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SENATE HANSARD 16 SEPTEMBER 2020 VOL 29 NO 48

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Wednesday 16th September, 2020

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

PRAYERS

(THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)

ANNOUNCEMENTS BY HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE

APPOINTMENT AS LEADER OF GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: I wish to inform the Senate that His Excellency the President, Hon. E. D. Mnangagwa, has appointed Hon. Sen. Monica Mutsvangwa to be the Leader of Government Business in the Senate with immediate effect.

CONTRIBUTIONS BY HON. SENATORS

I also wish to inform the Senate that in order to maintain social distancing, Hon. Senators can make their contributions from wherever they are connected from. For this reason, Hon. Senators are advised to bring and speak into their gadgets to enable those Senators who are not in the Chamber to follow proceedings. Consequently, any Member who does not bring his/her ICT gadget will not be allowed to speak. In the same vein, members who are not contributing must put their gadgets on mute to avoid interferences in the House.

MOTION

LEAVE TO MOVE SUSPENSION OF STANDING ORDERS NUMBER 50, 61 (2), 125 AND 128.

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Madam President, I seek leave of the House to move that the provisions of the Standing Orders Number 50, 61 (2), 125 and 128 regarding the automatic adjournment of the House at Five minutes to Seven o’clock p.m. on sitting days other than a Friday and at Twenty Five minutes past One o’clock p.m. on a Friday; Private Members motions taking precedence on Thursdays after Question Time; procedures in connection with Parliamentary Legal Committee and stages of Bills respectively are suspended with effect from today and for the next series of sittings in respect of Government Business. I thank you

Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

SUSPENSION OF STANDING ORDERS NUMBERS 50, 61 (2), 125 AND 128.

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Madam Speaker, I move that the provisions of Standing Orders Numbers 50, 61 (2), 125 and 128 regarding the automatic adjournment of the House at Five minutes to Seven o’clock p.m. on sitting days other than a Friday and at Twenty Five minutes past One o’clock p.m. on a Friday; Private Members motions taking precedence on Thursdays after Question Time procedures in connection with Parliamentary Legal Committee and stages of Bills respectively are suspended with effect from today and for the next series of sittings in respect of Government Business. I thank you.

Motion put and agreed to.

         THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: While the Minister is sorting out his papers, if I may remind Hon. Members to maintain social distancing. This disease does not even know whrther you are his/her friend, please can we try to maintain the distance. On the front desk, you can even spread to my left.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Madam President, I move that Orders of the Day, Nos. 1 to 2 be stood over until Order of the Day, No. 3 has been disposed of.

Motion put and agreed to.

SECOND READING

ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S OFFICE BILL [H. B. 14, 2019]

Third Order read: Second Reading: Attorney-General’s Office Bill [H. B. 14, 2019].

         THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Thank you Madam President. While they sort out, I hope I will be heard and not be seen by those that are not connected. I rise to give my Second Reading speech for the Attorney-General’s Office Amendment Bill. The Attorney-General’s Office Amendment Bill is an amendment of a law passed by Parliament in 2011, namely the Attorney-General’s Office Chapter 7.19. It contains a commencement clause which has not yet been activated.

Before the Act could be brought into effect, discussions had already begun on the writing of a new Constitution under which it was proposed that the Attorney-General should no longer be the head of the prosecution arm of the office. This arm was proposed to be span off to a new independent entity for the National Prosecuting Authority. The new Constitution provided accordingly when it was brought into force in 2013. The following year, Parliament enacted the National Prosecuting Authority Act Chapter 7.20. This left the Attorney-General responsible for the divisions of advice, international law, legislative drafting and the civil division.

Madam President, the same consideration that motivated the spanning off of the prosecution arm apply with equal force to the remainder of the Attorney-General’s Office, namely the appearance and reality of impartiality in the discharge of its function and the need to retain and hire staff of a calibre, adequate to the discharge of those functions. The Attorney-General’s Office, let me remind you, assist the Attorney-General to discharge his onerous constitutional duty among the most important of which is to promote, protect and uphold the rule of law and to defend the public interest as per Section 114 (4) of the Constitution.

