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SENATE HANSARD 17 AUGUST 2021 VOL 30 NO 55

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Tuesday, 17th August, 2021

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

PRAYERS

(THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)

ANNOUNCEMENTS BY THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE

DEATH OF HON. SEN. REJOICE TIMIRE

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  It is with profound

sorrow that I have to inform the Senate of the death of Hon. Senator Rejoice Timire, the Senator representing people with disabilities on Tuesday, 10th August, 2021. I invite Hon. Senators to rise and observe a minute of silence in respect of the late Senator.

All Hon. Senators observed a minute of silence.

MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

RESPONSE TO MOTION ON VELDT FIRE MANAGEMENT IN

ZIMBABWE

THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE,

TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY (HON. M. N.

NDLOVU): Madam President, the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry acknowledges the comprehensive rich and enlightening report tabled and debated before Senate by the

Thematic Committee on Sustainable Development Goals on 24th March

  1. I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Chief Mtshane Khumalo and his Committee for the indepth report which made key observations and recommendations to improve veldt fire management in the country. I further acknowledge key contributions made by both the Committee as reflected in the report and by Hon. Senators during debate which included the need for a legal framework review, early veldt fire warning systems, powers of traditional leaders, deterrent penalties and the need for appropriate equipment for communities to fight veldt fires. The debate gave important and clear recommendations for veldt fire management in the country.

I present this Ministerial Statement to update this august House on some of the major steps taken so far with regards to fire management at both operational and policy levels as well as to highlight the key recommendations made that are in the process of being considered.

On fire management intervention that we have implemented so far, allow me to give an overview of the 2020/21 fire season preparedness. Each year, my Ministry comes up with a fire risk prediction based on the amount of vegetation for the year and past veldt fire incidences in order to inform planning for the coming fire season. The annual average burnt area from 2010 to 2020 was one million hectares each year. An average of 60% of the total burnt area has been under A1 and A2 resettlement areas. Of the 18 000 A2 farmers, only about 400 have 99-Year Leases, which leases have specific clauses on environmental protection. The offer letters currently do not have any provisions that guide or compel those offered the land on environmental stewardship and we have more than 360 000 offer letters. This creates a possibility of massive information gap on the responsibilities of farmers and their properties.          We were blessed by good rains in the 2020/21 season but in terms of the fuel load and fire susceptibility, the country is generally in the high risk fire, which is 65.2% of the country to extreme fire risk and is

24.7% of the country exposure to veldt fire outbreaks countrywide. This is because of the good rainfall received in the 2020/21 season which supported the growth of biomass.

The provinces at extreme fire risk are Mashonaland West,

Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Manicaland while

Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands and Masvingo are at high fire risk to veldt fires.

    The Development of 2021 National Veld Fire Management

Strategy

Madam President, each year a fire management plan is drafted to inform veld fire programming for a particular year and for 2021, it started with an engagement meeting between my Ministry and the

Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement held on 6th April 2021 which critically considered the 2021 fire risk prediction.

The two ministries crafted a comprehensive core strategy which led to the Joint National Fire Launch during the second week of May 2021, under the theme ‘Prevent Veld fires, Protect the Harvest.’  The second week of May each year is a week that has been set aside by Government to activate awareness raising on sustainable...

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  Order!  Hon. Sen.

Femai, could you please disconnect your cell phone?  Thank you.

HON. M. NDLOVU:  The second week of May each year is a week that has been set aside by Government to activate awareness raising on sustainable veld fire management outlining the dangers of veld fires.  Furthermore, a comprehensive and robust strategy was crafted after an assessment of the legal framework and coordination at Government level with clear recommendations which were presented to Cabinet.  The recommendations included:

  1. An accelerated farm level fire awareness drive.
  2. Farm level inspections for compliance to fire preparedness protocols.
  3. Fireguard construction, both boundaries and internal.
  4. Hay baling which is the provisioning of feed and biomass reduction.
  5. Thatch grass cutting and combing for sale.
  6. Control with early blocking burning in State protected areas and private estates.
  7. Way leave clearance by ZETDC.
  8. Road servitude grass cutting and maintenance by all road authorities.
  9. The ZRP to enforce the law where violations are witnessed.

Cabinet considered and approved the above proposed 2021 veld fire management recommendations which were presented by myself and made further enriching comments as follows:

  1. There is need to enhance the awareness campaigns by educating communities on the importance of the veld to them by facilitating projects that will compel them to prevent veld fires.
  2. On the need to amend the A1 permits to provide for greater environmental stewardships.
  3. The need to create awareness of the consequences of none adherence to conditions set in 2 above.
  4. The need to review the statutory fire season in synchrony with the vicissitudes of the climate change.
  5. The need to put in place legislation to provide for reporting on non-compliant neighbours.
  6. The need to put in place deterrent penalties for veld fire offences.

On the legal framework Madam President, as a Ministry, we are going through a thorough assessment of the legal framework and it must be appreciated that whilst on the implementation side we have been using SI7 of 2007 which is on Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Regulations issued under the Environmental Management

Act.

