleviate the challenges of drought and not depend on donors. Government should assist all the A2 farmers, especially those in dry regions or the ones who concentrate on cattle ranging. They should be assisted with dams that will in turn assist the farmers, especially in Matabeleland area. It is a dry region Madam President. It is our wish that we do irrigation projects. If the Government assists by construction of many dams, we can get something that can enable us to feed our families.
Secondly Madam President, I will touch on mining, concentrating on gold and other minerals that we have in this country. Gold is one of the minerals that we are benefiting from as a nation, especially on our economy. Here and there, the Government assists by giving the miners foreign currency but I realised that the scheme is only benefitting those who have big mining companies. It is my wish that we also consider the ones who are still new into the field, especially the artisanal miners. The Government should try to concentrate on artisanal miners and assist them in getting foreign currency to buy the equipment they might need in extracting gold.
The other problem in mining relates to issues on mining disputes. There are so many disputes that we have had, someone would have registered his/her mine and another comes to extract gold from there. Before you even try to negotiate, you realise that the one whom you will be having disputes with will take the issue to court and once it is there, the court will derail and take close to 17 years without solving the matter. It is therefore my plea Mr. President, that the department that is handling mining issues should have a look at this because so many miners are suffering from this.
There is also need to check on what the Government is getting, there are so many loopholes when we look at issues to do with gold. I therefore urge the Government to put tight security measures, especially on leakages to do with minerals. We might have security in our banks or other means that we use to secure our minerals, especially the minerals that are improving our economy. This is one of the minerals that we have as a country which is boosting our economy and people are supposed to treasure it.
Mr. President Ma’am, as I touch on the issue of corruption that is there in our country, you will realise that the President does not expect that to date, we are still struggling with corruption. This is an issue that has been highlighted on and the President indicated that he is not happy about corruption and is trying to encourage everyone to desist from any corrupt activities.
In every dispute to do with minerals such as gold, you realise that police officers are the ones who are involved whilst they are supposed to be law enforcers. You therefore ask yourself, ‘who is going to help you settle that if the law enforcement officers are the ones imposing on who is supposed to mine even if it is your gold claim. Whatever means you try, you realise that you will be intimidated and this has brought so much fear on people who are into mining.
Our country is known for peace loving but you realise that in mining areas in the rural areas where there are a lot of mining activities, there are so many cases of murder. Sometimes they come and take everything that you have, including any equipment that you use in mining. All those murders or anyone committing crime – these are people who are well known by the law enforcement officers. People are living in fear, especially in Gwanda because of these people who are always stealing gold from those who would have mined it. With these few words Mr. President, I would like to thank you.
HON. SEN. CHIRONGOMA: Thank you Mr. President for affording me this opportunity to debate on the Presidential Speech. I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Kambizi and Hon. Sen. Mabika who introduced this motion to the House. We were happy to hear the words from His Excellency that we must unite for the same purpose so that the country can develop and remove all obstacles. Those are very profound words.
His Excellency also emphasised that we work hard so that the country moves forward and increase production. The President also encouraged people to work hard so that we can achieve Vision 2030 and that our country can reach the status of a middle income economy by the year 2030.
I would also like to thank the President for his work towards stabilising the currency. His Excellency managed to sit down with the Minister of Finance and Economic Development to find solutions of the escalating parallel market exchange rates and stabilisation was achieved. There were those who were dealing in illicit money deals using ecocash and other banking facilities; it was all stopped and our economy began to move forward.
I would also like to thank His Excellency - on food security, we used to have problems where we were importing food from other countries but now we no longer have this problem since the introduction of the Pfumvudza Programme under the Minister of Agriculture. Pfumvudza helped a lot, last year everyone received inputs and God provided us with good rains and we had a bumper harvest. We also managed to get some extra maize grain and it was distributed to the Grain Marketing Board. We thank the President for all those initiatives, we managed to see how important it is to practice farming. All the people who delivered their grains to the GMB were paid within a period of two weeks. This encouraged people to deliver their grains to GMB since they were timeously paid.
His Excellency also talked about the issue of livestock. We faced the problem of diseases in our animals but the Government provided tick grease which helped a lot. This reduced the death of our livestock.
