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SENATE HANSARD 17 DECEMBER 2020 VOL 30 NO 16

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Thursday, 17th December, 2020

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

PRAYERS

(THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)

          THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: With me I only have the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation who had sent her apology, Hon. K. Coventry. However, to my surprise, I see the whole front bench with only two Ministers. I see the Leader of the House and Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services and the Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities. Let us work with what we have. We also have the Minister of State for Mashonaland Central Province.

ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE

*HON. SEN. CHIEF CHIKWAKA: Thank you Madam President. My question is directed to the Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities. At what stage is the Ministry in terms of constructing houses for traditional chiefs so that they can have a decent status in society?

*THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL HOUSING AND SOCIAL AMENITIES (HON. GARWE): The Government has noted that construction of houses for the chiefs is not a sustainable programme. It is not sustainable due to the fact that today we have Chief Chikwaka Ephraim, we build a house for him and he passes on and another chief takes over who will also want a house constructed for him. In the long run that chief also passes on and the next one would want a house constructed by the Government, it is not sustainable. Instead, the Government decided to build the chiefs’ courts where issues of that particular area are discussed and disputes settled. This is what we are going to do in 2021 going forward.

*HON. SEN. CHIEF CHIKWAKA: Thank you Hon. Minister

As per our tradition Madam President, it is our duty to take care of our parents. You cannot give an excuse that your are burdened for taking care of your father giving the reason that if my father dies I have to take care of another parent again. Madam President, the Minister must give us a satisfactory response.

*THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Thank you Hon. Sen. Chief Chikwaka. It is important and crucial that if we ask a question, we listen to the response from the Hon. Minister because we would have asked the questions without knowledge of the subject matter. It helps us on the follow up questions. I am not denying the Minister the opportunity to respond.

*HON. GARWE: Thank you Madam President. Let me repeat my response and then answer the follow up question. The Government has limited resources. Chiefs, like every Zimbabwean, look upon the Government for their welfare and upkeep but the Government does not have enough resources. So it is very difficult to select a chief today and build a house for him. For example, we select Chief Daniel Garwe today and build him a house and tomorrow Chief Garwe is no more and his predecessor, say Chief Esau Garwe is installed as the next chief and he looks forward to have a house built for him again. This will be going on countrywide within the chieftainship. It is not sustainable as the Government does not have such huge resources to sustain that ongoing programme.

The Government made a decision to construct traditional courts, which must be modern structures constructed within each chief’s jurisdiction. This court will be used by chiefs for generation after generation and is a sustainable project which is the Government’s position and intends to undertake. We must understand that Government does not have resources for individuals and it will help us a lot to move forward in terms of development. I thank you

HON. SEN. B. MPOFU: Thank you Madam President. My question is directed to the Leader of the House since I do not see the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. I had the misfortune of using the Beitbridge to Mvuma Road this week and witnessed potholes graduating to craters. With the festive season upon us, what is the Government policy to arresting this migration of potholes into craters, which if left unattended has the propensity of reducing Government to a festive murderer figuratively and actually?

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you Madam President. Thank you very much Hon. Sen. Mpofu for your question. I am privileged to have listened to the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development giving his report in Cabinet this last Tuesday. He actually talked about the issue of detours. We know that the Beitbridge – Harare – Chirundu Road is under construction and because of the heavy rains which have been pouring, that has actually made the detours very difficult for flow of traffic. He is much aware and they are seized as a Ministry to make sure that at least those detours will be put in a condition in which there will be flow of traffic, especially as we face more and more traffic during the festive season. I thank you.

HON. SEN. B. MPOFU: Unfortunately, I did not actually mention that I am grateful for the work that is being done in terms of reconstructing that road; Beitbridge to Harare Road which is quite remarkable. I think there is quite some progress this time around when I used it after about two or so months. My question is not on the detours but on the actual main road, the highway itself. Like I said, I had the misfortune of driving through from Beitbridge this week. Two of my tyres burst because the potholes are so deep on the main road itself, not on the detours. I feel if Government is going to wait until the reconstruction, a lot of people are going to have a terrible festive season if the potholes are not closed. Thank you.

HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: Thank you Madam President. Hon. Sen. Mpofu is talking to something which will pose problems during this festive season if it is not looked into. As I reported, I thought you were talking about the detours which are muddy and have made it very impossible for traffic to flow. About the potholes again, he spoke to this issue. He is very much aware of these problems and they are looking into that. I thank you.

*HON. SEN. CHIEF MAKUMBE: Thank you Madam President. My question is directed to the Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities. I think it is a brilliant idea to build courts for us. For us to be looking at the fact that so and so will die, it happens, yes but we are all going to die. What we are saying is, let us acknowledge our traditional leaders. Why can we not go a step further in building us beautiful homes equivalent to a palace for chiefs? Why can we not do that so that we also become people of status?

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: That question was raised and it was responded to twice. You can raise a motion whereby the Minister will then respond to or invite the Minister to the Chiefs’ caucus.

*HON. SEN. FEMAI: Thank you Madam President. My question is directed to the Leader of the House who is also the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services. I would want to find out if she is aware of the fact that in Goromonzi there is a Government complex that is said to be complete in terms of construction but it is only at window level. This building is now 15 years old.

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: This is a particular question that requires research as to why it has not yet been completed, so I urge you to put your question in writing so that the Minister can bring a response as to why the building is incomplete.

Maybe we can be assisted when Sen. Khumalo’s question is responded to. There is another Minister who has walked in; the Minister of State for Mashonaland East Province.

+HON. SEN. KHUMALO: Thank you Madam President. My question is directed to the Leader of Government Business. In most schools particularly boarding schools, students have been affected by COVID-19. Even though they have been affected, those schools did not close. Why did the Government do that? I thank you.

HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Khumalo for that very important question, issues which concern us and issues of our own children. I just want to say first of all, let me say Zimbabwe is on level three which is placed in the world under the global pandemic of COVID-19. Under that level 3, we are one country which had been given conditions that schools can open as our children continue to go to school.

However, they go to schools where there are standard operating procedures and our headmasters, teachers, children and parents had been trained.   The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has been going round the districts, training them to understand those standard operating procedures. It is important to adhere to those COVID-19 preventive and precautionary measures so that we contain the spread of this disease.

We know that we have had a number of schools where this COVID-19 positive cases have been identified and once that has been done, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, together with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and also in some instances the Ministry of Higher Education, have gone to those schools to make sure that there are PCR tests done. In schools where there are no PCR tests done, they have made sure that they close the school. Where there are PCR machines, they have tested the children and those found positive have been quarantined and those found negative have been allowed to continue with classes.

Yes, we know these are very difficult times and the question is if we keep kids in our communities running around in the streets, are they also not exposed to the COVID-19? So what we are concentrating on is to make sure that each and every school adheres to those standard operating procedures that are making sure that there is the testing as the kids walk in, they clean their hands, and temperature is checked. So we continue to monitor schools where COVID-19 cases have been found.

You also have to be careful if they are not quarantined and they are left to go into the communities, that can also cause spread of the disease. So, in those particular schools where COVID-19 cases have been high, they have quarantined those who are positive. The results have been very positive, the numbers of COVID-19 cases in our in our schools is actually coming down.

HON. SEN. CHIEF MATUPULA: I wanted to ask on the issue of COVID-19 testing in schools. Is there support for students who would have tested positive in the schools as in counseling - because these are children and this disease is still new? I can imagine a form one child who has been quarantined for all those 14 days.

HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: Thank you Madam President, I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Chief Matupula. There is a lot of work which is being done, that is why I spoke to the issue of the Ministry of Health and Child Care. They have people who speak to those who are COVID-19 positive and to those who are negative so that they can adhere to all the preventative and precautionary measures.

HON. SEN. CHIEF MAKUMBE: Thank you very much Madam President, we are faced with the festive season. We would want to find out how prepared the Government is in terms of those coming from outside the country, our children in the diaspora in order to ensure that there is no spike in COVID-19 especially when it comes to the border areas.

I just want to know that in terms of security measures how safe are we when the diasporans, for example a person can come through Plumtree Border Post and end up in Mutare or Mt. Darwin. How can we ensure that we are protected since now we do not have quarantine centres and to ensure that we are not infected by the COVID-19 pandemic which will result in us facing challenges as a nation.

HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: Thank you very much Madam President. I also want to thank Hon. Sen. Chief Makumbe for his question which is very pertinent. I want to start by saying that when Government instituted the lockdown in March, they set up an inter-ministerial task force which is chaired by Hon. Muchinguri Kashiri who is the Minister of Defence and War Veterans. This task force’s mandate is to look at all that is happening in the country and engaging experts to investigate on the pandemic and where there are loopholes in terms of COVID-19.

The experts and the members of the task force went on tours, investigated and realised that on the 1st of December 2020, borders were safe for people to come in because we were looking at the issue that all the Zimbabweans who are in the Diaspora were closed for other nationalities and not Zimbabwe. Since the beginning of December, 2020, those who use private vehicles in different countries - it might be Mozambique, Zambia, and Botswana were allowed to come through but there are conditions that they have to meet before they do so. When we opened the boarder, a number of airlines are now coming through, Ethiopian Airways, Emirates is also coming through three times a week. Rwanda Airlines is also coming in and other airlines are coming through to Zimbabwe. The condition that is there is that all those who come through the port of entry, it might be Beitbridge Border Post, R. G Mugabe International Airport or J. M. Nkomo Airport in Bulawayo, Victoria Falls or different borders, a person coming into Zimbabwe is expected to produce a COVID-19 negative certificate. This certificate mandates one to have been tested 48 hours prior to departure.

If the immigration officers realise that it has expired, you have to be tested at the port of entry. We have PCR machines and you can be tested upon arrival. Some machines are now taking 55 minutes. For example, at R.G. Mugabe Airport, there are laboratories. So when a person comes through without a COVID-19 negative certificate they can test. It should come from a laboratory that is known and you are required to undergo testing again and you have to wait until the results are out. At Beitbridge Border Post our families need to come with COVID-19 negative certificates and without those certificates, they are not allowed access into the country. I want to remind you that the Government is aware of this and wants us to curb COVID-19 cases.

The majority of COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe are local transmissions, that is why we need to ensure there is security. Government is very strict when you travel. I want to give you an example. I was given an official assignment to go to Zambia to attend a Davos Communication Seminar. I left on a Monday after being tested on a Sunday. I attended the conference for 3 days in Zambia and when I was coming back, the 48 hours had elapsed but I knew I could not come back to Zimbabwe without a COVID-19 certificate. In Zambia, I had to be tested and another PCR test was done for me to be able to get into my country. That certificate is very important and it has to come from a laboratory that is well recognised. Government is after protecting its population.

I want to urge citizens to continue protecting themselves by putting on their masks, washing their hands, maintaining social distancing and that when we start coughing, it is important to take zumbani tea. Now, because of the rainy season, there are a number of flus and we need to protect ourselves. Zimbabwe is a good country and people have listened. We are saying the pandemic is there but we have relaxed the conditions. You find the media will start telling you not to relax because the disease is still with us although it is local transmission. We need to be cognisant of that and protect where possible.

HON. SEN. CHIEF NGUNGUMBANE: Why do we have inconsistency in the validity of the COVID tests that are done in Zimbabwe whereas WHO says those tests are valid for 72 hours.

HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: I want to thank Hon. Sen. Chief Ngungumbane for that question where there is that disparity that there are certain countries which are accepting 72 hours as opposed to 48 hours. It is not WHO, WHO are actually talking about 48 hours but I know what you are talking about that there are certain countries who have actually said 72 hours. I am sure they have thought through, we are still considering it also as a country.

For those countries, they have considered the issues that one may visit one country do business in three days and need to come back and the inconvenience of having that person tested again. I have just given you my personal example when I went to Zambia. This is an issue which the taskforce is actually looking at. We are seized with this and we are looking into possibilities of whether the hours can be moved from 48 hours to 72 hours. As it stands right now, in our country, for anybody who is coming into this country, that COVID negative certificate just has to be 48 hours. I thank you.

HON SEN. MAVETERA: There are allegations that there is booming business for manufacturing COVID certificates. As a country, what measures are in place to ensure that we do not fall victim to those manufactured certificates especially in South Africa. Do we have any specific laboratories or safety features where our staff manning the border will actually be able to identify those manufactured COVID certificates? I thank you.