The SI derives its authority from the Forest Act which is administered by the Forestry Commission who therefore has the legal mandate to manage veld fires.  However, we realise that in practice it has largely been EMA that has shouldered this responsibility and as such, we have instituted measures that will see the Forestry Commission being given prominence as per the laws that grant them the mandate in veld fire management.

Through a combined effort with EMA who now have the institutional capacity, you will see an improved approach to veld fire management.  A clear recommendation from Cabinet was that the fire season should follow the climate change dynamics, hence the Minister responsible for environment every year has to define the fire season and move away from being prescriptive as per the current law, thereby being realistic and guided by the situation on the ground.

Madam President, I am pleased to inform this august House that we have begun a process of reviewing the EMA Act and SI 7 of 2007 to effect the Cabinet resolutions and we hope to get the support of this House when the Bill comes in due course.

In terms of penalties Madam President, the Forest Amendment Bill is before this House and a lot of issues have been addressed in this regard. Fortunately, this august House has an opportunity to make the input on the matter.  It is my view Madam President, that in this country we have comprehensive laws that grant our esteemed traditional leaders powers to not only decisively deal with offenders but also to rally their communities towards a fire free society.

Madam President, while the State has three pillars; the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature, our esteemed chiefs have legal provisions to exercise these three in one in terms of the powers they have.  They have the power to police in their jurisdictions, to set laws and indeed, to impose penalties and other remedial actions necessary for the community to move forward.  It is therefore not a question of our traditional leaders being deprived of the powers but rather them exercising the powers they have and I believe their role is critical in fighting veld fires.

Madam President, although there was some analysis and recommendations in the report and during debate on the legal framework which goes beyond my Ministry’s mandate, effort has been made in the mainstreaming of veld fire management to other important ministries and local authorities.  Rural district councils have environment committees and sub committees which draft fire management plans that are implemented at district, ward and village levels.

Realising the importance of traditional leaders in this fight against veld fires, my Ministry held a successful strategic conference in Kadoma on 12th to 13th May 2021 with traditional leaders targeting senator chiefs.

This conference was graced by Her Excellency the First Lady, Amai

Auxillia Mnangagwa and also included the Minister of Local

Government and Public Works, Hon. J. Moyo, as well as the Minister of

State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution in Mashonaland West

Province, Hon. Mliswa.

The Traditional Leaders Act was discussed during the conference with some salient points coming out clearly, which included;

  1. The chiefs to extend their jurisdictions to A1 and A2 farm resettlement areas.
  2. Chiefs to be legally empowered to prosecute perpetrators of environment offences and
  3. Traditional leaders to use the powers they have to assist the

Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry in addressing issues of illegal settlement in forest areas.

On the general fire awareness campaign, Madam President, the Ministry has also implemented various projects to manage veld fires such as thatch grass harvesting, hay baling, bee-keeping and fireguard construction.  Furthermore, respective partners including road authorities have been encouraged to play their part in road servitude clearing and fire guard construction.

To date, we have served more than 4 600 orders for fireguard construction, issued 113 tickets, opened 16 dockets related to serious offences and our current assessment is that the compliance level for fireguard construction is around 43%.  While this is a huge improvement compared to an average 23% in the past years, we continue to intensify our awareness and enforcement efforts.

On resource mobilisation Madam President, my Ministry has been engaging various partners to ensure capacitation of institutions and communities.  Note worthy is the recent capacitation of Allied Timbers with vehicles and fire fighting equipment worth over US$900,000.  The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Forestry Commission and Environmental Management Agency have also been strengthened under Global Environment Facility 6 Project with vehicles, tractors, mowers, rakes, balers and fire fighting equipment for three districts namely: Hurungwe, Mbire and Muzarabani, which are high risk districts in terms of veld fires.

Conclusion

Finally, I would like to thank you Madam President and the SDG Thematic Committee for the opportunity to provide a Mnisterial Statement belatedly, in response to this issue of national importance; that of combating veld fires in our country because of their devastating effects on our vegetation and ultimately economy and livelihoods.  I wish to also commend the Committee for its continued work towards the achievement of our SDGs in line with the National Development Strategy 1.  Together we will achieve more without leaving any person and place behind.  I thank you.

SECOND READING

FORESTRY AMENDMENT BILL[H.B. 19A, 2019]

THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE,

TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY (HON. M.

NDLOVU):  Madam President, I would like to start by offering you and the Senate assurances of my highest consideration that my Ministry has judiciously taken into account the shortcomings of the Forestry Act [Chapter 19:05], and has duly accorded the utmost seriousness and commitment to improving forest matters.

May I point out that it would be remiss to not indicate that the current Forestry Act as supplemented by other laws and regulations, for instance the Environmental Management Act, provides for a fairly good framework in the management of the forests.  Nonetheless, Zimbabwe continues to experience environmental degradation through veld fires and the burning of vegetation, resulting in the loss of lives as well as property.  Veld fires in particular, are a hazard to the environment and if left unchecked, have the potential to reverse the hard earned gains achieved over the years.  The recent fires in the Amazon and Australia serve as an important warning and reminder of the sort of devastation fires can wreak.