These arguments, for the separation of the Attorney-General’s Office from the civil service, were adequately canvassed back in 2011 when the principal Act was passed and I will not go over them again. The main objects of the present Bill are threefold. Firstly, the Bill will enable the Attorney-General to be assisted by the Deputy Attorney-General. Originally from 2007, each head of division within his office was a Deputy Attorney-General and they were four of them responsible for Prosecution, Civil Division, Drafting and Legal Advice. This number was reduced by redeployment of the original Deputy Attorneys-General down to one only whose post is inexistent by virtue of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. There is need therefore, to formalise the appointment of additional Attorneys-General by an Act of Parliament.

Secondly, it is intended that all legal officers employed in the civil service should come under the single roof of the Attorney-General’s Office with the Attorney-General as their head. Presently, public legal officers are appointed on a piecemeal basis to the Attorney-General’s Office and to the several ministries of Government since the Attorney-General is the top legal officer. All those employed outside his office must refer their legal opinion to him. This Bill formalises the fact that every legal public officer is answerable to the Attorney-General for his/her work and therefore must be subject to his discipline and not that of the Ministry in which they are formally employed. The only exception is where a legal officer is employed under the discipline of uniformed or security service. These later officers will not form part of the professional task of the Attorney-General’s Office because they belong to a separate chain of command.

Finally, this Bill put into words what has been recognised in practice before, namely that the opinions of the Attorney-General on a question of law are binding on the Executive unless overturned by a court of law. Accordingly, the opinions of individual legal officers in the Government must be in conformity with that of the Attorney-General on the same matter since the Attorney-General is the principal legal officer of the Government. This applies also to the opinions of the legal officers employed in and under the discipline of a uniformed or security service. However, the opinions of the Attorney-General are not binding on autonomous statutory bodies that employ the services of a private legal practitioner. Autonomous statutory bodies are deemed to be separate from the State and may be sued in their own right.

In conclusion, I urge Hon. Members to pass this law and in doing so, raise another important milestone in the ongoing process of the alignment of our laws to the Constitution. I thank you Madam President and I move that this Bill be read a second time. I thank you.

         HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA: I rise to commend the Minister. I have not read the Bill - but listening to what he was saying he spoke a lot of sense. On part one, Government is one Government and when you talk of the head of legal advice in the whole Government, it is the Attorney-General. For some time and for whatever reason, and I want to say at law, it was unreasonable to have lawyers within Government who are not accountable, who do not report to the Attorney-General but are Government lawyers also.

As we all know, the head of Government law is the Attorney-General but we have officers who do not report to him. The best example is in a Ministry where you have some legal officers and when there is a matter against the Ministry, that legal officer would attempt within their own competence - which in my view from what I have seen before, these are less competent than the real Attorney-General’s office. They have less experience and lose most of the cases. They do not benefit from the quality of lawyers who are within the Attorney-General’s office.

In complementing the Minister – these juniors officers tend to lose these cases at ministry level – they go out of Government to hire private lawyers. If the Minister was at liberty to tell us the monies that are lost every year because the lawyer in the particular Ministry is unable even to comprehend the complexity of legal issues involved in a particular case, they then go to a private firm and then they pay thousands of US dollars. We are bleeding the fiscus every year.

I know of a few cases where Ministries have gone to private lawyers where they are charged all sorts of amounts and they pay. Under this new arrangement, the Attorney-General’s office will make sure that instead of going out, they will use the services of senior lawyers who have represented Government before in most complicated cases. I am saying well done Minister. This has been long overdue. All lawyers should report to the Attorney-General’s office because it is one Government.

The misnomer which has existed is where you have a person having graduated in law joins Government as a lawyer and they are lucky to become a Magistrate, for example. Those lawyers who are under the Judicial Service Commission, Prosecutor General, Attorney-General’s office and the Ministry - I am aware that progressively we have taken out the Prosecutor General’s office out of the Public Service in terms of issues of service. The same is happening to the Attorney-General’s office – at the end of the day Madam President, you have law graduates who graduate from university on the same day and join Government.

One is lucky to become a Magistrate and they are given 4x4 vehicles immediately and have these conditions on earth, the other one becomes a Prosecutor and gets the lowest of what a lawyer can get, but they have the same qualifications. The other one joins the Attorney-General’s office and is looked down upon and gets less. The amendments that you are bringing are very progressive because they are bringing fairness, equity and quality to the profession. There are two elements, the parity of conditions of service within those people who have similar qualifications and experience and the second that lawyers in the Civil Service should report to the Attorney-General’s office so that they are not accountable to the Ministry.

