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SENATE HANSARD 07 AUGUST 2019 28-66

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Wednesday, 7th August, 2019

The Senate met at Half-past Two o’clock p.m.

PRAYERS

(THE DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR MANICALAND EAST

PROVINCE (HON. SEN. DR. GWARADZIMBA): I move that Order

of the Day, Number 1 be stood over until the rest of the Orders of the Day have been disposed of.

Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT

Second Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on the protection of the environment and the use of natural resources.

Question again proposed.

*HON. SEN. SHUMBA: Thank you Mr. President for giving me

an opportunity to debate on the motion raised by Hon. Sen. Chifamba. I also want to thank Hon. Sen. Chifamba for raising such a pertinent motion which encourages us to look after our vegetation. I want to start with the proverb ‘Kare haagare ari kare’ meaning we should not focus on the past because things change. What I have realised is that our country cannot be stretched like elastic but our population continues to grow. Our elders say that when the population increases, everything should increase as well.

In the past, there were large forests but because the population is growing and people are looking for places to stay as they  grow and have families of their own and cut down trees to build their homes.

Nowadays, it is actually better because we have bricks unlike long back when we used pole and dagga. Those are some of the root causes of deforestation. Even here in town, the number of people living in towns has increased and this has an effect on the service and people say the Government is letting us down but that is not the case because when we increase in numbers, we should look at other factors.

When we cut down trees for firewood and when I was listening, I heard that trees are cut down in the rural areas and brought into the cities to sell as there is no electricity. However, if you look closely, those people are looking for money because our population has grown and they need means of survival. We should look at ways to earn a living and maybe they also are following the mantra by the President that Zimbabwe is open for business. So, everyone is doing business. Yes, they will be doing business but we should not encourage them to cut down trees but as leaders, what are we doing?

Each year, there is a programme which should take place once a year in December on National Tree Planting Day because the Government realised that trees are becoming scarce because of the mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’. So, people should be encouraged to plant trees in December. Our Government set aside this day for planting trees and the President plants a tree on that day but how many trees have each one of us planted? People are cutting down trees for various reasons such as selling for money, building houses and so on but we should teach people in our constituencies to participate on National Tree Planting Day.

If we can, as Members of Parliament who are issued vehicles, carry trees such as mutamba, mutohwe, et cetera in our cars for planting in our constituencies on this particular day. This will ensure that our trees will be preserved.  If we allow people to cut trees randomly without planting more, we will end up in a desert.

When I got married, there were think forests but now, we can hardly find any firewood because of overpopulation.  Let us come up with a programme that will ensure our forests are restored.  Those who treat tobacco cut trees to treat their tobacco but others have had a programme of planting gum trees, that is what is encouraged, other than blaming the Government all the time.  The Government cannot plant trees throughout the country. We should do that together in order to preserve our forests.  During the month of December, each and every citizen must plant a tree, even ten trees per person rather than continuously blaming the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

Fruit trees like muzhanje, I will refer to the mantra ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business,’ people gather the mazhanje fruits for business purposes.  Let us teach our constituents that if we want to sell those fruits, let us not cut the trees or gather unripe fruits.  We used to live in areas where there were so many fruit trees of mazhanje and we would gather and eat.  However, people began to notice that it was an opportunity for business as the fruit trees like muzhanje, muchechete and mutohwe were popular and had a market for those fruits.  Our chiefs should educate their subjects that if one is found gathering unripe fruits, they should be convicted.  I would like to thank you for this opportunity.

I heard someone referring to the days of Ian Smith but I do not think we are ever going back there, he is gone with his regime. Let us talk about us with this new dispensation and improve the economy of our country.  We do not want Smith back into our country and we should never be reminded of the white man. Let us do our own things with the blessing of God.  Mr. President, each person in December should carry tree plants to plant in our constituencies.

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF

SENATE

SWITCHING OFF OF CELLPHONES

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: May I

remind Hon. Members once again to put your phones on silent or better still, switch them off.