Accordingly, therefore, based on Section 73 of the Constitution and Section 4 of the Environmental Management Act, which provides for a right to an environment that is not harmful to the health and well- being of the people of Zimbabwe, my Ministry has spawned the reviewing of the Forestry Act which has now culminated in the Bill before us.  This Amendment Bill does away with some of the archaic provisions of the forestry laws.  It also plugs in the gaps as well as update and align forestry laws to the Constitution, a long overdue exercise.  As mentioned above, the current Act falls short in addressing a plethora of recurring forestry challenges that have bedevilled forestry management.  Therefore, the Bill principally seeks to:

 

  1. Enhance the protection of forests from veld fires through the introduction of mandatory and deterrent sentences.
  2. Specifically recognise aggravating consequences of veld fires such as death and damage to property and the prosecution of the same in terms of the Criminal Law Codification and

Reform Act [Chapter 9:23].

  • Introduce a multi-sectoral and decentralised approach to fire management that includes local authorities, Agritex officials,

the transport sector, gender balancing and traditional leaders among others.

  1. Seeks to widen the regulatory responsibilities of the Forest

Commission.

More importantly, Section 73 of the Constitution enjoins the  State to take legislative or other measures with a view to progressively realise the right enshrined therein, without limiting the sphere of actions that may be available to the State.  The aforesaid provision specifically contemplates that such measures must address the following: prevention of pollution and ecological degradation, promotion of conservation and securing ecologically sustainable development as well as the use of natural resources while promoting economic and social development.

In the main, the Bill represents such measures envisaged above.  Accordingly, therefore, this Bill looks at improving the protection of forests by requiring persons acting ultra vires the provisions of the

Forestry laws to “undertake or adopt such measures as are specified in the orders to protect the forest.”  It further seeks to enhance the procedure with regards to extinguishing a fire by requiring that “any such owner or occupier who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection and the fire becomes dangerous to life and property shall be guilty of an offence and the provisions of Section 78 shall apply

mutatis mutandis.

Furthermore, the Bill aims to advance women’s rights in line with the Constitution by compulsorily requiring gender representation.  It also provides for the inclusion of persons holding recognised qualifications or demonstrable knowledge in forestry among other important qualifications in environmental planning and management, finance and management, business and administration, ecology as well as legal expertise.  Based on the above, it is unquestionably evident that this improved forestry framework is doubly important.  It speaks to Section

73 of the Constitution and it ties in perfectly with the Government’s development agenda.  I therefore humbly recommend and implore the

Senate to approve this Forestry Bill.

*HON. SEN. KOMICHI:  I would like to thank the Minister who

has brought the Bill.  The issue of veld fires has caused a number of challenges globally.  It is not only Zimbabwe that has struggled with veld fires.  Annually we see huge fires destroying different parts of the globe.  A few days ago, we witnessed fire in France, Australia and in other parts of the world.  We even witnessed property being destroyed as well as a lot of animals losing their lives because of these fires.

Yesterday we watched on national television a place in Mashonaland Central, a family that lost its homestead, including more than two tonnes of their grain.  A veld fire came and destroyed everything.  This is an issue that needs to be seriously considered not only by Zimbabwe.  The meetings that we witness being conducted on climate change where different States come together to deliberate and come up with strategies to control veld fires worldwide are important.  We need these international efforts for people to sit down and deal with the issue of veld fires.

Here in Zimbabwe during this season, we experience a lot of veld fires. The campaigns that are currently taking place on raising awareness on control of veld fires are done annually but it is not eradicating the problem of veld fires and this is not to say that we need to stop. That is why I am saying that we need to work together and come up with strategies as to how we can address this. Raising awareness on the impact of veld fires should be intensified. A lot of areas are being destroyed because of veld fires.

The law that we put to say that chiefs’ jurisdiction is only within the rural communities and not the farming communities is something that we need to look into. Is that a good law? The traditional leaders know the different communities in their areas. So, if an area does not have traditional leaders to monitor such activities, people end up engaging in unlawful behaviour and will try to lay traps to catch wild animals using fires. We need to empower our traditional leaders to enable them to have teeth that bite. So, we need to look into the powers of the traditional leaders because what can happen is, we can lose lives and grain because of these veld fires.

The issues that you incorporated in the Bill are very important and I think if we were to expedite these strategies, it would assist us a lot. As you have said, the Government should support this programme. If possible, funding should be set aside for that, like what we did in terms of road rehabilitation because the Government declared the road network a state of national disaster and the same should be done with the veld fires. We can allocate resources to ensure that strategies that we have come up with can be implemented. We can then monitor to see how this will work during this season and look at the impact the next season.