The District Development Fund was given many machines, including tractors to farm for people. This shows that the Government and His Excellency’s commitment to improve the country. DDF also assisted in rehabilitation and sinking of new boreholes in the country to make sure that people have water. The main roads which link the Harare city were refurbished. Small roads were also refurbished. Council roads are also being refurbished. The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development is working hard to improve the state of our roads. We applaud our President Cde. E.D. Mnangagwa for the developmental projects that are being done in the country.
We have seen and received many buses from our friends from Belarus and other countries. The issue of transport challenges especially in town has been alleviated because buses were disbursed in different cities. People are now moving freely. The issue of shortage of transport has been resolved.
His Excellency is also focussing on the refurbishment of our airports – Robert Mugabe and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airports. A lot of refurbishment has been done to facelift these airports. Our small airports like Kariba and Buffalo Range, which is also being refurbished so that the issue of transport is also solved.
When COVID-19 started, most of us did not take it seriously. When people were encouraged to get vaccinated, they did not take it seriously. We ended up in lock-downs. Most people did not take the lock-down seriously. We moved forward and many people began to die because of the pandemic. We lost our loved ones, Government officials and some Parliamentarians we know died because of this pandemic. We are devastated by this issue of death.
We also thank His Excellency for sourcing vaccines from countries like China, India and other countries. It shows that His Excellency’s re-engagement with other countries is bearing fruits. We thank these countries that have provided us with these vaccines. We would like to thank our frontline workers who were on the frontline in wards, districts, provincial and national hospitals, fighting COVID-19. If it was possible, their names must be compiled Province by Province so that we know that these are the people who stood by the country fighting for us. Even if we do not give them anything but respect and appreciation is a good thing.
We want to thank our Minister of Health and Child Care, Vice President Cde. Chiwenga for the job well done during the pandemic. Yes, we agree that this pandemic is not yet over. Let us continue to follow the WHO guidelines in protection against COVID-19.
Our President mentioned the issue of our defence forces, the soldiers who are doing a great job in preserving peace and security in the country.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Parliament of Zimbabwe which made the law for War Veterans so that the issue of war veterans is accepted, to enable them to get what they fought for in the liberation struggle. We applaud the War Veterans Act because it has helped a lot. We thank the President for putting the liberators of our country first and we expect that the money that they need is going to be given to them. I thank you.
HON. SEN. MATHUTHU: Thank you Madam President for giving me this opportunity to debate and say a few words on the Presidential speech delivered by His Excellency Dr. E.D. Mnangagwa to mark the Opening of the Fourth Session of the Ninth Parliament..
Before I start my debate, I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Kambizi for a well researched and detailed debate that he tabled in this august House. I also want to thank the seconder, Hon. Sen. Mabika.
As Senators, we are really humbled by the speech that set the tone for the Fourth Session of the Ninth Parliament. The Third Session was not easy for all of us because of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. We lost some of our gallant sons and daughters of the soil in this august House. May their souls rest in peace.
We are grateful to our President and his Government for managing this monster COVID-19 through various interventions despite sanctions and the people of Zimbabwe have resisted them left right and centre. The President saluted the people and urged them to get vaccinated. I urge fellow Zimbabweans that have not been vaccinated to get vaccinated for the country to reach herd immunity. I also think that those that requested for sanctions and the countries that imposed them are now ashamed because they have failed to achieve what they thought was going to be achieved by the illegal sanctions, which is regime change. Now is the time for us all Zimbabweans to unite and speak with one voice for the unconditional removal of these so-called sanctions.
On agriculture, I would like to commend His Excellency, Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa for providing a number of interventions to assist our farmers; programmes like Command agriculture, Pfumvudza/Intwasa, the cotton scheme, the tick grease scheme, the grain protection scheme, the rural horticulture scheme, the community fisheries scheme, the rural poultry scheme, the rural goat pass on scheme, the tractors and combine harvesters to support our farmers and many others. The President went on to say, no space and no one should be left behind, meaning everybody must benefit to achieve Vision 2030. This is highly commendable from our listening President. It is now left to us the people of Zimbabwe to support our President’s vision in order to achieve Vision 2030. Some of the issues have been taken care of by fellow Hon. Members.
Before I conclude, there is this issue of outstanding Bills. Can our Hon. Ministers take this business seriously and make sure they expedite the bringing of these Bills to this august House so that we can deal with them. Mr. President, on engagement and re-engagement, it is bearing fruits and as I stand here today in this august House, our President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces yesterday addressed other world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. This is an achievement because for the past 25 years, no leader from this country ever visited the UK.