++HON. SEN. NYATHI: Thank you Mr. President for giving me this opportunity to debate on this motion moved by Hon. Sen. Chifamba on the environment.  A lot has been said so far, but I would like to talk about veld fires.  I am really shocked Mr. President because of these veld fires.  All along, was this fire not there, how come these days we see a lot of all these veld fires everywhere and nobody will be attempting to stop it and people who start those fires are not seen?  What is causing all that? Even on road sides, somebody raised that issue yesterday.  Some of the cars use petrol – [HON. SENATORS: Inaudible interjections.] –

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order!

++HON. SEN. NYATHI: You see those fires raging and smoke

will be covering the road.  With these accidents claiming lives on the roads, you see smoke obstructing the road users especially in the evening, then you wonder how this is happening.

Let me also touch on the issue of tree planting, I agree that we should plant trees.  However, if we plant those trees on one hand whilst we burn on the other hand and we do not address the plight of veld fires – yes, we might grow trees but we burn those trees again.  So, what we should do is to address the cause of veld fires so that we restore dignity to our country.

The environment has totally changed because a lot of trees have been cut down.  If you visit some areas, trees will be the prominent features that mark your way.  However, that is all gone now because people are just cutting down trees, even on streams.  During the time that I was born in 1960, as we were growing up, streams were flowing and we used to fetch water from them but now because of veld fires, they also burn seeds of various tree species.  We used to eat a lot of fruits when we grew up. That was also important to our health but all those trees have all been destroyed by veld fires.  So, my suggestion is, when we debate here, let us ensure that we address the root cause of this menace of veld fires.

As we grew up, these fires that burn the whole country from East to West were not there.  Now we debate in this august House every time, that these veld fires must be stopped but right now as we speak, if we were to go out, we will find those veld fires raging.  So, what will become of our country?   Some of the educated people refer to soil erosion as being caused by veld fires.  So what it also means is, the veld fires burn everything including matter and dead leaves.  That would also contribute to enrichment of soil, but these days you will no longer get food because people are burning fires which is also contributing to poor food production, even deserts are growing.

Trees also blow whirlwinds, but these days roofs are being blown off by whirlwinds.  So when we cut down and burn those trees, our environment loses dignity.  As we debate now, we say let us go and plant trees.  It is just as good as saying someone is building yet on the other hand another person is destroying.  So the most important thing is, as we debate let us look at the root cause of these problems.  Where are these veld fires coming from?

If it is a policy it should be referred to, for instance the chiefs, our traditional leaders.  They must be empowered to examine the cause of that problem so that they may enforce the snipping in the bud of the root cause of veld fires.  Even in the rural areas, the chiefs should be empowered to ensure that they look at the root cause of those problems.  Yes, I am referring to the powers of the traditional chiefs, but the biggest problem is here in towns or areas that are not under the jurisdiction of traditional leaders.  Even if we refer to EMA, indeed yes EMA has the power.   Even if people go to report they are afraid of EMA, yet they do not seem to be afraid of the problem.  Should they wait for EMA to tell them that there is a problem with these veld fires?  People should be responsible.  People should understand that veld fires affect them, not necessarily EMA.

Mr. President Sir, I do not understand on the issue of veld fires.  Even wild animals including snakes are no longer there.  We used to learn History and Geography.  We used to have practical lessons but these days when children have to go out to see those animals or species they no longer see those snakes.  They will no longer see them including hares.  As you would travel from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls, there were a lot of hares on the road, but these days you no longer see them including bucks and all other wild animals.  There was a fence that used to demarcate or protect road sides.

I raised that motion in this Parliament referring to that fence.  You no longer see it and even the wild animals you do not see them.  You can drive all the way to Victoria Falls without seeing wild animals.  These days you can draw a wild animal like for instance a hare, but our

children will no longer see them live.  They can only get to see them on pictures or in books and they will not be able to see them live.