My request is what I have put forward and I hope we will expedite these strategies and raise awareness in terms of the impact of veld fires to our communities, and also to strengthen our legislation on the issue of veld fires and have deterrent fines to save our environment. I thank you.

*HON. SEN. FEMAI: I want to thank the Minister for the Bill  that he brought in this House on combating veld fires. I want to thank him for his research which has reflected that adequate research was done. I want to thank the Minister on what he presented to us, especially on the issue of raising the fines. I happen to be one of the people who had the same perspective as the Minister. I also thought when we were debating in this House, that some people cause veld fires as they look for mice. People want to catch a rabbit but it ends up causing veld fires.

Mr. President, with your authority, I also want to add to his perspective considering what I have witnessed. The day before yesterday, I was in Epworth in the evening. I was supposed to go to Goromonzi and passed through the farms quite late in the evening. I saw two Prado vehicles speeding along that road but the road network is poor that I was even surprised at the speed that they were travelling. The vehicles were quite new.

A few kilometres ahead, I saw a vehicle parked by the roadside and a fire had just been started. The other cars were still going ahead and I realised that the people in the car had just started the fire. From there, I saw the people in the second car lighting a fire and by the time I got to Ruwa, I realised that the people in the three cars had actually lit the fires. So, these are fires that are actually lit by certain people. We need legislation that will criminalise such actions. I witnessed this on my own and I tried to speed up to get sight of the number plates of the vehicles but I failed.

So, as I came into this House and heard the Minister give his statement, I realised this was what I witnessed the day before yesterday and I thought it better to testify from what I saw. For people to put fireguards, the police must be involved to ensure that they check areas with fireguards and also, the people who are causing the veld fires because I witnessed it. I want the Minister to add to his strategies, that it is not going to add value to start veld fires in order to catch mice or enjoy the veld fires. In my opinion, there are people who are actually deliberately starting veld fires. With these words, I thank you Hon.

Minister.

*HON. SEN. MABIKA: I want to thank the Minister for the  issue he has brought to this House. My request is on the issue of monitoring. Yes, legislation is being put in place.  We heard that May will be an awareness month and a timetable was issued but I think that there is need for monitoring because May has already come to an end.  We are coming from the farms but we have not seen them.  So you may be planning but implementation on the ground needs to be monitored to see whether that is happening.  My request to the Hon. Minister is that he should look into the issue of monitoring and it should not just be a paper issue.

In the past, we used to be given dates like 31st July, that everyone should have put in a fireguard by 31st July.  So people used to ensure that they met the deadline but nowadays that is not happening. If the monitors came and you were found without a fireguard, you had to pay a fine of $500.00.  I think that legislation, if it is still in place, should be implemented and it comes back to the issue of monitoring.  Yes, we have insurance companies that I can insure my property with.  It is my hope that the Government has that vehicle for those who want to insure their vehicles and properties in case of fires, which is Government initiated so that you get a certain amount of money from Government to alleviate the loss.  Others will not be able to pay the large premiums that are being charged by some insurance companies.

In the agricultural sector, we are being assisted with inputs.  I do not know if it is possible at district level, to have farm implements such as tractors that are used in the construction of fireguards.  Some people want to do hay baling but do not have the machines and for those people who have the machinery, they charge you a dollar.  If the machinery belonged to the Government, then an individual could hire it at a cheaper price because it will be like the DDF case.  People do not have resources but the heart is willing and it is interpreted as if people do not want, yet the issue is that of resources and farm implements.  So as is the case in agriculture, it should be extended to your Ministry to assist the people on the ground because as we speak, we are not seeing any monitoring and awareness, you will realise that for a Ministry at district level, they do not have transport to our farms or even to come and check what has happened in different areas.  I thank you.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  I hope that

Hon. Members understand that the Hon. Minister gave a statement in response to a report that was presented by the Thematic Committee chaired by Hon. Sen. Chief Mtshane Khumalo.  Thereafter, he presented a Bill, the Forest Amendment Bill.

So what is supposed to be debated here is the Forest Amendment

Bill.  I hope that we are clear about that.

HON. SEN. DR. MAVETERA:  Thank you very much Mr.

President for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this Bill that has been brought to the House by the Hon. Minister.

Mr. President, before I zoom directly on the Bill, allow me to make a general comment relating to the importance of forests in our country.  I think for most of us, in 1980, we were one of the major timber exporters and forests were a major employer and there were rules.  I am sure the laws that were operating are still in place and we were able to protect our forests.  So inasmuch as we applaud the Hon. Minister for coming with this amendment Bill, I would want to impress through you Mr.

President, that what is important for us here is to look at the laws that were there, also look at their deficits and see to what extent we have tried to implement those laws because I think we now need to walk the talk and not talk the walk.  I think this basically means that we are not deficient of legislation, but on implementation.

I was quite encouraged that one of the objectives of this Bill is to enhance the protection and making awareness to the people on the need to protect our forests.  I do not want to delve much into the impact of their failure to protect our forests because I think that some of the problems that we are currently experiencing, of human and animal conflict is a result of destruction of our forests such that animals end up coming and invading since all the forests have been destroyed.