HON SEN. MUTSVANGWA: I would like to thank Senator Mavetera for that question. Yes, we have all been reading about these fake COVID -19 certificates and the Ministry of Health and Child Care are very much seized with the issue and they have sent delegations to those borders. It was reported in Plumtree and to some extent Beitbridge. Their staff have been sent to make sure that all the COVID-19 certificates which are presented at our ports of entry are genuine and are also coming from certified laboratories. This is something which they are working closely on. I thank you.

+HON SEN. MOYO: My question is directed to Minister Mutsvangwa. She said that we should comply with COVID regulations in accordance with hygienic standards that are required. We do not have enough water where we stay. We sometimes get water once a week or after a fortnight. We do not have water to wash our hands. Our children have no water to wash their hands after visiting the toilet.

THE HON PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order Hon Member. Your supplementary question does not arise from what the Hon Minister has just explained to the House. May you put up a question of what you want to understand?

*HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA: Thank you Hon. President. My question is to the Minister of Housing. We always hear of land barons. Are they still there because at one time you said that there are no land barons but every day in the media, we hear a lot about land barons? Are they still in the policy?

THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL HOUSING AND SOCIAL AMENITIES (HON. GARWE): Thank you Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira for such an important question. The land barons are still there. The Government put in place a policy to arrest them and bring them to book. Even if we have land and the people want to buy land, the land baron is always there. So, the land barons will always be there and they end up selling state land. They sell this land to desperate home seekers. Currently, we do not have new cases of new land barons but the land barons we have are those who were there already and they had created a land bank, taking state land to be theirs and some of them are within the councils. I am sure you know that in Harare we do not have a mayor, councillors or town clerk because of the issue of land. These people have acquired land and are selling state land. After the President’s visit to Harare South where he announced that Government now wants order and wherever there are illegal settlements, Government, through the Ministry of National Housing, Local Government and Local Authorities in those areas, will bring onsite/offsite services. As a Ministry, on 29th December, 2019, we said that those on illegal land in such places as Caledonia in Harare South, Pumula and Gimboki in Mutare, we are going to build structures.

We have found investors to come and put up structures on a public/private partnership. The people residing in those areas should know that where they are settled is state land and for them to get title deeds from the department of physical planning to regularise the settlement, they have to pay $4 per square meter to Government because they initially paid to land barons who do not own land. Most people understood that. We went to Solomio in Ruwa where an area was taken by a land baron though the area had been acquired by ZB bank. We agreed with the bank that because people had already built houses, we were not going to destroy them but to raise awareness and educate people to pay for the land and services such as roads and sewer. The department of physical planning can produce the paper work that will enable people to get title deeds. Both the bank and settlers agreed but the land baron came and told people not to listen to Government. One of the land barons is one called Gwanzura at Solomio who was in remand for two months. Right now he is out on bail. People know that the land belongs to the State. The land barons have not paid a single cent to Government, so each time you hear us warning people not to listen to the land barons, listen to us.

I also urge traditional leaders to raise awareness in their communities that they should not buy land. Chief Chikwaka in Goromonzi West, you do have such land barons where the place known as showground has been turned into a squatter camp as the village heads in that area are selling land. My request is for us to work together with traditional leaders to address this matter. So, the issue of land barons will never be completely eradicated. Government and the population of Zimbabwe, the traditional leaders and local authorities need to work together to address this scourge which is more like cholera or COVID. We can call it COVID land so we need to address this as a united force.

Those who have land are those who banked land and now they are selling that land. If you buy land from land barons you will end up blaming Government. Let us be clear that land is State land and it belongs to Government. The first authority for land is the Central Government and the land that belongs to Central Government is called State land which is managed by the President. The second authority is the Local Government. They have land which they supervise. The third authority pertains to private individuals who bought their land legally and they are not land barons. I thank you.

*HON. SEN. CHIEF. CHARUMBIRA: I want to thank the Minister for such a good response. However, on the categories of people who own land, he forgot the chiefs. Councils are involved temporarily but let me say that the Minister spoke well. It is Government policy that every Government property should be auctioned. The public is invited to compete but why is it that individuals are just given State land and benefit from it without taking it to tender. Is it possible that an individual is just allocated state land by a Minister and that person at whatever level can parcel out State property and enrich themselves? Those land barons who are being arrested for committing crimes in 2015/2016. They were corruptly given State land. Why is it that those who allocated that land are not being arrested? I thank you.