So what I am saying is, we should address the problem of veld fires so that our country can be as beautiful as before with wild animals, trees and flowers.  When the Minister comes to this House, we should be able to hear a policy that can stop that from going on.  If EMA is not capable of enforcing that, then we should make sure that other people are brought in to stop the problem.  I thank you.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  I am talking

and let us listen when the Chair is talking.

HON. SEN. CHIFAMBA:  I move that the debate do now adjourn.

HON. SEN. P. NDHLOVU:  I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume:  Thursday, 7th August, 2019.

MOTION

ESTABLISHMENT OF AN EMPOWERED ENTITY TO ADDRESS

CHALLENGES AFFECTING PENSIONERS AND POLICY

HOLDERS

Third Order read:  Adjourned debate on motion on the need for a legislative framework on pensions and insurance benefits.

Question again proposed.

+HON. SEN. WUNGANAYI:  Thank you Mr. President for this opportunity to add my voice to this motion.  I would like to thank Sen. Timveos, the mover of this motion on pensions.  Mr. President, when we were growing up we saw the elderly in our community living good lives while on pension.  What surprises me is that nowadays it is a completely different story.  It is now not a good idea to retire from work even at the age of 92 because pension is no longer enough for our pensioners.

Some may ask why I said 92 years.  It is because if a person works for 60 or 62 years at a company and he retires, two years after retiring he cannot even afford to buy bathing soap.  With such a scenario who would like to go on retirement?  This affects us because we see many pensioners who are now suffering because they cannot afford basic goodsIf you look at them you cannot imagine that these people worked for 50 years at a company, for example like Olivine but cannot afford to buy even a bottle of cooking oil. Our elders in the villages who once worked are now living as if they never worked before.  I think

Government should come up with legislation that looks into the pensions of people.  They should not know it by going and sleeping in the bank queues.  It should be known how much they get and when because if a person waits for the whole year to get a $60 pension, then they board a bus, what is it?  From where I come from Njanja, it is now $50 then you come to Harare and you are given $60.  After spending three days, you would have spent $60 and you are given RTGS$60 through ecocash because there is nothing they can do to get the cash.  On top of that, with RTG$60, you cannot buy anything.  You can only buy a bottle of Mazoe

drink.

Mr. President, we are in trouble of helping people who are supposed to be helping themselves after working hard.  I am worried when I listen to some people talking about war veterans.  It is very painful.  There are some who want to talk as if they love them more than others but they are both our parents.  We should tell the truth which builds us, how we got independence.

Mr. President, no one hates war veterans because they are our parents.  We were with them during the war.  They used to help together with our mothers, fathers, sisters and our brothers for us to gain independence but if you look at how they live, it is very painful.  Surely

Mr. President, no one wants to retire.  When I look at it, there is Rtd. Major General Nyambuya because he is on his farm that he was allocated by the Government, he should retire and enjoy his pension but now he cannot go to his farm because there are no inputs there.  He does not have pension, no honour in order for him to be respected.  In order for him to be recognised, he should remain as the President of the Senate.  There is nowhere you can be respected out there.  That is the truth.  We have our war veterans, brothers and sisters in the rural areas and most of them are suffering from stroke because they are getting nothing.  They are living from hand-outs.  When the youngsters are now scolding them, we say they are not good people but it is the Government which should have the legislation in place.  We should not only mention about the war veterans because when we refer to them, it is as if we love them.  If we love them, we should speak on what pertains to them.  They should get their money and their children should go to school but honestly speaking, we do not like the war veterans.

The war veteran is where the country begins.  One party did not fight the war; everyone fought for it.  No one can stand up and say, I do not like war veterans because from every home, there were people who were involved.  They did not fight each other as we do in this House. They had one purpose for us to live well but today a war veteran, if you get into the society, I have my uncles and brothers in the rural areas and when they see me going into the community, they ask me about their money.  They say do you talk about our welfare in Parliament.  Mr.

