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SENATE HANSARD 1 SEPTEMBER 2022 VOL 31 NO 65
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Thursday, 1st September, 2022
The Senate met at Half-past Two o’clock p.m.
(THE ACTING PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. SEN. SEKERAMAYI: I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 1 to 2 be stood over until Order of the Day Number 3 has been disposed of.
HON. SEN. CHIRONGOMA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE ACTING PRESIDENT OF SENATE
SUSPENSION OF STANDING ORDERS
THE ACTING PRESIDENT (HON. SEN. KAMBIZI): Due to the suspension of orders yesterday, we do not have Ministers to answer questions today. Therefore, we do not have Questions Without Notice and Questions with Notice as the Ministers are not there.
REPORT OF THE THEMATIC COMMITTEE ON GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT ON THE INQUIRY INTO THE STATUS AND WELFARE OF CHILDREN ACCOMPANYING INCARCERATED MOTHERS AND ACCESS TO ANTE-NATAL CARE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN IN PRISONS
Third Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on the Report of the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development on the inquiry into the status and welfare of children accompanying incarcerated mothers and access to ante-natal care for pregnant women in prisons.
Question again proposed.
*HON. SEN. MOEKETSI: Mr. President, I am one of the Hon. Senators who was part of the delegation which was touring prisons to investigate the circumstances surrounding the welfare of women who are incarcerated in different prisons. It might seem like two crimes that were committed; a crime that was committed by the mother and the child. My desire is that Government should intervene because our children are suffering. You find children growing up in a constricted and constrained environment. Children should be free where they can associate with other children but you find children growing in prisons where their mothers are incarcerated. Government should intervene in this case because this is affecting our children who are our future leaders.
I would also like to ask that Government should build pre-schools in prisons for children who are three or four years old since they may spend three or four years in jail because of the crimes that were committed by their mothers. It is prudent that such children should grow up experiencing the life that is experienced by other children of their age.
The second point being that the mothers are facing big challenges as depicted from the issues that they expressed. They said at times food does not get to these prisoners on time. I do not know whether it is possible or not, to build more facilities to house prisoners. There are 20 to 30 women who share one toilet. We know that these are people who are incarcerated and are serving jail terms but some of these things are not good. So, I am saying that as this august House, Government should intervene so that these issues are resolved.
There was an old woman whom we saw in Nkayi who was alone and could be around 70 years old. She was alleged to have stolen chickens and she had a livestock offence that she was facing. You end up not understanding whether this is a genuine or fabricated crime. My point is that such elderly people should not be imprisoned. Government should look into these cases, especially cases which involve old women for that matter. Imagine such an old person facing prison life at her advanced age. This is sad and painful.
Furthermore, we went to this Bulawayo prison where you find those who are mentally challenged being in the same facility with those who are sane. This was really sad because those with mental challenges should be institutionalised in a different facility. What if the mentally challenged prisoners attack those who are not? Government should therefore intervene in this and resolve the issue.
The health of our women in Zimbabwe is compromised. I believe that in every prison, there should be an ambulance nearby so that when prisoners fall sick, they get immediate medical assistance. Some of these women are incarcerated while they are pregnant and they may face a logistic challenge if they want to go to the maternity ward. I therefore implore this august House to take this motion seriously. Being incarcerated does not mean death, but this is rehabilitation. Sometimes people are rehabilitated in a tough way; some are incarcerated while in good health and leave jail in a critical condition. So, it is my plea that this issue be resolved. Female prisons are not in a good state. They are deplorable and it is not good to be incarcerated but it is good that people are rehabilitated so that they are reintegrated into society. Those who are imprisoned whilst they have small children need proper facilities. I do not know how this will be solved because it is important that proper facilities are built to help both parents and their children. Maybe this should be addressed through the promulgation of legal statutes which deal with such situations. You find mothers who are incarcerated with their children and this affects the children because the relatives do not want to entertain the children. When the mothers go out of jail, you might find that there might be discrimination even of their children. I thank you Mr. President Sir.
*HON. SEN. CHIFAMBA: Thank you Mr. President. I would like to appreciate the motion that was moved by Sen. Chief Ndlovu together with the Gender Committee. It is really affecting people that such situations exist where you find children with their mothers in jail because their livelihood and childhood is affected. Sometimes you find others adopting bad practices and some might end up accepting jail as a normal institution or normal place to be. Even the language that is used is not good. You find some children at times copying behaviour which is unacceptable. Children are more affected than adults. They hear more than adults and they copy behaviour through social learning and seeing what other people will be doing. For them to sieve information to determine whether it is good or bad sometimes is difficult. You find that parents committed different crimes; some killed and others committed robbery cases. So, I do not believe that children are learning good lessons. We are told that we must teach our children whilst they are young so that they are well behaved. Those who stay in jail at times take up that behaviour which is found in jails and take it as normal. When they leave jail, it becomes difficult to adjust to the outside environment because they are used to the prison environment. In women’s prisons, there should be proper and enough clothing. We visited one prison during winter time. We asked whether prisoners were allowed to wear jerseys from their homes – we were told that they are not allowed. Even the police and prison officers are not allowed to wear civilian clothes at work. When Government cannot provide proper clothing for the mothers, children and pregnant women, then relatives should be allowed to bring clothing, especially during the winter season.