Lastly, I hope and trust that everybody in this august House will get a chance to debate this very important motion. I thank you Hon. President Sir.
HON. SEN. KAMBIZI: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. SEN. MUZENDA: I second
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Thursday, 4th November 2021.
CONDOLENCES ON THE DEATH OF HON. SEN. REJOICE TIMIRE
HON. SEN. KHUPE: I move the motion standing in my name:
That this House expresses its profound sorrow on the untimely death on Tuesday, 10th August 2021, of the late Honourable Senator Rejoice Timire who was representing persons with disabilities;
PLACES on record its appreciation for the service which the late Hon. Member rendered to Parliament and the nation at large and;
RESOLVES that its profound sympathies be conveyed to the Timire family, relatives and the entire nation.
HON. SEN. MUZENDA: I second.
HON. SEN KHUPE: It is a motion which triggers some painful experience. It is a motion about the untimely death of a former fellow Senator, the late Hon. Sen Rejoice Msiza Timire, who passed away on 10th August 2021. Those who read the Hansard and those who may be online right now, may want to know who Rejoice Timire was. Hon. Sen Rejoice Timire was born in 1959 in Mberengwa. She was a Senator representing persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe. She became a Senator as soon as the harmonised elections were concluded in 2018. She was an advocate of the rights of persons with disabilities. Her death shook the disability community, the stakeholders and all Zimbabweans were shocked by the announcement of the passing on of Senator Timire. Personally, I had worked with Sen. Timire for a number of years as soon as she became a person with disabilities. She was quite fit, strong, agile and athletic mother until 1998 when she became involved in a nearly fatal accident in Cape Town. From thereon, she was in hospital for so many months and by the time she was discharged, she was unable to stand but her mind was still strong.
She joined the disability movement rising to become a leader in an organisation called Disabled Women Support Foundation. She worked for that organisation and was also involved in capacity building for children with disabilities, specifically girls and women. She never lost hope as a result of disability. In fact according to her, she told me that she actually worked harder than she ever had done before.
She was a family woman, married to a man called Mr. Timire, a former police officer who also passed on a few days before her untimely death. The family had five children. When she became disabled in 1998, she and the husband had actually been blessed with their last born. She decided to take disability rights activism head on and she achieved.
What she told me that she learnt about disability was that when we talk about disability inclusion and adjusting our buildings so that disabled persons have access also to those buildings, she never thought that one day she would also demand that. Before that, she was strong and as I said, very athletic but we plan and the final planner is God.
We worked together in Parliament. As you will remember Hon. Members, she was a member of the Thematic Committee on SDGs and Gender Development. She rarely spoke but when she opened her mouth, she would talk nicely, authoritatively and with knowledge. My assessment is that she was a person who had good grooming in her family.
She went to Musume Secondary School, which is run by the Lutheran Church in Mberengwa. From there, she did a number of courses. She respected the elders and family structures. She was a strong Christian and when she was laid to rest, I know that because of COVID-19, a lot of us were not able to say good day, goodbye and good night because things were tough by then.
Having said this, I pass my condolences in my personal name and also on behalf of other persons with disabilities. I also do that in mind that as Senators in the Parliament of Zimbabwe, we all lost a comrade and an advocate. Certainly, the Senate will not be the same until maybe elections are done to replace her. We may also get somebody with a sharp and progressive mind, with a strong zeal to defend the terrain and the gains which the Government of Zimbabwe assisted several people to gain in terms of disability inclusion. We did a lot. In some ways, things are good but on paper, there are a lot of things as disabled people, together with Hon. Timire, which we persuaded the Government to pass on. There is the disability policy which was launched by the Government. Right now we are about to come up with the Disabled Persons Act. All those policies are being pushed because of some of the people who put their input on that, including the late Senator Timire.
With these few words, Hon. President of the Senate and all Senators, I want to say may the soul of the late compatriot, freedom fighter, the disability activist, mother and sister called Rejoice Timire rest in peace. I thank you.
*HON. SEN. TONGOGARA: Thank you Mr. President for awarding me this opportunity to debate the motion on the passing on of Hon. Sen. Rejoice Timire. Mr. President, I want to start by thanking Hon. Sen. Khupe for bringing this motion in this House so that we remember our Hon. Senator who passed on due to COVID-19. Mr. President, all of us know Hon. Sen. Timire coming into the Senate on a wheel chair. She was one of the Hon. Senators who was representing people living with disability.