President, we can say you are very lucky because you got a job in the

Government and in other companies after the war.  What about those who were crippled and are sitting at home right now who did not get anything, even the demob?  Who is going to remember them if they do not get their pension?

Mr. President, NSSA should be investigated.  The NSSA should be talked about in all sectors.  There is a state of the art building that I see going to Borrowdale which was built by NSSA but pensioners are earning $30.  If you want to go and rent in that building, you should make sure you pay rentals in United States dollars but they are giving people $30.  How many buildings does NSSA have in this country?  They are many.  Mr. President, NSSA as an institution must be investigated to see how money is handled.  I was happy when I saw that some people were investigated, which is a sign that we are going somewhere.  There is somewhere we are going and we will get there.

Mr. President, I am very pained when I look at pensioners in the rural areas.  In towns, they can sell tomatoes and live.  What about those in the rural areas who do not have even livestock at their homesteads?

They came back disabled.  What do they get in this beautiful country of ours?

The truth we should remember all of us is that everyone out there who once worked for a company should get a pension.  It is only war veterans and Government workers who get their pension.  If it does not start from there, who else do you think should give people their pensions?  We should first look at the way our war veterans are living.  We have relatives that are suffering out there because they were not working anywhere.   We thought that if they are the ones who liberated us, they are the ones going to sit pretty but their living has been taken over by some thieves.

Mr. President, this country should enforce change from the top going down because if it starts from the bottom going down, we are lying to each other.  It should start from the top. It should be like anointing oil coming from the head going down Aaron’s head. To see the beauty, it must come from the top. Even a river flows from the top going down. Our country should flow like a river. We should not force things or go behind the back. I am waiting to hear that the Board of NSSA has been called and the culprits apprehended. It is not that I am suspecting them but I am saying they should be apprehended. These people have destroyed our country.

For us to know what happens in other institutions, we should start with NSSA because it has to do with issues of the people who worked for this country. The people should get their pensions.

*HON. SEN. TONGOGARA: Thank you Mr. President for

affording me this opportunity to add my voice on this motion which is at hand and which touches on a lot of people in our country. Firstly, I would want to say that right now we are talking about pension issues. Pension came about after independence because when we were growing up, if your father had worked in a company for a number of years, then they would be given a bicycle as a pension after working for 20 years. when we got our independence, it enabled us to change those laws so that each and everyone who is gainfully employed knows that they are paying towards their retirement pension.

When it started, it used to go very well. There was an Hon. Member who said we would envy the pensioners but here is the challenge which has befallen us. There are thieves that have dipped their hands into the pension fund. These thieves would, when they are in trouble, move around selling premises and people lost a lot of money just like what is happening in these mushrooming churches. People are forming churches so that they can make money. They steal money through tithes paid by people. They group people according to how much they are paying and that is a challenge we are faced with. Even when it comes to pensions and insurances which we thought would help people, people take advantage of the premises.

What I want to say is that after we have seen that, I want to thank the new dispensation which came and placed the Anti-Corruption Commission which has teeth now to bite so that investigations will take place and come up with solutions. In the new dispensation, the President has put a new Board to investigate these people and make sure that they are arrested. We know that the previous Board did not have the powers to arrest but the Board that is now there has been given powers to arrest. People are being arrested and so I have confidence.

There is an Hon. Member who once said things will not remain the same. The new dispensation is putting order so that where there was disorder, they will now be order so that our country will move forward and our pensioners will be able to get their money. I will not delve into the issue of how people are living but we should render support as Senate. We should not point fingers at each other. We should come together and work as legislators so that we can bring order so that our people are viewed as people through their pensions. We should be able to help each other. If we do that Mr. President, I know that we will concur because there is no problem that will not end if we bring our heads together. Thank you.