Lastly, in comprehending and reinforcing what you have said, sometimes in Ministries, and let me take the liberty to say this: sometimes because the lawyer is less competent, they take a political litigation. They are persuaded by the politician to say let us challenge the case knowing very well that the case cannot be defended. Government loses money in the process yet at the Attorney-General’s office you can be told that the case cannot be defended and let us not lose money unnecessarily. This scenario cannot happen at the Ministry because you cannot tell your Minister that the cases cannot be defended, otherwise you risk being transferred. I thank you.

*HON. SEN. KOMICHI: I want to thank the Minister for his effort in bringing this Bill. I have noticed that the Minister has attempted to align the Bill to the Constitution and this is what we have been clamouring for to have a lot of our laws being aligned to the Constitution of Zimbabwe because we all know that the Constitution of Zimbabwe was written through the input of various stakeholders countrywide. I am happy to witness such effort.

Secondly, I have noticed that in the past the Attorney-General’s office was inundated with a lot of work such as giving legal advice to Government and the President and also prosecuting. This promoted a lot of conflict of interest and now that there is this separation where the office of the Attorney-General will focus on Government, we expect to see quality advice being given to Government so that the principles of the rule of law are adhered to. We are pleased to see such developments.

We also expect the Minister to align more laws to the Constitution of Zimbabwe so that we enhance our democracy and we remove all suspicion that we are not adhering to constitutionalism. Let us take this path so that we are seen as people who respect the rule of law. I want to thank the Minister for that and encourage him to bring such Bills for alignment. We are hoping the Minister will align Section 208 of the Constitution by bringing the Bill on Security Service and also Section 210 on the Complains Committee, we want all these sections to be aligned to the Constitution so that our country can be admired by others to address things that are missing in the Constitution. Thank you.

HON. SEN. DR. MAVETERA: Thank you Madam President for giving me this opportunity to contribute to this very important Bill which has been brought to this august House by the Hon. Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. I want to applaud the Minister for taking this positive step. We had a new Constitution in 2013 and up to now, we were still struggling. So I must say to the Minister, we really appreciate because this was actually one of the clarion calls on the State of the Nation Address. We were promised that we would be able to align most of our legal instruments to the Constitution and I think this is one of the positives.

Now zeroing on to this Bill Madam President, the Attorney-General is a very important office as it provides legal advice to the Government and we know as Government, we need to operate within the confines of the law and we have had problems where I think one of the reasons which was given why we did not lead as Parliament in terms of aligning laws, was the shortage of manpower within the Attorney-General’s office on the drafting side. So this appointment of Deputy Attorney-Generals - I hope we will not pass this Act and it takes time for the Ministry to implement this because the caliber of the candidate for Attorney-General is equivalent to a high court judge which means that is a very seniour person who should be able to help the Attorney-General so that we work fast to align and give necessary advice to the operation of Government.

I really want to thank the Minister for bringing this Bill and emphasising that let us not just have this Bill gazetted but we want it to be implemented on the ground and I hope we will not just appoint one deputy. I think we have got a lot of legal issues and we would also want to implore on the Executive to make sure that they provide the necessary funding to make sure that this office of the Government is operational and efficient because it defines how the Government is going to perform at the end of the day. With these few words, I want to thank you Madam President for giving me the opportunity to make an input on this and I urge my Honourable Members to really applaud the Minister and hope we will pass it without much problems. Thank you Madam President.

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Madam President, I want to thank Hon. Senators for the debate and the support starting with Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira and his positive comments. Indeed what he was saying are the issues that we want to address. We have had problems where law graduates come from law school, are employed in Ministries but have not been trained anywhere. So what we want to do, like what Hon. Chief Charumbira has said, is all those new graduates join the Attorney-General who then trains them, identifies the requisite skills that they have, posts them to relevant ministries and then supervise them. We feel this will allow us to save a lot of money in terms of losses that we have been making in litigation. Again I want to thank him.