I was really touched and also giving the same facilities to those who are mentally ill and those who are not, it is really painful and it is not proper. It is demeaning sometimes to find someone who is not clothed. We saw some women who were naked in prison. This is embarrassing to see someone moving around naked. It is a sorry state. Clothing is a basic need for human beings and private parts should always be covered. We always say that our children should wear decent clothes. This is the same with the situation where we find mentally ill prisoners moving around without clothes. This situation makes children vulnerable because if they see naked women, for example if a young boy grows up in prison seeing naked women without clothes, he will not respect women and he will not be ashamed to see naked women; rape and abuse is so possible because of what they see in prisons. They will believe that it is good yet it is bad. They can get used to using vulgar or graphic language and it is embarrassing. That is why we are imploring Government to intervene and build proper facilities for such people because if relatives are to come and take these children whose mothers are incarcerated, some may abuse them and may not look at them like their own children. This is really difficult for these children.
Even when the mother comes back from jail, it is difficult for the child to unite with her, hence the need to establish proper rehabilitation facilities so that children will grow up learning and will be groomed by people who will teach them how to be responsible citizens from ECD A, B and other stages of elementary education because when you hear prisoners talking, some do not even choose words they say about their behaviour. We will not be teaching our children the right things but bringing them up in a hostile environment where they learn bad things. I believe that if these children are assisted with clothes, food; sometimes donor agencies bring food but sometimes they fail to do that. At one point we went to a certain prison where the relish/vegetables were cooked without any cooking oil. They just boiled the food. This is a situation which needs the intervention of churches and other institutions. We asked whether prison officials could not provide what is needed from within and we were told that there are some prisons with farms where they grow their own produce but some do not have such facilities.
Government should intervene because some children are talented but we cannot identify that talent in jail. If they are taken to a neutral institution, those who teach them may identify their talents – whether they are soccer players, athletes and other different disciplines because they grow up in jail, it is difficult for them to excel. For instance, you find those who are talented in sport or academic disciplines might benefit from these skills so that they are groomed properly. If this is delayed, children who grow up in prisons behave negatively.
Pregnant and lactating women should also be separated because you will never know what will be happening amongst this community. I request that children be accommodated separately from their mothers who are in prison so that they are given the opportunity to learn and associate with other children because this is where we have future leaders. I thank you.
HON. SEN. C. NDLOVU: I would like to wind up the debate and thank all the Hon. Senators who debated this report. Almost 95% of Senators in this House debated the report passionately. It is our hope that the relevant Ministry takes note of the recommendations of our Committee on Gender and Development Thematic Committee because accompanying the report, we made recommendations as to what we think would be a way forward . We would also want to think that the relevant Ministry is going to take note of the submissions that were made by Hon. Senators in this august House as they debated passionately about an issue that affects our children who are our future. The cry and appeal is that Government has to have some corrective measures to attend to the situation of our children who are accompanying mothers in prisons. We cannot over emphasise how dire the situation is Mr. President.
With those few remarks Mr. President, I move for the adoption of the report. Thank you
Motion that this House take note of the Report of the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development on the inquiry into the status and welfare of children accompanying incarcerated mothers, put and agreed to.
PROVISION OF FUNDS FOR COMPLETION OF DAM CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
Fourth Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on the need for Government to provide adequate funds for the completion of dam projects.
Question again proposed.
HON. SEN. MABIKA: Thank you Mr. President. I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. SEN. CHIRONGOMA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 6th September, 2022.
PARENTING AND EMBRACING A RECEPTIVE CULTURE FOR CHILDREN LIVING IN THE STREETS
Fifth Order read: Adjourned debate on the motion on vulnerable
children living in the streets.
Question again proposed.
HON. SEN. MABIKA: Thank you Mr. President. I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Mpofu for this emotional motion about street kids. Looking at the causes of the street kids, we find that there are various reasons. Some of them may have been through rural-urban migration, when rural folk come to urban areas and they do not have relatives. So they end up having the streets as their residence. There is also the difficult socio-economic circumstances that people face in the rural areas; so they end up coming to towns. Some children, because, they have constrained freedom in their homes to a certain level, believe that there is no limit to freedom on the streets.
So the less privileged children who move to the streets …
THE ACTING PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order, order Hon. Sen. Mabika, you have already contributed to this motion.
HON. SEN. MABIKA: I am sorry Mr. President Sir, I had forgotten.