I want to thank those who selected Hon. Sen. Timire to come to Parliament to represent people with disabilities because she was doing her job whole heartedly. I remember Mr. President, we were in the same Thematic Committee on SDGs. We travelled a lot to different areas, even those areas with bad roads. She always travelled ahead. She travelled with her car and she would always be there in time. She did not select any area, saying that I am disabled I cannot go to this area but she was found everywhere where there was a programme.
Mr. President, we cherish her commitment in working to represent the people with disabilities. She did not select or sit down thinking about her condition but she was dedicated in her job of representing the people. I want to say we have lost a hardworking cadre, a dedicated person and I want to say to the Timire family, may God console you and may the Holy Spirit comfort you. Death is the law of God. Yes, we need our colleague to be here but it is the decision of God for someone to live or die but we really need our beloved ones to stay with us. I say may her dear soul rest in peace. Thank you Mr. President for affording me this opportunity.
HON. SEN. MUZENDA: Thank you Mr. President Sir. I would like to say a few words on the late Hon. Sen. Timire. I understand a lot from what Hon. Sen. Khupe said. I remember the Shona saying which reads, ‘seka urema wafa,’ meaning that we might be born without any disabilities but we do not know what might happen later on in life.
The late Hon. Sen. Timire was able to work with others very well. I knew her well as we raised motions in the House, she would later say, ‘Hon. Sen. Muzenda, you do not know me but I knew your parents, may their souls rest in peace’. It is difficult to accept when your parents pass on, even if you are of age, it is a painful experience for the rest of one’s life.
When Hon. Sen. Timire passed on, it was very painful that a few days after her departure, her husband also passed on. This shows that her husband failed to accept the departure of his wife. When two people are married and are in love, that is what usually happens. On behalf of the Senate, I would also like to thank the Timire family because we worked very well with Hon. Sen. Timire. I expect that the family which was left behind will be well taken care of as it was her wish.
As mentioned by Hon. Sen. Tongogara, she was someone who was very dedicated in her work. Even when we travelled to other areas with bad roads, she was always there and she would be the first one at the venue ahead of us who are able-bodied. She was dedicated toher work of representing the people.
I would also want to thank the Women’s Caucus and all Hon. Members who were able to help and the Zimbabwe Women’s Coalition as they managed to collect a substantial amount of money towards helping the bereaved family. This shows that Hon. Sen. Timire worked with others very well. I implore all Hon. Members to remember her and her family in our prayers. It would be good to liaise with Hon. Sen. Khupe so that we are able to visit the bereaved family from time to time. I say, Hon. Timire and your Husband, may you continue to rest in peace until we meet again as we are not immortal beings.
HON. SEN. MOHADI: May her soul rest in peace. I thank you.
HON. SEN. KHUPE: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. SEN. DUBE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Thursday, 4th November, 2021.
ENACTMENT OF LEGISLATION THAT UPHOLDS THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF CHILDREN ACCOMPANYING INCARCERATED MOTHERS IN PRISONS
HON. SEN. CHIRONGOMA: I move the motion standing in my name that this House:
COGNIZANT that Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) provides for inalienable fundamental human rights and freedom;
EMPHATICALLY NOTING that the State and every person, including juristic persons and every institution and agency of its government at every level have an obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and freedom as provided in the Constitution;
DISTURBED by the challenges faced by the forgotten victims in prisons, namely children accompanying their incarcerated mothers who unavoidably find themselves serving time alongside their parents in violation of their rights and freedom;
NOTING with disdain that the criminal conviction of a mother should not in any way diminish the rights and undermine the freedom of children;
FURTHER NOTING that the children accompanying their incarcerated mothers in Zimbabwe end up suffering more than the offenders as they are exposed to poor, unhealthy and overcrowded prison conditions which are detrimental to the development of the children;
NOW, THEREFORE; calls upon the State to enact legislation that upholds the rights and welfare of children accompanying their incarcerated mothers in various prisons throughout the country -
- Implores the Government to adopt child focused programming in budgeting and policy planning and to come up with alternative sentences to female offenders who may be having infants at the time of their incarceration.
- Urges the Executive to come up with policies that are in the best interest of the children that accompany their incarcerated mothers and these should not infringe upon their fundamental rights and freedom as provided in the Constitution.
- Calls upon the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to align the Prisons Act with the Constitution and international best practices on incarceration of female prisons.