We are also looking at issues of parity in conditions of service across the board in terms of our lawyers and I want to thank again Hon. Komichi for the support and Hon. Dr. Mavetera for supporting the Bill. Again he points out very correct issues that we had shortages in the drafting department. When we recruit and we identify, it means the Attorney-General now will be able to identify those that are very good at drafting, send them over to drafting department, be able to move his law officers around and ensure that the issues that we want dealt with will be done.

So I want to thank the Hon. Members and indeed agree that this is a very progressive Bill and urge the Senators to pass it. I therefore move that the Bill be read a second time. I thank you.

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage: With leave, forthwith.

COMMITTEE STAGE

ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S OFFICE BILL [H. B. 14, 2019]

House in Committee.

         Clauses 1 to 9 put and agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendments.

Third Reading: With leave, forthwith.

THIRD READING

ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE BILL [H. B. 14, 2019]

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Mr. President Sir, I now move that the Bill be read the third time.

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read the third time.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Madam President, the Minister of Finance will be joining us soon, so I move that we stand over Order Number 4 and we proceed to do Order Number 5.

Motion put and agreed to.

         THE HON. RESIDENT OF SENATE: If I may remind Hon. Senators to connect to the proceedings using the link sent to them. Those who want to debate should be connected to allow those outside to follow proceedings. We also advise Hon. Senators to keep their microphones on mute except when they are debating. I think we are being encouraged to use our gadgets so that we get used to them. We have supporting staff here to help us so that we become acquainted to the gadgets.

SECOND READING

NATIONAL PROSECUTING AUTHORITY BILL [H. B. 20, 2019]

Fifth Order read: Second Reading: National Prosecuting Authority Bill [H. B. 20, 2019].

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Madam President, once again it is an honour for me to present the Second Reading of the National Prosecuting Authority Bill before this august House. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is a vital vehicle in the criminal justice system. An efficient, independent and well-structured NPA is a must in the fight against crime especially the scourge of corruption. The Bill proposes to amend the NPA Act to improve the governance structure of the NPA.

Madam President, the NPA is established by Section 258 of the Constitution as the body for instituting and undertaking criminal prosecutions on behalf of the State. In terms of Section 259 of the Constitution, the NPA is headed by the Prosecutor-General and must have a board appointed under an Act of Parliament to employee prosecutors and other officers to assist the Prosecutor-General in exercising his or her function.

Madam President, because the NPA is responsible for law enforcement and upholding the rule of law, the Prosecutor-General and all his prosecutors must be independent and exercise their functions impartially. This is emphasised in Section 259 (10) (c) and 260 (1), as well as Section 261(2) of the Constitution. The current NPA Act establishes the board of the NPA and sets out its functions. One of which is to appoint prosecutors and a national director of public prosecutions to supervise them.

Another important function of the board is to make regulations providing for conditions of service of prosecutors and other members of the NPA. The Act also establishes a department of administration under the control of a director to deal with the administrative work of NPA. Madam President, as I have mentioned earlier, the Bill mainly focuses on restructuring the NPA board and reducing new posts within the NPA. At present, the NPA board consists of the Prosecutor-General who is the Chairperson; the Deputy Prosecutor-General who is the Deputy Chairperson; the Director of Administration; a judge or former judge appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission, a member of the Civil Service Commission appointed by the Chairperson of the Commission and four other members appointed by the Minister responsible for justice.

The Bill proposes to change this as follows: the Prosecutor-General and the Deputy Prosecutor-General will no longer be Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson. Instead, the President will appoint two of the other members to be Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson respectively. Deputy Prosecutor-General will no longer be members of the board in their own right but will only deputise for the Prosecutor-General on a rotational basis. There will be one extra board member, a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice appointed by the Minister.

Of the other members appointed by the Minister of Justice, one will be a civil servant nominated by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. Another will be a professional accountant or auditor, nominated by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development again whilst the third will be a lawyer nominated by the Law Society of Zimbabwe. The Secretary of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which is currently the post of Secretary of NPA currently held by the Director of Administration, the Secretary will now be the Board Secretary.

Mr. President Sir, this Bill will introduce a provision to oblige the board in consultation with the Minister to appoint one or more Prosecutor General to head divisions or departments of the NPA. The new provisions will replace the existing Section 8, which provides for the appointment of a National Director of Public Prosecutions. The Bill will therefore have the effect of abolishing the post of the National Director of Prosecution, who will be replaced by the Deputy Prosecutor General.