+HON. SEN. DUBE: Thank you Mr. President for giving me this opportunity to add my voice on the issue of pensions. A lot has been said about pensioners and most of the members who contributed before me highlighted that these people are having difficulties in accessing their pension fund. It is important that the Government looks at how they are going to get their funds since most of the beneficiaries are coming from the rural areas and some of them are actually using the same funds that they get as their pension.

It will be easier Mr. President that the beneficiaries, since we are taking into consideration that most of them are elderly people, for them to be queuing for a long time in banks; why can we not fix this so that they do not spend so much time in queues at their banks? Members who contributed before me indicated that most of them especially now that we are in the new dispensation; we have a new Board that was elected which should also take into consideration that most of these elderly people are coming from rural areas. Some of them travel more than 200 km and have to stay for long periods in bank queues. They should be able to have access to their funds without facing such difficulties.

We are also taking into consideration that the issue of pension is a problem to everyone. We also realise that war veterans are facing the same challenge. The war veterans will acknowledge this and the question that we pose is why war veterans should have difficulties. We know why we are getting funds that are not enough. As Hon. Members of the Senate, why should we be seen not to be speaking with one voice when it comes to the issue of war veterans? Everyone who is a war veteran knows why they are facing such challenges. We all know why we are facing such challenges and our plea is that this should be –[HON.

SENATORS: Inaudible interjections.] –

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order.

Allow the Hon. Senator to debate.  Let us listen to what she is saying even if you do not agree with it.  You have your own opinion and it is respected – [HON. KOMICHI: Vakurasika.] – Hon. Sen. Komichi, withdraw that.

HON. SEN. KOMICHI: I withdraw Mr. President Sir.

+HON. SEN. DUBE: Thank you Mr. President Sir, for protecting me.  I am saying something that I know and have experienced.  I am one of the war veterans.  Issues to do with pensions are so important for you will actually be preparing for your future when you retire.  What we used to see way back is that, when someone retires, the person would get so much respect as they will be able to do so many things.  Some of the pensioners die early because they will not be doing any form of exercise.

It is our request that the Government should correct this so that people get their pensions in full and they should be respected.  When one retires, they are supposed to be taken care of by the pensions that they will be receiving.  I am adding my voice on this and saying, as Zimbabweans, all that we want is the truth.  As a war veteran, you cannot keep on saying the same thing especially if you bring issues that have to do with the past, you will be opening healed wounds.  I thank you.

HON. SEN. TIMVEOS: I move that the debate do now adjourn.

HON. SEN. MOHADI: I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume: Thursday, 8th August, 2019.

MOTION

CULTURAL VALUES ON ENDING CHILD MARRIAGES

Fourth Order Read: Adjourned debate on motion on the need of the enforcement of the law on child marriages.

Question again proposed.

+HON. SEN. MKHWEBU: Thank you Mr. President for giving

me this opportunity to add my voice on the motion that was brought by Hon. Sen. Tongogara and the seconder on child marriages that we should come up with a law that restricts child marriages.  A lot has been said in this House concerning child marriages.  Following on what one of the Senators questioned that, why should we have child marriages and why they should be raped; as parents, we are supposed to have a look at this.  We realise that way back, such things never used to happen.  What is happening today is worrying us especially as Members of Parliament.  Most of them are being raped by their relatives and the child marriages are occurring a lot.  Why should we have child marriages?

Mr. President Sir, when a child is born, there are certain traditions that are done where we check whether the child is a boy or girl.  There used to be certain traditions that used to be done when they were still young and this used to protect them from so many things that could happen to them as they grew up.   We are no longer teaching our children the culture that we used to practice.  You will notice that a child who is at the age of 12 might have experienced their menstrual cycle already and if we do not look into this, these girls think that they are old enough to start families.

I just want to add my voice, especially on what I have said; we need to sit down and teach our children on the culture that we used to have.  You will realise that most of them reach the menstruation stage at a tender age whilst way back, they would reach that stage maybe at the age of 18.  We have girls proposing to boys these days and we should come up with a law that restricts that.