          *THE MINISTER NATIONAL HOUSING AND SOCIAL AMENITIES (HON. GARWE): Thank you Mr. President. I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira for such a pertinent question. Let me outline how land barons emerged. In 2002, Government through the desire to empower its people by allocating housing stands and eradicating the housing waiting list backlog, invited cooperatives in good faith and committed that it does not have enough funds to fund housing projects. Cooperatives were given land and they signed offer letters having promised that they would develop since they had indicated that they had money.

Government gave that task to cooperatives so that cooperatives would work with the department of Physical Planning and other professionals. They were given a task to demarcate stands to service roads, work on water reticulation, sewer services, sell and develop stands to home seekers. That was the agreement between Government and cooperatives. This was long back in 2002. However, because of corruption and because the Government was not supervising cooperatives on a daily basis, some decided to take advantage of that.

They started parceling out pieces of land. This is an example that is similar to a small child who steals sugar day by day. The developers were given land and development permits but some of them acquired land corruptly. Corruption that was being perpetuated by municipal authorities and the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and National Housing then, individual workers were found wanting on that regard.

There was no proper paper trail and some individuals working from municipal authorities and the Local Government were doing that but we are now rectifying the situation. The President enacted the Human Settlement Policy which I presented to this House, that there is a pillar of regularisation, which means that wherever people settled in unserviced land Government is now regularising and it is not going to destroy people’s houses but only those houses that were built on roads and other undesignated places.

People who still reside in such places, the law is clear on that. They should be relocated and this is what we are doing in Central Government. This is the policy and the relationship between Government and cooperatives was a relationship based on goodwill. Unfortunately, they took advantage of that. We have a task and a responsibility to identify land barons. If we identify them, we should report such unscrupulous people to the police, the Anti-Corruption Unit and other departments. This is not unique to the Lands and Housing Department. The Housing Department has seen such behaviour being perpetuated by people, but it is unfortunate that most land barons do this in a subtle way. All things that are done may eventually come to naught. Thank you.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Thank you Hon. Minister for that comprehensive answer but I will allow only one last supplementary. We need to move on and discuss other issues.

HON. SEN. FEMAI: Thank you Mr. President. Government distributed land and gave people 99 year leases. These farms are referred to as State land and those who occupy those farms are only given leases. However, we have seen people constructing houses and some converting these farms into housing units. Is it allowed by Government?

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: It is not a supplementary, is it? That is an entirely different question which is supposed to go to the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement on the utilisation of farms. The Hon. Minister here is the Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities. In this instance, the Leader of the House is going to answer that question.

*THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you Mr. President for the question that came as a supplementary. However, let me say that Minister Garwe is responsible for the Ministry of National Housing and Social Amenities. The President, through his wisdom noted that human settlements are important and identifying loopholes that are in the system, so he decided to appoint a Minister who specialises in National Housing and Amenities. That is why he was explaining with passion. So, for me to respond to the question that was asked by Hon. Sen. Femai, let me say that all farms are State land.

That is the true position and what it means is that no one who is a beneficiary of the land reform in Zimbabwe is allowed to do any other activities that are different from farming and production. This is not land that can be resold. You cannot do extra curricula activities that are different from agriculture unless if you go and declare your activities to the Minister of Agriculture. Let me respond again by saying that all land belongs to the State. If the President has not changed that position, then farms should only be for farming activities. I thank you.

Questions Without Notice were interrupted by THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE in terms of Standing Order No. 62.

          THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Today is the last sitting of the Senate in the year 2020, and some Hon. Senators have to travel. We have come a long way and I am sure you will agree with me that we have worked very hard. Last night we worked quite late and I want to commend those who remained. Some of us absconded and left the rest to do what was supposed to be done. So, in the interest of what I have just explained, I will ask the Hon. Leader of the House to move for the adjournment of the Senate.

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you very much Mr. President. I want to take this opportunity before I move for the adjournment to thank the Members of this august House for the support which I really enjoyed. It has been wonderful and I look forward to every Thursday to be in Senate with its mature Members of Parliament. I think a lot of work has been done and I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] -

On the motion of THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA), the Senate adjourned at Twenty Eight Minutes to Four o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 26th of January, 2021.

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