Mr. President Sir, the Bill also gives the present Director of Administration a new title, namely Secretary to the Authority. It will also make a more important change regarding the Secretary. Whereas the current Director of Administration must report to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, the new Secretary to the Authority will report to the Prosecutor General. This should make the NPA more independent from the Ministry.

Mr. President Sir, in light of the above, I urge Hon. Senators to support this Bill, which is a milestone in creating an independent and efficient National Prosecuting Authority. With those remarks Mr. President, I move that the Bill be now read a second time. I thank you.

HON. SEN. MOHADI: Thank you Mr. President. I rise to thank the Minister for bringing this Bill into this august House. It is well appreciated and it is a very good gesture. However Hon. Minister, you talked about so many appointments that will be made by the President and whosoever will be in charge. I urge that wherever those appointments are made, we would be very happy as women to see other women who have got the qualifications being appointed – [HON. SENATORS: Hear, hear.] – Gone are the days to say that women do not qualify and do not have the qualifications needed as they now have the qualifications and they have fought so hard to get there. I think it is high time for them to also be appointed to those posts so that we achieve our 50:50 representations as required by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, we notice that as time goes on we are very far from getting there. Whenever appointments are made, it is only men; there might be one woman out of five men. We also want to see women becoming Prosecutor Generals if need be because they also qualify to be there. I do not know whether there are extra qualifications for women and men to get to the highest posts. With these few words Mr. President, I support this Bill if all these considerations I am talking about would be taken into effect. I thank you.

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Thank you Mr. President. I would like to support what Hon. Sen. Mohadi has said. If the current Bill is aligned to the Constitution, it speaks about that. I am hopeful that we will maintain this. I was whispering to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development that whenever there are two names, you must ensure that you abide to what Hon. Sen. Mohadi has said. So, I believe that is already taken care of. It is work in progress to ensure that we realise that call. With that, I want to thank Hon. Senators and move that the Bill be now read a second time. I thank you.

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage: With leave, forthwith.

COMMITTEE STAGE

NATIONAL PROSECUTING AUTHORITY BILL [H. B. 20, 2019]

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 9 put and agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendment.

Third Reading: With leave, forthwith.

THIRD READING

NATIONAL PROSECUTING AUTHORITY BILL [H. B. 20, 2019]

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Mr. President, I move that the Bill be read the third time.

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read the third time.

SECOND READING

FINANCE 2020 BILL [H. B. 4A, 2020]

Fourth Order read: Second Reading: Finance 2020 Bill [H. B. 4A, 2020].

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Thank you Mr. President Sir. The Bill seeks to give effect to the fiscal measures that I announced through the 2020 Mid Year Review presented on 16th July, 2020 and in particular avail relief to tax payers, enhance disposable income, promote capital accumulation which is crucial in supporting the economic rebound and also to protect revenue sources. In summary, the Bill provides for the following: Let me start with mineral royalties. The proposed amendment requires that royalties on the sale of minerals should be paid in foreign currency if the amounts from which royalties are withheld are foreign currency amounts. The clause proposes to deem all mineral royalties to be receivable in US dollars unless the recipients of the amounts can furnish invoices or other documentary proof to the contrary.

I now turn to PAYE tax-free thresholds. In order to minimise the tax burden and also enhance disposable income, particularly during this period when a sizeable number of households are yet to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown, this Bill seeks to alter the income bands used in the calculation of income tax for the remainder of the year of assessment and also increase the tax free threshold to $25000 for the first five months, beginning August to December 2020 or ZW$5000 per month.

The Bill also seeks to exempt from income tax the receipts and accruals of the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange (VFSE) as part of the incentive package to facilitate establishment and full operationalisation of the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange. In addition, the Bill proposes a preferential rate of 5% on dividends distributed from securities on the date of distributiona listed in the official list kept by the soon to be established Victoria Falls Stock Exchange with a view to attract foreign capital. Furthermore, the Bill seeks to exempt the capital gains, tax amounts received or accrued on the sale of any marketable securities that are traded on the soon to be established Victoria Falls Stock Exchange.