We need to have a look at that Mr. President Sir as Members of the Senate on why we are having a high rate of child marriages.  This may be caused by the fact that they are now reaching the puberty stage at an early age.  We should come up with a law in Zimbabwe that restricts that.  If we do not correct this, most boys will be arrested because of marrying an underage child.   Most Hon. Members highlighted that we should scrutinise why we are having child marriages especially nowadays as compared to what used to happen before.  This could be because of the type of food that we are eating.  When you look at a 12year old, you might think she is in her late 20s.  With these few words Mr. President Sir, I thank you.

*HON. SEN. CHIMBUDZI:  Thank you Mr. President for giving me this opportunity to support the motion raised by Sen. Tongogara and those who supported.  Mr. President, I realise that as a country we have a big problem about early child marriages.  In the past a girl or a boy would grow to a reasonable age.

If we look at the lives lived by our mothers, there were not so many schools, but they would preserve the culture that would ensure that marriage would be respected.  The girl child would grow so much that if the time comes for them to get married there was a channel to consult the aunt.  The aunt would enquire about the totem or the origins of the boy, but these days things have changed.  A girl would communicate with a boy over the phone to court for marriage, but they would not be knowing each other and that is a problem that is affecting our culture.

We have a problem so much that such a relationship has been destroyed in our families.  We no longer get time to impart good culture and bad things to our children.  The mother goes out and minds their own business, the father minds his own business and the children also mind their own business.  That has destroyed our culture, but sometimes that is also caused by the way we behave as parents.  If the mother dies and there is a girl child, those children who are left behind by the deceased suffer a lot.  There is no woman who agrees to take care of a child who was left by another woman, hence leading to the girl child opting to get married at an early age because of the suffering.  It is caused by the behaviour of us women.  We do not take good care of such children because we say I will not take care of another woman’s child.  They only care about looking after their own biological children.

Families that are led by step mothers are suffering a lot.  I came across a girl child who is being taken care of by a step mother.  She narrated her story that when she went to take grain from the silo one of her step mother’s relatives came and raped her, so now she was going to the police station to report.  I asked why she was not accompanied by the step mother.  She said the step mother asked her to face her case alone.  So what is happening now is, when a step mother comes in the husband has no control. It is the step mother who controls how things are run in that family and they do not take care of the children.

My province Mashonaland Central is number one in child marriages.  This is not about development.  It has nothing to do with development but is number one in child marriages.  I am ashamed when this issue is being debated and statistics bare given.  I am ashamed because that is where I come from. What is causing this at times is laziness.  Debates take place in beer halls and when they find someone who is rich, they pledge their children because people in Zimbabwe are greedy when it comes to money.  We are no longer interested in our children growing up. We are greedy.  That is the challenge which we are faced with in Zimbabwe.

We should put strong legislation.  We are very happy with the Marriage Bill.  We should talk about it.  We have been given a chance to choose as people of Zimbabwe what we want as Zimbabweans.  Let me say that if we leave it like that, it will not go well for us as a nation because right now, we no longer have our aunts.  The aunts are now doing whatever they want and our mothers are doing what they want as well, but we should think of families that are marrying off children, that the mothers and the father should be given strong penalties because when they are given lobola, they share.  The mother is given groceries and other things and the father is given clothes and other things.  These two should be convicted and given the same number of year in prison.  I think we will end child marriages because they have agreed so that they would benefit on the lobola.  So when the Marriage Bill is tabled, it will help us. We should really debate and exhaust it and people should

adhere to the principles of the legislation because right now, they think that we are a lawless country.

What does it help to marry a young child?  When you look at it; the son-in-law is older than the mother-in-law and it is very difficult for a mother-in-law to be respected by a very old son in law because we would have agreed to the game.  We should let our children grow, let them go to school and improve their career so that they become tomorrow’s leaders or become senators.  They should choose on their own because they would be learned and they will now know what is to get married since they would have matured.  Wherever they go, it is a burden to that family because she has to be looked after by that family.  She does not know how to man a home.  So as Zimbabweans, I think we should come up with stiffer penalties.