HON. SEN. TONGOGARA: I second.
HON. SEN. CHIRONGOMA: The increasing number of women offenders has left the Government in a dilemma as to how to handle some challenging cases involving mothers with infants or pregnant mothers at the time at the time of sentencing of mothers. It is a fact that the children accompanying their mothers or born in prison have not committed any crime and as such, the Government has a special responsibility to ensure that the children’s rights and welfare needs are maintained during their stay in prison with their mothers. It should be recognised that a criminal conviction of a mother should in no way diminish or undermine the rights of the child. It is worrisome to note that prisoners and their children are at the periphery of Government business and their rights as human beings are often forgotten and overlooked. Our prison system has become synonymous with a host of challenges such as overcrowding, abusive and vile living conditions, deficits of good governance, inadequate food and proper clothing, funding and other resources which can have detrimental effects on the lives of the children residing with their incarcerated mothers.
It is important to note that the prison infrastructure in Zimbabwe is specifically built to accommodate male prisoners and this alone makes the prison conditions unbearable and discriminatory to the female offenders, especially given that sometimes they are accompanied by their children. Regrettably, the prison conditions in Zimbabwe are still far from meeting the basic human rights need of the female offenders themselves and worse still, meeting the human rights need of the children accompanying their mothers. It is estimated that as of December 2017, more than 50 children were accompanying their mothers in Zimbabwe’s prisons across the country after more than 60 children were released together with their mothers under a Presidential amnesty in 2014 and the majority of the children were less than two years old. Children below the age of five years are expected to grow in a natural environment that allows for their early childhood development which is essential to their future outcomes and competencies. These children are said to be in the most critical stage of development whereby brain development is taking place, hence the decision to have the children reside in the prison system when parents are incarcerated has both negative and positive consequences on the child’s well-being and development.
Scientists and doctors have identified the first three years of life as a time when children have the most “fertile minds”, therefore efforts to invest in children during these early years is a prerequisite and most fruitful. Thus, the children born and living in prison with their mothers should not be forgotten in policy planning and/or decision making, given that they fall amongst the most vulnerable group in society and their neglect is a ticking time bomb and nightmare any society would ever want to be faced with in the long run.
Madam President, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an unavoidable starting point for any discussion of the legal rights of children because it outlines the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights entitled to children regardless of their circumstances. However, in order to contextualize the children’s rights from an African perspective, the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) adopted the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), which goes a step further than the UNCRC by calling for special provisions to be made to ensure that women prisoners maintain meaningful contacts with their children. In short, the ACRWC calls upon State parties to ensure the provision of non-custodial sentences, alternative measures to institutional confinement, the establishment of alternative institutions to hold such mothers, or that the mother shall not be imprisoned with her child and that the mothers shall not face a death sentence. Thus, this provision makes the ACRWC unique in mandating African countries, Zimbabwe included, to make provisions in the justice system that take into account the best interest of the child at all costs when sentencing mothers.
As we are all aware, the legislative and policy framework in Zimbabwe is premised on primarily the UNCRC and the ACRWC, while the prison system in Zimbabwe is guided by the various international rules and regulations namely; the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs) and the Bangkok Rules, among others, which must be domesticated through the Constitution and the various pieces of legislation, including the Prisons Act [Chapter 7:11] administered by the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS).
Thus, the laws in Zimbabwe allow the admission of infants into prison with their mothers and the Government has an obligation to provide for the rights and welfare needs of the children during their stay in prison so that they develop to their full potential. At the outset, Sections 19 and 81 of the Constitution have key provisions that relate to the rights of every child in Zimbabwe including children living with their mothers in prison. In addition to that, Section 58 of the Prisons Act [Chapter 7:11] clearly stipulate that infant children may accompany their mothers in prison for a certain period, upon which when the child turns two years, it is removed to stay with relatives or institutional home. Section 58 further stipulates that the child “…may be supplied with clothing and necessities at the public expense …” Thus, the provision ensures that children received into prison with their mothers have the right to be provided by the State with the necessities of life for their wellbeing, namely: food and nutrition, proper and safe shelter, clothing and health, education among other necessities.