I now turn to the IMTT tax. The Bill seeks to tax electronic transactions or rather electronic transfers of foreign currency for transaction purposes. Furthermore, it seeks to review the tax free threshold for local currency transfers from a RTGS100 to RTGS300 or US$5 equivalent and revises the maximum tax payable from RTGS 25 000 to RTGS50 000 on transactions with values exceeding RTGS2.5m.

I now turn to the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe’s Debt Redemption in Strategic Reserve Levy. Mr. President, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is empowered to collect the Debt Redemption Levy for the amortisation of the NOCZIM debt and the Strategic Reserve Levy from oil companies that import their own petroleum products. The Bill thus seeks to introduce differential rates for the levies for the importation of petrol and diesel, otherwise than through the use of foreign currency denominated free funds.

Let me turn to withholding tax on cotton sales. Mr. President, section 80 of the Income Tax Act seeks that if persons or PAYEES who enter into contracts with the Government or statutory bodies have not submitted income tax returns for the most recent year of assessment, the Government or the statutory body concerned is obliged to withhold 10% of all payments due to them until the contractor pays the withheld amounts to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

In view of the strategic nature of cotton as a source of sustenance for the majority of cotton farmers, the Bill proposes to exclude from the scope of the definition of PAYEE growers or contracted growers of cotton making a delivery of cotton or cotton seed in accordance with the Agricultural Marketing Authority Regulations (2009).

Let me now turn to the income tax exemption for university infrastructure special purpose vehicles. The Bill seeks to provide for income tax exemption on receipts and accruals of any special purpose vehicles or SPV. Initially wholly owned by the Infrastructural Development Bank of Zimbabwe wherein private sector contractors in return for a share in the equity of the SPV undertake to construct own campus student accommodation at any public institution of higher or tertiary education.

Let me turn to the tax exemptions on COVID-19 allowances. The Bill seeks to amend the scope of remuneration to exclude from the pay as you earn, the COVID-19 civil servants allowances that is the part of the salary of a civil servant or of a civil service pension that is denominated in US dollars. Madam President I move that the Bill be read a second time.

HON. SEN. KOMICHI: Thank you Mr. President. I just want to seek clarity from the Minister. In his last sentence he said civil service pensions are going to be denominated in US denominations, I just want clarification.

HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA: Thank you Mr. President, I also seek clarification, when you say where an employer has not been paying taxes due in view of the deductions for payee, I do not know, maybe I did not get it properly. You then seem to suggest that that ZIMRA in this case withhold whatever they are withholding from their employer in terms payment due to them. The issue is ensuring that the employer will then not pass on the effect of the deductions to the employees. Some mischievous employers will say to the employee, look the payee money was taken by ZIMRA so I will give you half until ZIMRA pays us. It would have been wise in that law to say the employer shall not pass on the effects of the deductions to the employees. The employee shall not suffer as a result of the omission or non performance of the employer in terms of remuneration. Can you clarify on that one?

+HON. SEN. CHIEF NGUNGUMBANE: Thank you Mr. President. I would like the Hon. Minister to explain further when he said civil servants are supposed to be given US dollars. We thank you very much for that. However, there is this issue, almost every service station is charging fuel in US dollars. Therefore, can you clarify on the charging in US dollars? Thank you.  

         HON. SEN. DR. MAVETERA: Thank you Mr. President for giving me this opportunity to add my voice on the Bill presented by the Hon. Minister. Mr. President, I want to applaud the Minister for the section where he wants to exempt tax payee on the COVID-19. I think that is very progressive. I just hope it may be outside this Bill but that the Minister will actually extend this COVID allowances to the civil service, not to December which we heard but to a future time. Mr. President, I think it is a common cause that our civil servants are not getting enough remuneration and we have acknowledged that as a Government. As such, I hope any measures which are put to try to alleviate this should be put in place until such a time when we can afford to pay our civil servants. So, I want to thank the Minister for that.

Also I would want to applaud the issue of tertiary institutions for student accommodation. I think that is very progressive. This has been a problem and I think we have read through newspapers the social ills associated with lack of accommodation in our tertiary institutions. I hope as a Government, we should not leave that to happen. I think this is a first step in trying to address those. I want to thank the Minister for being sensitive to those important issues.