So Mr. President, I hope that the Hon. Minister will also consider approaching this issue in a holistic manner.  Our forests are governed by statutes and at the end of the day, there is a criminal sanction for anyone who contravenes those statutes.  The criminal sanction, unfortunately the people who should be helping much in trying to address this problem of damage to our forests are our local chiefs but the law as it stands now, local chiefs only have jurisdiction to deal only with customary issues when this is not a customary issue.  So inasmuch as Hon. Members were contributing to say, can we extend the jurisdiction, it will not address our problem.

I think the Hon. Minister should probably look at a way of how chiefs in this case should be empowered to address this because it is a criminal issue that is outside their jurisdiction.  I think these are the key players. One of the objectives is a multi-sectoral approach. If we still leave chiefs outside without authority to address some of these offences that are criminal in nature, then we are still compartmentalised and we are not going to achieve what the Bill is attempting to achieve.  These are my few suggestions Mr. President, because this is a criminal issue and our chiefs are key to the preservation of our forests.  I thank you.

       +HON. SEN. CHIEF NGUNGUMBANE:  Thank you Mr.

President, I want to thank Hon. Minister Ndlovu who is responsible for the upkeep of our environment.  I do not have much to say but only to support what was mentioned by Hon. Sen. Dr. Mavetera…

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  Order, order

Hon. Sen. Chief Ngungumbane, may you unmute your device?

+HON. SEN. CHIEF NGUNGUBANE:  Thank you Mr.

President, I only have two issues.  Firstly, I want to thank Hon. Sen. Dr. Mavetera who saw it fit that there are some other important people like the chiefs who should also be made responsible for the upkeep of our environment.

My request is that since it is the President who appoints people to those posts and since you Hon. Minister, are the one who gives him the names for the Forestry Commission to be set, may there be a representative whose name will be lawfully endorsed from the chiefs?

Lastly Hon. Minister, the forest is the same. Even if you traverse from Chipinge to Chimanimani, I would not know whether the white people used to operate that way.  You will find that there are so many ministries that are allocated to different forests.  I want to know what criterion is used on the following Acts, that is the Forestry Act,

Environmental Management Act, Traditional Leaders Act, Communal Lands Act, RDCs Act?  I submit that these should work together.  I thank you.

*HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA:  Thank you Mr.

President. The Minister has done well by bringing this Bill. It is only that the resources are limited.  This is a serious issue Mr. President,. We look at it as if it is just simple fire, but we are doing this for the conservation of our forests.  It should come together with the issue of the impact on the environment. The issue of the water table is being affected by veld fires, so the issue of conserving our forests is very important.

Minister, there are other issues that are fundamental to this Senate and these must be given adequate time for debate so that we give each other ideas.  The big problem that we have in Zimbabwe and Africa, especially countries that were colonized is that we are using the precolonial era legislation.  I once googled and found that there is a Forestry Act of 1943.  Recently during Heroes commemoration, we were given medals for the traditional leaders who lost their lives during the war.  In 1898, there were native regulations, you can google,

Rhodesia Native Regulations, most of these challenges came from there.  They said that because of the war, these traditional leaders are very evil - because of that some were beheaded.  That is when the DNA tests came in.  They appointed men to ensure that they guard the powers of the White Men and remove the powers of the traditional leaders.  They felt that if traditional leaders remained in power, it would lead to another

Chimurenga.  So, most of these Acts need to be amended.

On the Forestry Act, for you to cut down a tree, you have to go and seek permission from the Officer-in-Charge of the police not to the village head or the traditional leader.  It is unfortunate, I did not have enough time to research, but that Act says the authority to cut down a tree rests with the charge office because that is where the white man is and not with the traditional leaders.

We got independence so that we can go back to the drawing board.  What they said was that the Chief was not supposed to leave his area of jurisdiction going to another area without the permission from the

Native Commission, which is the issue that we are talking about here.  We also embarked on a land reform exercise.  It seems we have forgotten where the Act came from.  The Land Apportionment Act of

1930 actually determines the jurisdiction of the traditional leaders. So

Minister, can you go and talk to your colleagues that this needs to be amended because it is Rhodesian law.  The traditional leaders were not supposed to go beyond the demarcation set.

Look at the challenges that we are facing as a nation, if you were to go round Zimbabwe, in my area I can boast that whenever there is fire, the village head is in trouble.  We do not entertain veld fires because our rule is where the fire came from, there is a village head and he is responsible.  The issue of fighting for power is what has affected us.  Who is the owner or the custodian of the forest, I think this is clear, that is an issue that you need to look into Minister. The issue of natural resources of a nation should be deliberated to see who the custodian is.  Once you say it belongs to the State, it means it is now a cooperative for everyone.  Whoever comes and whoever does not, it will not be important.  So, we need to give each other responsibilities that are clear.       Mr. President, let us give roles and responsibilities that  are clear, we need someone who is going to be responsible when the forests are being burnt. We need clear responsibilities and accountabilities.  For example, are we going to ask you as the Minister? May be you were given that authority but the honest truth is that those people on the ground should be accountable.