Madam President, the rights of children living in prison with their mothers mainly relate to having access to the necessities of life such as the right to health, education, clothing and shelter, food and nutrition, which are essential for their life, survival and development, as stipulated under Article 6 of the UNCRC, Article 5 of the ACRWC and Section 81 of the Constitution. Thus the UNCRC, the ACRWC and the Constitution place an obligation on the Government of Zimbabwe to play a critical role in ensuring that the children accompanying their mothers in prison have access to the necessities of life essential for the child to develop to its full potential physically, mentally, spiritually, morally and socially. The Committee on the Rights of the Child describes children’s rights as supreme rights which must be honoured at all costs by the State parties.
Our prisons in Zimbabwe remain overcrowded with poor water and sanitation, inadequate food and medical facilities, non-availability of transport, education resources and clothing. The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service is unable to provide for the necessities of the infant children of convicted mothers. The Human Rights Bulletin further indicated that the rations distributed in prisons are specifically for prisoners, thereby implying a denial of access to basic rights to the child accompanying its mother to prison.
The young children living with their mothers in prison must have the benefit of suitable facilities and care for their life, survival and development. The ideal situation is that the prison conditions consist of child friendly facilities aimed at meeting the basic needs of the children accompanying their mothers in prison. In addition to that, where infants are allowed to stay in prison with a parent, special provisions shall be made for nursery and crèche, staffed by qualified persons, where the infants shall be placed when the mother is involved in routine activities.
While it is commendable that the Government of Zimbabwe has taken a step further in establishing child-friendly facilities such as a nursery and a crèche within the prison structures to accommodate such children, it is sad to note that such infrastructure is only available at selected prisons such as Chikurubi Female Prison. Other female prisons do not have such facilities. A report by the Portfolio Committee on Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development (2016) highlighted that the children accompanying their mothers in prison continue to be side-lined in policy making as in most cases they do not have access to the basic necessities of life, such as warm clothing, food and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and health.
Madam President, many studies have revealed that early childhood malnutrition is irreversible and inter-generational. While the introduction of the Statutory Instrument on the ‘Dietary Scale for Children’ by the ZPCS in 2014 may be applauded, the implementation of the Instrument remains underfunded by the Treasury, while the donor support has grossly declined, thereby worsening the situation for children.
The children’s right to clothing is also seriously undermined in Zimbabwe prisons given that the Government continues to make provisions for the inmates’ uniforms only and nothing for the children. In the event that a mother is admitted into prison without any changing clothes for the child, the child is not given any clothing by the Government. According to the prison standards, an inmate upon admission is entitled to five blankets and another three blankets for the child. However, due to shortages, this has not been possible as only blankets for the inmates are available and nothing for the children. Therefore, there is great need for the Government to re-think its role of the Welfare State, especially for children from such difficult circumstances.
In short, it can be argued that the children living with their mothers in prison tend to suffer more than the offenders because the prison environment is not ideal for children. While the Government has a responsibility to create an environment conducive and ideal for child development whilst in prison, it is sad to note that the children rarely have access to nutritious food, clothing, health and education, given the constrained fiscal space.
On a daily basis, the mothers and children barely get by and rely heavily upon unreliable well-wishers who visit the prisons to donate mostly food, clothing and toys. The donations from well-wishers and non-state actors has been positive and greatly boosted the food and nutrition, clothing, health and education needs of the children. However, from a child rights programming perspective, the over-reliance on the donor community is not sustainable as it exposes the children to hunger, ill-health and the harsh weather when the donations are not readily available.
Madam President, in conclusion, in an effort to observe the rights of the children accompanying their incarcerated mothers, I recommend that:-
Government adopts child programming in their budgeting in order to meet the basic needs of children in difficult circumstances;
Develops and implements clear guidelines on the admission of children with their incarcerated mothers, outlining the conditions that are appropriate for the children’s well-being;
Prioritises supporting and establishing income-generating projects in prisons as a means towards resource mobilisation so that the prison farms are fully capitalised and be productive to produce food enough for the inmates and the children;
Considers alternative sentencing options, such as avoiding pre-trial detention and imposing non-custodial sentences (community service or the open prison system) to deserving female offenders with caring responsibilities as stipulated in the ACRWC, the UNSMRs and the Bangkok Rules as measures to reduce the fiscal burden while at the same time considering the BIC principle.
There is need for the Government to continuously look at emerging issues relating to children’s welfare so that the rights of the children across the board are protected. I thank you.
*HON. SEN. TONGOGARA: Thank you very much Hon. President for giving me this opportunity. We are saying youths should have their needs fulfilled because they are tomorrow’s leaders. For them to reach that stage where they are called youths, they start as babies until they grow up to that age where they are weaned and named youths.