Long back we used to say that if a girl or a child is misbehaving neighbours would reprimand them, but these days they do not listen.  They will tell you that you are not my mother you cannot reprimand them.  We must look into that because we have lost our culture of not respecting each other.  That is why long back we would see that in our homes when they are married as mature people, divorce was very rare.  They would get old but these days after two years of marriage they separate.  They think that they would have been separated. Our children are now making us enemies with our neighbours because we have lost our culture.  I think we should debate the Marriage Bill so that we come up with strong legislation that will help our children when they want to get married at the right age.  If we do not do that, we would have missed it and it will continue to be a play game.  It is very difficult for children to get married.  We are destroying their future.  We should remove the spirit of greediness from the families and we move well.  We should work hard because we can change our lives and send our children to school.  That is what makes us develop as a nation.  Thank you Mr.

President.

HON. SEN. CHIEF MATHUPULA:  Thank you very much Mr.

President for the opportunity to speak to the topic before us on, the issue of child marriages that was brought in by Hon. Sen. Tongogara.  I would like to thank you so much for such a pertinent issue that has been brought before us and the seconder.  I felt that I should also add my voice to the issue, not because I am a lawmaker and a representative of my community, but because I am a parent. This issue is pertinent to all of us as parents.  The issue of child marriages is an old issue but it seems to be taking years for us to sort it out.  What is a normal marriage?  A marriage is the union of two adults with a full, free and informed consent.  That is a simple definition but how can a child have a full, free and informed consent?  If you read the contract laws, a child cannot enter into a contract because they say, a child is too young to be fully informed.  She cannot be educated enough, she cannot be free enough because she is just a child living with an adult maybe 20 or 30 years older than that child.  You cannot say that child is free in that union.

We have children living in such circumstances and we cannot call them free, we cannot call them full and we cannot call them informed in those relationships.  These are the child marriages that we are talking about Mr. President.  I feel very much that these children are sort of slaves who are in these relationships which they cannot have a say in.

I want to speak about child marriages and health Mr. President.  If these children are not informed, if they are not having full, free and consent, how can they speak to issues regarding their health?  We are fighting the epidemics, for example HIV, STDs, high infant mortality and mobility. We cannot fight these and win if we still have child marriages.  This is because these children cannot speak to issues such as sexual reproductive health and issues of contraceptives.  They are too young to understand.  Even if they want to speak to them, they would like to have their partners give them permission and most of the time, the older men would not want that child to exercise their right to sexual reproductive health.  Then we cannot win the fights that are against health.  We then have a vicious cycle of health problems which continue to bedevil this country.  We cannot win the fight for good health if we still have child marriages.

The issue of poverty is number two Mr. President.  We cannot win the fight against poverty as long as we have child marriages in our communities.  It is common knowledge that most of the countries that have child marriages are also high poverty countries.  It becomes a vicious cycle Mr. President because in trying to escape poverty, you marry off your child but without those informed choices we spoke about, you have such a big family.  In trying to feed the family, you want one of the children to be married off.  It becomes a vicious poverty cycle.

As a nation, we need to improve the standards of living for our people.  As legislators, we need to have projects in our communities that our people can find to make better ways of living so that they do not see their children as ways of making money or as income generating projects.

We would like to speak to the issue of education also Mr. President.  Without improving this issue, we cannot have our children marrying at the right ages.  Are there schools in the rural areas of

Zimbabwe?  How far do our children travel to get to school?  Is it easy for them to love going to school?  The long distances that we see being travelled, for example in Tsholotsho, from my area Jimila Secondary to Siphepha Secondary School, it is 40km.  From Jimila Secondary to the next secondary school when you are going towards Tsholotsho, it is another 40km.  This is too far for a child to be travelling and you expect the child to continue to do well.  We then have high numbers of school drop-outs.  These children who drop out at Grade 7 until they reach 18 years, all those years what will they be doing?  They will be sitting doing nothing.  At the end, they have to marry because that is the only thing that will be attracting them or that will be around them at that age.  We need to improve the issue of education because it touches very much on our child marriages.  If the schools are available, what is the quality of schools that are available.