However, the problem is that, have we given them the responsibility and are they aware of that responsibility?  So, that is where we are losing it. It is like what we do with wildlife and they said we are poachers and animals are not yours.  Now, people think wildlife is for the Government and once people hear that it is for the

Government, they destroy.  Therefore, we need to ask who the custodian of these forests is. If you can address that area, then we will be able to conserve our forests.

The village head should be accountable for the veld fires that emanate from his village.  You were supposed to ask, ‘village heads, where were you and traditional leaders, where were you?’.  Once that is done and accountability is there, then you would have dealt with the matter.

Now if you go to the Ministry of Environment, who are you going to ask - EMA? Once EMA sees a forest that has been burnt, that is the monitoring that they do but how the fire started and where it emanated from, they do not know.  All they do is to go and see. We are investing in monitoring but I think we need to empower the people on the ground in the areas affected by veld fires – that is what we call empowerment.

Hon. Minister, there is a problem within the public sector.  They think that if a person is employed by the Public Service Commission, they are the ones mandated to ban the cutting down of trees and veld fires.  Therefore, as a traditional leader, no one listens to me because I am not employed by the Civil Service.  It is the title that speaks and that is where we are losing it.  People should know that the leaders in the community are the custodians not the civil servants.  There is a problem; you need to trust your people as a Government.  Empower them, give them responsibilities at that level and these problems will be dealt with.  We need a multi-sectoral approach.

Hon. Minister, when you said that multi-sectoral, if you see the list that you read, I actually said to myself that you had omitted the traditional leaders.  You listed the multi-sectoral entities and you left traditional leaders.  The traditional chiefs must not come as number 6 on the list but they should be the first and supported by the other players that you named.  So, what you were talking about was there in 1848 and that thing came with the white man.  Did we ever sit down as the black people to see what was the motive and objective of that piece of legislation?

All local authorities have committees of environmental management but why is it that the veld fires are always a menace? There is something wrong because these people are paid and well remunerated.  The mandatory sentences that you talked about, yes; we can criminalise this and bring people to book, some of these things will not end even if you criminalise them.  Just take these issues to the people so that they have control over their natural resources.

Senator Femai talked about the vehicles that had people who were causing the veld fires.  When confronted, they would say I am so and so, a director at some company looking for mice which is a lie.  It is not for the mice that they will be looking for.  The owners of the cars that were referred to by Senator Femai have good grades of meat in their homes but there are others who are sabotaging directly.  Can you investigate to check the spirit behind the sabotaging of the environment, whether they are terrorists or what you need to look into that.

However, let us also look into the issue of cutting down trees. You cannot go and cut down trees in the forest, people cut down trees and burn forests in order to create parts to maneuver their way.

Mr. President, to end this matter, let us look at the history of how this legislation came into place.  We also need to trust our people.  The issue of forests is not about funding EMA with a lot of resources like Toyota Hilux vehicles.  If you are not going to work with the local leadership and communities, who should monitor their own areas because when a car is sent to Charumbira Village three days after, the fire would have gone out.  I thank you.

THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE

CHANGE, TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY (HON.

  1. NDLOVU): Thank you Mr. President for the opportunity to respond to some of the critical issues that were raised in this august House by Hon. Senators.

There were some of the interventions which I also felt were responding more to the Ministerial Statement than the Bill.  However, they were also touching on the important issue of veld fires which is contained in the Bill.  So, I may not respond to all the issues that were raised initially before you gave us direction but there are some issues that I had also captured which I believe will enrich the Bill.

Hon. Komichi highlighted what happened in Mashonaland Central where a family has been left homeless and perhaps hopeless. I think this goes on to signify the importance of fighting veldt fires because it has that destructive effect in our livelihoods.

The issue of traditional leadership not having jurisdiction in A1 and A2 is quite fundamental. We discussed it. I raised it in the report and it was discussed in Kadoma. I remember the Minister of Local

Government and Public Works giving a response to that but it is an issue that he will urgently address and that as far as he is concerned, there is no area that is not under the jurisdiction of a chief. I want to believe that it is a matter that has to be addressed, if indeed there is that gap.

We also noted that 60% of veldt fires occur in A1 and A2. Again, we have more than 360 000 offer letters for A1 which do not speak to issues of environmental management. Of the 40 000 issued A2 permits, the 99-Year Leases are very few which are clear in prescribing  issues of environmental protection. We have to address the traditional leadership oversight and management of our A1 and A2 farms if indeed we are to win the fight against veldt fires. There was a suggestion that maybe we declare the issue of fires as a state of emergency, I think this was in response to the report.