Lastly, I think the Minister needs to do more in terms of payment of royalties by the mining companies, I think in terms of the amount, even the charges and also the time to pay. I think we can do a lot with those, there are funding loopholes, as a result we always have a deficit in the fiscus where we were supposed to get money from those royalties. I hope the Minister will strengthen measures to make sure that it becomes a bit more effective. Generally, I want to applaud the Minister for this Bill. I think it has got some areas where he shows sensitivity to what is obtaining on the ground.

Lastly, I am a little bit not happy with the tax free threshold of RTGs5 000. I am sure if the Minister is going to the supermarkets and so forth, it is nothing. Moreso, I know you want money for PAYEE to really meet your obligations but we have acknowledged that our civil servants are poorly remunerated. We must applaud them for being very patriotic; I think we need to push that up. I know civil servants are earning 10 000 or less, if they are getting less, we might as well exempt them from paying taxes rather than trying to say they should always be taxed. I think 5 000 is nothing Minister, I think you need to relook at that. It has to be a quid pro quo. The civil servants have actually listened to the Government and say the Government has no money. We give them little amount and want to tax it. I think we are not playing ball Minister. I think this need to be addressed.

HON. SEN. MOHADI: Thank you Mr. President. I want to thank the Minister of Finance and Economic Development for bringing this Bill to this august House. Whenever money is talked about, there is unrest.

Hon. Minister, while you are making all those considerations, I would like to put this forward, taking into consideration the collections that are done by ZIMRA at border post towns, mainly Chirundu, Beitbridge and Plumtree. Is it not possible to leave a certain portion, even a 0, 001% for those municipalities in order for them to develop? It looks so awkward Hon. Minister; let us for instance look at Beitbridge. The town is so dirty, the sewer is flowing all over the shore whereas all the money that is collected by ZIMRA passes through there.

If we also look at the road construction which is only about 5 km and was started maybe 10 to 15 years ago, it has not been completed because of financial problems.

Hon. Minister, when we take into consideration of the Covid-19, in Plumtree Border Post, they do not have a quarantine centre for all those people who are coming through that border. The quarantine centre that we saw when we visited during a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee field tour is just a ground which has no building. We do not know what is the way forward to assist those who need quarantine services at that border. I thank you.

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): I thank the Hon. Senators for their input, questions and requests for clarification. I would like to thank Hon. Komichi; I would like to thank him for the request for clarification regarding the last statement pertaining to the taxes in USD and the allowances for that. This pertains to the COVID-19 allowance of USD75 and the request to the House is that this be tax exempted. We believe that by doing that, we will be giving the maximum benefit to the civil servants who have particularly been exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the health sector, in the Bill, we have requested further tax deductibility of their allowances especially those who are on the forefront of dealing with the pandemic, those in the red zone.

Turning to Hon. Sen. Charumbira who is concerned that the strategy of withholding 10% of whatever needs to be remitted to the cotton producer in lieu of their delay in remitting income tax to the authorities that they may end up passing that on to the employee and the employee suffers. I can assure the Hon. Senator that for a start, that these cotton producers know that they ought to remit the income taxes to Government in the first place and what is really facing them is a delay. So that was already due and then there is a delay but then we are saying let us make sure that we deal with it that way. I do not think there is any risk of it being passed on but you never know. We will be able to plug it pretty successfully.

+On Hon. Sen. Chief Ngungubane who wanted to know that since we have service stations operating in USD, how are we going to be able to purchase fuel since we are not earning in USD. My response to him is that we had fuel paid in ZWL but we know that in purchasing there are challenges whereby there are some people who are changing their ZWL using the parallel market to get USD to purchase fuel. Therefore, we have realised that there is a challenge and we need to change that system to make sure that people can access fuel in ZWL.

I now turn to Hon. Sen. Dr. Mavetera, again he asked about the exemption of tax on the COVID-19 allowance. I think he was applauding this move and thank you for that support. We will make sure that we will maximize the benefit to civil servants all the time especially through this tough time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hon. Senator was also wandering whether we could even extend this COVID-19 allowance beyond December and so forth. However, we do not want to make that decision right now, we still have a budget that Hon. Mavetera will participate in and contribute towards. I think we can always pick this up late and see what it is that we could carry forward so as to support our civil servants. However, I can give you the assurance and commitment that we will always support our civil servants; after all, they are our employees as Government. They work very hard and we want to make sure that we give them as much relief and indeed support as possible.