The issue of BEAM and having school fees paid for our children is very important.  BEAM needs to be available and it needs strengthening.  When the Minister is talking about it, see to it that we see BEAM catering for a greater number of students.  Also, the issue of free primary and secondary education should be made available so that our children do not need to drop out of school.  The issue of extra-curricular activities, sports and the like, we do not have a lot of them in rural Zimbabwe.  We see that this is also causing our children to have nothing to do and end up sitting around, waiting for the potential grooms to approach them.

The issue of vocational training centres, we need to have them in every district because the children that are sitting around doing nothing are the ones being potential brides.  We also see a situation even in town where even the urban town planners are not looking at the issue of children anymore.  All they look for is money.   If you look at the way they used to plan long back, there used to be sports and recreational facilities in every place which was being planned.  If you look now, even the old parks where there used to be swings and slides, they are run down and the councils that are there now do not bother to make sure those parks are rehabilitated.  It is our duty as legislators to look into our areas and see those parks which used to be there where children used to go. Swimming pools need to be rehabilitated so that our children can find something to do and not forced to grow up.

Mr. President, on the issue of legislation, I am very happy that the Marriage Bill that was brought to our attention and deliberation touched on the issue of the age of marriage which was said to be eighteen years. It is still going to come before us but I am happy that this age has now been brought to Parliament so that we can put our stamp on it.

The issue of concern Mr. President is the age of consent. We cannot, as a nation, agree to a situation where the age of consent is sixteen years but the age of marriage is eighteen years. Our laws are a reflection of our values and we do not value a situation where a child is given the licence to have sex but not given the licence to marry. That is a great problem which we need as legislators to tackle and see to it that age of consent and the age of marriage are harmonised so that we also seem, as legislators, to know what we are talking about.

The issue of culture is also very important. Our culture as

Zimbabweans – somebody spoke about the first thing that should protect a child is the family. As our laws, we should strengthen the family and the ability of a father and mother to discipline, correct and instruct the child. As long as we have those same values which our culture brought about Hon. President, our children are in safe hands.  The issue of also giving the community and the extended family the ability to look after that child is also very important. So, our traditional values of family, extended family and community should also be strengthened so that everyone is given the onus to look after that child Mr. President.

Also on the issue of culture, we have also, as traditional leaders, the onus to look at our communities and make sure that those younger than eighteen years are not married. We need to also monitor those unregistered cultural marriages which are happening in our areas which are cultural and largely accepted by most people in rural areas. But it is now the duty of us as leadership to make sure that those who are younger than eighteen are not married off.

So, Mr. President, in conclusion, we have a very big role in front of us especially as Parliamentarians to continue this fight against child marriages even as the Marriage Bill comes, to look at that once and for all so that on the legislative side, it says something which is positive towards our children. To our policy makers, we need a child policy which will once and for all speak to the issues that protect our children which will trickle down to the rest of the country. Also Mr. President, to our traditionalists, they should make sure that in rural Zimbabwe, our children are protected. I would like to end by a quote from Mr. Dietrich

Bonhoeffer, who says ‘You can judge a morality of a people by the way they treat their own children’. I thank you.

HON. SEN. TONGOGARA: I move that the debate do now

adjourn.

HON. SEN. CHIRONGOMA: I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume: Thursday, 8th August, 2019.

         On the motion of THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR

MANICALAND PROVINCE (HON. SEN. DR. GWARADZIMBA), the Senate adjourned at Five Minutes to Four o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 27th August, 2019.

 

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