The biggest challenge we have Mr. President is that we are now witnessing a lot of ladies who are committing crimes. We understand that prisons back in the day were known for men only and women were left behind at home. However, now we are seeing a change in that. We are seeing both sexes being found in prison. The problems that we are witnessing these days because of colonisation is we no longer see the extended family. We no longer witness the scenario of an extended family. When a child is born, it is everyone’s child in the family. We have seen a sharp change in culture. We used to experience unity in families but we no longer see that. People are now isolating themselves from the extended family and keeping to themselves. They no longer communicate or share love and relationships with other family members. When the husband is imprisoned, the wife is left at home without anyone taking care of them. This is where traditional leaders come in, that is their rightful role to act.
Women are committing crimes and children are imprisoned at a very tender age. What should we do to fix such anomalies? If a woman commits a crime, the children should not go through life in jail with their mother. Children are exposed to other inmates. Should this be their way of living and upbringing? There are a lot of things which happen in prisons, there is no food and we expect the children to be given supplementary food but there is nothing like that. These children are experiencing serious challenges as they reside in prison with their mothers. As a country, we should make sure that we assist these children. They get sick in prison whilst there is no medication and supplementary feeding. During bad weather conditions, there is no appropriate clothing for the children to keep warm; they suffer because there are no such provisions in prison.
I understand that some prisons have children’s nurseries but for some, it is just a name as there is nothing appropriate happening to help the children develop in terms of elementary education classes. Mr. President, I think that as Government, through the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, the issue to do with children should be treated as very important because it is also a very painful issue. We should make sure that these children’s upbringing is improved and make sure that they are not mocked for their parents’ crimes. They should be protected from bullying by their peers because of the experience they would have gone through and the lifestyle their parents would have been subjected to, that of prison life.
I would like to acknowledge the programme of ‘Open Prisons’ that was pioneered by the late Commissioner Gen. Zimondi. The concept was a good one. These women should not just sit, they should be given an opportunity to start sustainable projects. If it is tailoring, they should be assisted to look for a market where these things are sold so that the income can assist them and their children can live well. If it is possible, these women should get punishment in the form of community service. I have seen others from my area who went to court and were charged to do community service from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a local clinic, police station or any other place. This will assist them so that when they complete a day’s community service, they go back home to their families. Regardless of the fact that they will not be home all day, at least they are able to sleep with their children at home and lead a decent life.
There are things that the children experience; later in life these children will always emulate those things as good when they grow up. Even at home, if there is violence, children will always think that it is the correct thing to do when they grow up, they will never be able to tell between wrong or right. Hon. President, it is very important to give children a positive upbringing so that they are protected from anything negative in this world. It is possible that children reach the school going age without proper preparation.
The President mentioned the Prisons Act [Chapter 7:11] which provides for the staying of children in jail with their mothers but when they reach the age of two, they are transferred to an institution. Let it be an institution which is well furnished with all the resources and make sure that it provides for a positive upbringing for these children. It should not just be an institution with no adequate facilities for the proper upkeep of children. If not well taken care of, you then see the children filling up the streets as ‘street kids.’ The main reason behind these street kids should be pointed out as troubled backgrounds. These children should get a better upbringing. I think we should have done that as a Government Mr. President.
We always say our children are the future leaders because we would have provided them with a dignified and proper foundation. Some of them are indeed future leaders but some of them are now indulging in illicit drugs which damage their future. It is our fault as parents because we are unable to provide a better upbringing for them. There are some who display delinquent behaviour, and if you talk to them they do not listen. We do give them advice but they are adamant, they fail to listen. As legislators, let us closely look at this and use the best way to put it across to them so that we help our children. We are doing this for the betterment of our children’s upbringing as future leaders. Thank you very much Mr. President.
+HON. SEN. D. M. NDLOVU: Thank you Hon. President for the time you have given me to add my voice on the issue on behalf of the children who are incarcerated together with their mothers and cannot think for themselves. Thank you Hon. Sen. Chirongoma for bringing up this motion.
It is very painful for children to live with their parents in prison because they see what they are not supposed to see. Some children are given horrible names because they were living with their parents in prisons. These names stereotype and discriminate them. This demonises the child. This makes the child to always be angry at everyone. He or she becomes a fighter every time as he or she tries to defend him or herself. If there is any way of improving life for such children, they can be taken away from their mother in prison and be taken care of by responsible people and then given back to their mothers after having served the sentence.