*HON. SEN. CHIFAMBA: Thank you Mr. President. I would like to appreciate the motion that was tabled by Hon. Sen. Mpofu regarding the plight of street kids which is quite a touching issue related to what we are discussing regarding those children who grow up in prisons. Street kids are living deplorable lives and the question is maybe Government should intervene and remove these children from the streets.
Often times, it seems as if these children enjoy being on the streets as some will come begging. They beg with their parents sitting nearby. A certain street kid said that my mother is sitting by the corner. I said to myself, today is a school day but you find on a school day, a mother begging together with her children, and neglecting her children’s talents. You will find that there are some musicians who were once street kids, meaning that every child has a gift that should be natured and used but they are not able to use such gifts because they live on the streets. So it is important to help these children so that they are put in an institution where they are taught vocational skills and other life skills that will help them in their lives.
I would also like to say that the challenge is that some parents use children to beg. You give the children a dollar but they demand for more money, USD5.00 and more. They know that USD5.00 is a lot of money but maybe it is also difficult to raise USD5.00. When you give them local currency, they refuse. When you give them buns, some do not want but they want Chicken Inn and takeaways. So, this really is a bad habit. Even the issue of an extended family looking after children is difficult because of the prevailing economic challenges. It is difficult for someone to look after children from different households. In the past, this was possible.
Government maybe should implore the extended family to look after orphans by providing basic essentials like mealie-meal and other basics. It is difficult for different families to look after their own families. However, adding onto that burden with relatives’ orphans then we will be making it very difficult for them but for those who are able, maybe they should say that we are taking one or two children. Due to the prevailing economic challenges, you will find no one is committed to do that, even to take a single child.
You will also find that the number of street kids is increasing by the day. When you do not give them food, some can even insult you because they are not properly brought up. When they beg and you do not respond positively, they insult you. When you see them fighting, you may think that they will kill each other. They are not afraid of injuring each other; meaning that when they fight, should any other person who does not live on the street try to intervene by stopping the fight, they can even kill that person.
*HON. SEN. CHIFAMBA speaking... they can even kill that person. I do not know how to explain this but these children are very intimidating because when you meet a street kid, you just wish they do not do anything bad to you. I heard that some were taken to a certain place for rehabilitation but they ran away and went back to the streets because they are not used to being institutionalised. They are used to begging and stealing people’s food and possessions. It is important that there should be serious laws which empower even the police to remove them away from the streets. If they are not chased away from the streets, they will continue coming back. Sometimes you fail even to get into the shop to buy because street kids will be pestering you.
I would also like to point out that it is really difficult to help because we do not know what to do about it because some will be thinking of bronco and others hard core drugs. The police should be empowered to chase them away from the streets and take them to an institution where they will be rehabilitated because they are an eyesore in the big cities. They must be assisted. When you go by the foot bridge in town, you would find that they mess around the city. No sober person would go to defecate on the footbridge. When you go to Julius Nyerere and cross that road, you would find that it is really difficult. These children should be helped and should be taken to institutions where they will be rehabilitated and empowered with the vocational skills, whether it is farming, carving and other skills. Some of them are talented. Some can farm and others can be sculptures. It is important that such skills are identified. There are some musicians who were street kids. You would see that their skills can be exploited if these children are rehabilitated and put into institutions. They run back to the streets because they do not want to work. They do not want smaller denominations and bond notes but they demand USD5 and above. They do not want buns; they want Chicken Inn. There should be a way of rehabilitating these children so that they are taken away from the streets and people can move around freely doing their shopping. Some follow you while some steal from you and after stealing, they work in groups to hide the handbags.
The life on the streets is hard. It is not life which is meant for children who would be tomorrow’s fathers or mothers. The young girls who live on the streets are sick. They get different diseases and they spread such diseases. Some people would leave their families getting into the streets to exploit the young girls who end up giving birth to fatherless children who will live on the streets again. You will find that this kind of behaviour will continue and this is a problem which is going to affect them in the future. It is important to help street children.
When they are taken to institutions, we need to make sure that they do not run away coming back to the streets. We want our streets to be clean. There is a lot of litter in the streets and this is bad. When tourists come, they are pestered by street kids and they might not be comfortable to come back to visit Zimbabwe as some will lose their possessions. I thank you Mr. President Sir.
HON. SEN. DR. SEKERAMAYI: Mr. President Sir, I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. SEN. CHIRONGOMA: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 6st September, 2022.
THE ACTING PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Hon. Senators, we are still waiting for the Budget from the National Assembly which has not been concluded up to now. Therefore, we will keep waiting and next week we will also be here anticipating the passing of the Budget from the National Assembly. I encourage all of us to attend physically as from Tuesday, next week. I thank you.
On the motion of HON. SEN. DR. SEKERAMAYI, seconded by HON. SEN. CHIRONGOMA, the House adjourned at Seventeen Minutes past Three o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 6th September, 2022.