On student’s accommodation, yes he was applauding this and he wants us to do more. We will continue to do more and this was just on the front of accommodation but in terms of just student loans in general, we will expand our support to the Ministry of Higher Education working with the banks to provide more loans for our tertiary students to make sure they are well supported. After all, this is the future in terms of our skills and development for the country.

Hon. Mavetera also made mention to the issue of royalties that perhaps while we are trying to maximize as much as possible but perhaps there are still some loopholes and leakages on royalties. Yes, we are training our eyes and also attention on the issue of fiscal regime of the mining sector in the first place. We are engaging the Minister of Mines to see where we can close loopholes and so forth but in the same time, we are desirous to build a 12 billion dollar industry from the mining sector by year 2023. So we also have to balance providing incentives free to get there, not to over tax it before it gets there balancing that with the need to maximize revenue. That is always a delicate balance for anyone who wishes to provide an incentive for growth but also wishes to make sure that there is maximisation of revenue and that is a balance we keep juggling all the time. However, I can assure you that over time the fiscal regime will carry both incentives clear elements but also elements to ensure that loop holes are tightened.

On the thresholds, he felt that perhaps the ZWL5 000 thresholds on income tax; we have been dealing with inflation, an exchange rate which has been moving upward but now I am pleased to see that the exchange rate is now stable. Thanks to the measures we have taken; from the auction to dealing with the mobile money companies, to tightening things on the fiscal front curtailing gross money supply and also dealing with certain speculative behaviour on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. The combination of all those measures which have been undertaken at the same time has produced a stable exchange rate. We are pleased with this.

So, if there is still need that perhaps in order to restore the value of incomes, thresholds need to be increased and so forth, I would suggest that the next Budget is in two months time. We will have another opportunity to review this together – we will do a retreat as usual together and I think this year it will be a virtual retreat because of Covid, but we will have an opportunity to do it again. My desire this time was to give everyone just a relief, for now $5 000 and in another two months we will be back here considering the 2021 Budget in the month of November.

I can again assure him his point explaining that the civil servants need support and that they have low incomes. I agree with him and we will continue to do that. As I speak, we are continuing to engage them in terms of the salary reviews. We are in hot pursuit over that issue and I am confident that we will reach some resolution soon and we will improve the standard of living and the incomes for our civil servants.

I now turn to Hon. Sen. Mohadi and I know that she has made this point before. It is a very persuasive point around border towns being towns of transit in terms of revenues from income tax. Traffic passes through them in areas like Beitbridge, Chirundu, Forbes Border Post which is in Mutare which is a bigger city, may be small Chirundu, Beitbridge, Plumtree, Nyamapanda and other small border posts. These border posts are not seeing good part of these revenues which they help process and while the traffic is in transit, it is putting pressure on the services provided by these cities, their capacity to handle all that volume of traffic. She has made this argument before and she made it the first time at least when I understood it, we were in Beitbridge with her and I had gone to visit the border post and ZIMRA offices.

It is a very persuasive argument but we have not fully reflected on it as to how it would work, whether it would open a Pandora box but it is a very persuasive argument. It is an inclusive growth argument and that is always persuasive to me. Again, it is an issue that with the President’s permission, we should make sure that we chew the bone again during our retreat for the next Budget and see how this House could move forward with this suggestion and I would like to hear from other Hon. Members how they feel about it when we have that debate and contribution.

I have written “quarantine centres” so that indeed some of these resources could help develop quarantine centres in these border towns which are hot zones because they are the frontier zones in terms of receiving retainees and cross-border truckers and others. As I say, it is a persuasive argument to support these border towns. I think Mr. President, that was the last question or comment and I will stop there. Thank you very much. I now move that the Bill read a second time.

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage: With leave, forthwith.

COMMITTEE STAGE

FINANCE 2020 BILL [H. B. 4a, 2020]

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 18 put and agreed to

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendments.

Third Reading: With leave, forthwith.

THIRD READING

FINANCE 2020 BILL [H. B. 4A, 2020]

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE). I move that the Bill be now read the third time.

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read the third time.

On the motion of THE MINISTER OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION (HON SEN. MATHEMA) the Senate adjourned at Fourteen Minutes past Four o’clock p.m.

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