Like what the Hon. Sen. Said, that in prison, there are things that are happening which we cannot say here. We are told that they end up being homosexual in prison and children will be seeing all that, which is a disadvantage to the child because our laws do not allow a man to have sexual intercourse with another man or a woman to marry another woman. This is so disheartening because children will be seeing all these happenings in prison. We wish this motion to be taken into consideration by our Government. What has been brought by the legislators must be put into law.
We are appealing to mothers who have knowledge of how to care and nurture a child to support this motion so that it becomes law. If this is made into law, this motion will protect the future of Zimbabwe and also keep these children in safe hands. We are also appealing to other women who want to assist those in problems – they should not get to the extent of them being imprisoned because they have failed to restrain themselves. I am referring to an incident that was highlighted by Hon. Sen. Chirongoma. I am very grateful for his motion. I thank you.
*HON. SEN. FEMAI: I would like to thank the mover of this motion and the seconder. This is a very good motion which shows that people are so much interested in the future. If we could all acknowledge that we will die and leave behind the young generation, we would not have any challenges.
There are a lot of people in this country who work with the Zimbabwe Prisons Services. There is no Prison Officer who desires or wishes to take their child to prison because they know the environment is not good. There is no one who works at the Prisons Services who expects their grandchild or child to go to work at the prison because they know that there are a lot of diseases. Firstly, these days there is COVID-19 and children are easily affected when the mother is affected. If you go to prisons and take a video – during the 60s and 70s, we were once taken to prison for political issues. You come across lice in prison and they are so detrimental to one’s health that in two days, you will be in a bad shape. What more a young child? There are so many mosquitoes such that they do not even make noise and you just experience biting. There are a lot of insects that bite you in prison. One of the biggest challenges is the blankets used in prison. They smell and they are very dirty because you cannot wash them yourself. Toilets will be inside and the children experience a very bad upbringing. I would like to thank those who moved this motion. It was my wish that the Government would move this motion and look at it closely. I also hope that we establish a law that will free these children so that they do not grow up in prison together with their parents.
Most of these mothers who go to prison will be trying to fend for their children, that is when they commit crimes which result in them getting 5year sentences in prison. Instead of giving these children a better life, they expose these children to a poor upbringing. It is difficult to bring up children and you end up doing some of the most terrible things for their survival. It is just the same with animals; even birds will feed their little ones from a farmers plot just for their survival. The children go to prison when they are not supposed to be there because of the crimes of their parents. If women have children or they are pregnant, I think there should be a law that defers their sentence to maybe after six months when they can leave their children outside prison. Government should see to the welfare of these children wherever they will be kept.
We see a lot of nurses going outside the country to take care of the aged in homes abroad. Why not arrange that these children are sent to a home where these people can take care of the children whose mothers will be in prison. This will help the children grow up in a proper family set up and not on the streets. When you have reached the budget period, we should look at allocating money towards welfare. A lot of funding should be channelled towards the upkeep of these children. These are the future leaders of tomorrow. There should be equality on the upbringing of these children. When these mothers are discharged from prison, there should be a fund to cater for the children’s upbringing and welfare. Some of the laws that we have were left behind by the colonial regime – the Smith regime and these are the same laws we are still carrying to this day. Long back, there was no woman who was put in jail but it started during the colonial era. You find that even women were sentenced for execution. We have the likes of Mbuya Nehanda who never threw a stone, a spear or a gun. Because she was a spirit medium, she was killed. We have 40 years after independence but we are still carrying on with these laws. These women carry the future of our country. We have situations where children are found in prisons. These children have not committed any offences. Such laws should be removed. After serving for two years, women should be put in open prisons so that they look after their children. Those who have committed serious crimes should serve their terms but Government should look after their minor children through the Social Welfare Department. We must amend such laws as a country.
*THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE (HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA): Hon. Senator, your debate is quite interesting but you are left with five minutes.
*HON. SEN. FEMAI: Thank you very much Mr. President. I was talking about countries that have developed better than Zimbabwe. It is my plea that these issues that I have mentioned be implemented. We should safeguard the children’s rights. Thank you Mr. President.
On the motion of HON. SEN. MUZENDA, seconded by HON. SEN. MATHUTHU, the Senate adjourned at Twenty-Two Minutes to Five o’clock p.m.