Hon. Sen. Mabika highlighted that maybe there is not enough awareness on the ground, they have not seen people who are conducting awareness programmes. This year we roped in all the Agritex Extension Officers and we were advised that we have three extension officers in every ward who have been given motorbikes. It is my understanding that the outreach has been extensive. I would also be interested to know where she is referring to so that we can put corrective measures as a matter of urgency. Also working with the Ministry of Agriculture, we consolidated efforts to see where we could unlock some of the resources like tractors which the Ministry of Agriculture have, especially in problem districts and this programme has helped us a lot in hay bailing as well as in helping some farmers with fireguards.

There was also an intervention concerning our laws that we used to have very strong laws that protected our forests, what has gone wrong? The reality is that it is important for us to continue to review our laws so that they reflect the present realities. We also need to take note of certain realities. In 1980, we were a population of less than nine million and now we are perhaps more than 17 million. That speaks to environmental problems that we have to address. Human wildlife conflict becomes a consequence of that and therefore, we need to continue to strengthen our laws so that we are able to respond to these challenges. I believe that the provisions that we are proposing today seek to strengthen our response to issues that are affecting our forests.

Hon. Sen. Chief Ngungumbane, I fully agree and I believe we can never win the war against forest degradation if we do not put at the centre of this fight traditional leaders. I am also agreeable that it is important to have someone representing traditional leadership in the commission. It is an oversight which I hope will be corrected during the Committee Stage.

On the need to synchronise our laws, I do believe they are complementary but maybe at implementation stage as well as oversight, there might be need for continuous effort to make sure that they speak to each other. When you look at veldt fire management, the Statutory

Instrument is administered but it derives its authority from the Forestry

Act. We also acknowledge the role played by the RDC Act as well as the Traditional Leaders Act. All these put together seek to protect our forest as well as our natural resources. I agree that it is very important that we continue to synchronise them so that they speak to each other.

Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira, I think he had a clear process of the issues but highlighted that we need to fully understand the background of the laws. When the whites came in, they sought to disempower traditional leaders in the management of natural resources. It is my hope that as we go through the Bill we are able to identify areas that can be improved in terms of giving more jurisdictions to locals. I believe that those areas are adequately covered. I will certainly be very supportive in reviewing some of the supporting pieces of legislation, which especially when we look at our A1 and A2 from the Ministry of Lands as well as the Ministry of Local Government, just to make sure that the authority of traditional leadership is entrenched in those pieces of legislation. We fully acknowledge from our Act that the role played by traditional leaders as well as local authorities is central in fighting both the veldt fires as well as the protection of our forests.

On the need to define who the custodian of the natural resources is, I think that is very important. I am not sure if this Act can go that far, but that is a very important exercise that we need to do as a people and as a country. I believe also that this relies a lot on what village heads or people in local communities will be able to do.

Essentially, this Bill seeks to provide the administration. There has been veldt fire - how do we make sure that the system is corrected? When we have officers going on the ground, the first port-of-call will be the traditional leaders. My belief is that as it stands, our chiefs have the authority to exercise the functions of all the three pillars of the State as I indicated in my statement. On the multi sectoral approach, that list was not in any particular order but certainly, our chiefs are very important. I took note of that. We do believe that we need a collective effort in the fight to protect our natural resources and in this instance, our forests. All those stakeholders need to come to the party and we believe we stand a better chance.

On the issue of the effectiveness of our environmental committee, I think this has to be looked at closely because these committees are an effort to entrench local people in those communities to partake in the protection of their natural resources. If the feeling is that they are not effective, I want us to look at it and see how we can best improve that but we believe that these are some of the provisions that empower local communities to take full custody of their natural recourses.

Mr. President, I just summarised the responses to issues that have been raised. It may happen that I might have missed one or two but these are issues that I had captured. I thank you.  

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage:  With leave, forthwith.

COMMITTEE STAGE

FORESTRY AMENDMENT BILL [H. B. 19A, 2019] House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 4 put and agreed to.

On Clause 5:

HON. SEN. CHIEF NGUNGUMBANE:  Thank you Madam

Chair for offering me this opportunity.  I would want to propose amendments to Section 5.  I think the Minister earlier on conceded that it was an oversight that traditional leaders were initially omitted from the list.  I would want to propose that the National Council of Chiefs nominate two Members into this Commission and Minister, we would be grateful if 5 (c) - it is clear whilst the composition of this Commission will take into cognisance gender equality, we also need that it should be put in black and white that there should not be an omission of traditional leaders as the custodians of the forest and environment.  I thank you.

HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA:  Thank you Chair.  I rise to support everything as proposed in terms of amending Clause 5 as proposed by Sen. Chief Ngungumbane.

THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE

CHANGE, TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY (HON.

  1. NDLOVU): I want to thank the Hon. Senators, our esteemed Chiefs, for the recommendation that they have made. I highlighted that to further entrench the importance of our traditional leaders in the protection of our forests, it will be a noble idea to have them represented.  I just want to highlight that it is also important that we keep our boards as lean as is operationally possible.  I therefore, while in agreement with the recommendation, think it is important that the National Council of Chiefs nominates a representative so that we keep our Commission also as lean as is operationally possible.  So I would be amenable to one representative who will come in and represent our traditional leaders.  Thank you.

HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA:  Chairperson, we

understand the response by the Minister, but we would want to place the matter into the proper space.  The matter of environmental degradation is in our territory.  That is where we live and if you look at the majority of the people that are listed as eligible for appointment – environmental planning management, finance, business administration, ecology - these are urban people.  Let me be very honest about it.  It is dominated by people who reside in urban areas and we have one person who comes from the real space where the forests are and then have five who are not very much affected directly by what is happening out there.  It looks more realistic.  The number of two acknowledges that the focus is rural and the rural representatives are on this board.

I know you are a very good Minister and we do not want to push too much a good Minister, but I think we will keep the import of our submission.  In fact, now we will be very careful.  For all the commissions and boards in future, we have to say in which territory or space is this commission coming from.  If it is for engineers, let the engineers dominate, if it is for lawyers, let the lawyers dominate, if it is rural, let the chiefs also dominate, but we will not dominate, we will still be in the minority Minister.  It would be two out of five and this is not a full time Commission I believe, so I think the expense is only to do with meetings and these commissions sit once in three months and get an allowance.  If it were full time, I would be persuaded to say one because I know the cost would be too high as it would involve salaries but this is just part time.  We persuade you as a good Minister.  Thank you very much.

HON. SEN. KOMICHI:  I just stood up to fully support the proposal put forward by the Chiefs.  It is very important to note Chief

Charumbira’s argument that when a field is for lawyers, the lawyers dominate.  This particular field for veld fires is for the Chiefs, so the Chiefs should dominate.  I also want to persuade you Hon. Minister to consider the point that has been raised by the Chiefs.  I thank you.

HON. M. NDLOVU:  Thank you Madam Chair.  I want to thank

the Hon. Senators for their input and to thank Chief Charumbira for his compliments.  However, for the avoidance of having the compliments withdrawn, let me start by acknowledging that this is probably the first institution which will prescribe the presence or involvement of traditional leaders.  I also looked at the composition where we tried to look at the skills that would be needed for us to help a Commission that will exercise proper oversight on forest matters.  If we add one more person we will be on eleven and I believe that it becomes too big but there has to be discretion.  I think we might want to agree that this is not prescriptive and should there be need to add, as we move on we will look into that.  I want to appreciate that our Chiefs today have made us realise the importance that for matters that really have to do with our communities, we cannot achieve much without the involvement of those communities.  I really want to thank and appreciate them for that.  However, to err on the side of caution and avoid having our commissions becoming bloated, I humbly submit that at least at this moment, an inclusion of one representative selected by our National Council of Chiefs ought to serve the interests of all the traditional leaders and our communities.  Should there be need to have more representation, I think these can be considered as we move on.  I so submit Madam Chair.

HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA: As usual, I enjoy the way

the Minister displays his intellect and personality which we like.  Just to say Minister, it is not the first statute that will prescribe that in this commission there shall be a Chief.  This is in the Constitution.  If you look at the Gender Commission, there is a similar provision.  In the

Constitution, it says there shall be a traditional leader. I would not want to go through all the statutes but there are several that actually provide that the Chiefs Council nominate and recommend names of chiefs who sit on those Commissions that we believe will benefit a lot with the presence of Chiefs.  So, it will not be the first time as it exists in various statutes.  It is unfortunate there is no room to consult further because if we did, I know you would agree with us. I am consulting with my fellow Chiefs to see what it says in the Constitution.  It actually says “one is a nominee of the National Chiefs Council appointed by the President.”  So, Minister, we agree on one and your spirit is when there is space, you have a second one.  I thank you.

Amendment to Clause 5 put and agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, put and agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 25 put and agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported with amendments.

Bill referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee.

RECOMMITTAL TO COMMITTEE STAGE

CYBER AND DATA PROTECTION BILL [H. B. 18A, 2019]

Second Order read: Recommittal to Committee: Cyber and Data Protection Bill [H. B. 18A, 2019].

House in Committee.

         On Clause 5:

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION COMMUNICATION

TECHNOLOGY, POSTAL AND COURIER SERVICES (HON.

  1. MUSWERE): Thank you Madam Chair, I move that we delete

Clause 5 and renumber the subsequent clauses accordingly.  I thank you.

Amendment to Clause 5 put and agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, put and agreed to.

On Clause 6:

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION COMMUNICATION

TECHNOLOGY, POSTAL AND COURIER SERVICES (HON.

  1. MUSWERE): Thank you Madam Chair, I move that we delete

Clause 6 and renumber the subsequent clauses accordingly.  I thank you.

Amendment to Clause 6 put and agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, put and agreed to.

House resumed.

Progress reported.

Committee to resume: Wednesday, 18th August, 2021.

On the motion of THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT,

CLIMATE CHANGE, TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY

INDUSTRY (HON. M. NDLOVU), the Senate adjourned at Half past

Four o’clock p.m.

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