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SENATE HANSARD 17 JUNE 2021 VOL 30 NO 47

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Thursday, 17th June, 2021

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

PRAYERS

(THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Today is a Thursday and as is normal practice, we go into questions without notice. Hon. Minister and Leader of Government Business, last week we did not have a good day in that we only had two Ministers. Today I am not seeing many Ministers either. I think we have to do some work to try and ensure that Hon. Ministers come to attend. I do not have an apology from anybody.

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): I hear you Mr. President. I am actually in the process of checking on the Ministers’ group what could have been the problem. I have not received any apologies but I have sent out reminders. Just for the record, last week I was attending a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee in Manicaland. We will try our best, together with Hon. Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, to make sure that Ministers come.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Thank you very much. I think we need that very much, otherwise the Hon. Senators will feel that they are being unfairly treated and indeed, they are being unfairly treated. Hon. Minister Chombo, I want to commend you. Last week she was here with the Minister of Defence and War Veterans. Well done Hon. Chombo – [HON. SENATORS: Hear, hear.] – She stood up question after question and responded very well. In the meantime, whilst we are waiting for other Ministers to come, can we make do with the Ministers present. We have Hon. Minister Mutsvangwa who is also the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Minister Chombo, Deputy Minister of Local Government and Public Works, we also have Hon. Minister Munzverengwi, the Minister of State for Mashonaland East Province. I do not see anybody else.

ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE

*HON. SEN. CHIMBUDZI: Thank you Mr. President for this opportunity. My question is directed to the Leader of the House. How prepared is the Government in terms of COVID-19 pandemic where cases are rising every day?

*THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you so much President of the Senate. I want to say that, worldwide, Zimbabwe has been placed on the top seven countries which were more prepared when it comes to COVID-19 preparedness. It started in March, 2020. The Government saw it fit to introduce the lockdown and it was announced by the President. This was a response to assess the situation in our hospitals on whether we had the capacity and medication and also the situation in the rural areas. It was announced that people should not move around willy-nilly and that helped in reducing the number of infections when the pandemic started.

Through our Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, we used media, newspapers, radio and television to spread the campaign against COVID-19. Our Ministry has officers in districts and in wards. Information is very important so that all the people are aware and know what to do in order to look after themselves and neighbours when it comes to COVID-19. The Government engaged in revamping our hospitals in Districts, Provinces and at National level by installing ventilators in the hospitals. The Government saw it fit that our people should not just read and rely on social media information because people just place in unnecessary information, some of which will make people panic and confused to an extent that they do not know what to do.

We came up with Call-Centres and opened up toll-free lines where people can call without any charges so that all Zimbabweans can call freely. People can validate information they might have received from those people who spread unauthentic information, people just call 2023, the toll-free line for validation. In January we had our second wave, which took away our friends and relatives. Some countries are now talking about the third wave which has affected countries like India where a lot of people are dying and even our neighbouring countries are suffering. In Zimbabwe, we have had people who died in Kwekwe and there are still studies going on to verify whether it was as a result of the COVID-19 Indian variant. We are seeing that, because of the winter season, where temperatures have dropped, the cases are rising and we keep on encouraging the people of Zimbabwe not to be complacent. They should not get tired of putting on their masks, sanitizing and practicing social distancing.

We want to thank our Government because if we look at other countries and compare with Zimbabwe, our country was able to vaccinate quite a number of people. People are spreading romours that you will die after being vaccinated on social media. The vaccine is very safe. If you are vaccinated you will be prevented from the deadly virus and the effects. Government is pouring money into the vaccination programme so that 60% of our population is vaccinated. We are supposed to vaccinate 10 million people but so far we have vaccinated about 1 million people and we are happy with the figures. We however continue to encourage people to be vaccinated.

Mr. President, in Chitungwiza and Matebelaland South there is a low uptake of the vaccine. As leaders who come from those areas, let us encourage people to get vaccinated so that the disease will not be deadly to them. Right now the number of infections has risen, we are hot spotting and seeing which areas are affected so that we come up with localized lockdown. The Ministry of Health and Child Care being headed by our Vice President, Hon. Gen. (Rtd) Dr. Chiwenga, is in those areas. If the place has quite a number of infections, the area will be placed under lockdown.

We have seen that some areas that surround us like Namibia and Zambia, the cases are increasing. We are encouraging people to stay at home and only leave their homes when it is necessary. People must stay home, all the workshops and gatherings have been stopped so that we are able to contain the virus. We are encouraging people to conduct their meetings virtually. We hope and trust that as Zimbabweans, we must work together and be united in order that we reduce the effects of this virus.

*HON. TONGOGARA: Thank you Mr. President for affording me this opportunity to speak. I want to thank the Minister for her explanation. I want clarity we do have Committees that were scheduled to go and conduct public hearings and the dates were in place. Are they still proceeding or because of this lockdown this has been stopped?

*HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: Thank you Mr. President. I want to thank Hon. Sen. Tongogara for the supplementary question. This issue was raised by the Leader of Government Business, they are looking into it. We know that Parliament is an essential service; but investigations are still going on, on how we are going to proceed with this, at the same time trying to prevent the spread of the disease.

*HON. SEN. KOMICHI: Thank you very much Hon. President for giving me an opportunity to ask a question. My question goes to the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. Looking at the state of roads in this country; the roads are in a very bad state but the Government sprung into action and declared it a national disaster which is a very nice move. My question is what they said as compared with what is happening on the ground does not really reflect the status quo.   We are not seeing any machinery doing work on the roads. What is Government doing to solve this?

THE MINISTER OF TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTUAL DEVELOPMENT (HON. MHONA): Thank you very much Hon. President for this opportunity and I thank Hon. Sen. Komichi for his question. It gives me an opportunity to explain to Zimbabwe what His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe brought into this country. It means the measures that were supposed to be taken by road authorities are not being taken over by the Ministry. I would also like to show gratitude and notify this Senate that the programme and intention to fix the roads in the country is underway. As we speak, officials from the Government are all over in the country. They are going around the country looking at the projects that are being done in the country with regards to the fixing of the roads.

Hon. Sen. Komichi, the Ministry is not stagnant we are open on it and we are open as Government officials to any suggestion of a road that you think needs pertinent action. You can actually tell us if there is a place that needs urgent attention; we can actually act upon it. The programme is all over the country and I am happy to explain. It is true that it needs to be done urgently and that we pay attention to our roads. The money that we are using, we are actually taking if from the national budget. I would like to say to this Senate let us bring our ideas together, help each other. Where we think it is petitioned you can actually relay the information to us, we are open to that and we are working to fix the situation.

*HON. SEN. CHIEF MAKUMBE: My question is supplementary to the Minister of Transport. The Sadza/Bohera Highway does not have any bridge. Residents are having problems transporting their produce to the market.

THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. SEN. NYAMBUYA): You can put it in writing this is time for policy questions.

          *THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you Mr. President and thank you Sen. Chief Charumbira for your question. Social media peddling fake news is causing disharmony in families, society and even in the country as a whole. Social media is different from traditional media in that when it comes to traditional media the journalists are trained and are known. They are accountable and are accredited in the traditional media, but in social media anyone can post anything. As long as you have a phone, that is all you need. So it is your phone, the mind and the person. Whether it is for destroying or transmitting true news or to bring disharmony and discontent among people they just post it on social media. So, countries worldwide are seized with this idea of fake media and social media.

We cannot say social media is bad because it also helps us to know things quickly, but when it comes to fake news it is causing discontent. The Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Post and Courier Services, headed by Hon. Muswere, has a Bill which it is bringing to Parliament, the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill, which will look at how we are going to clamp down on those who spread fake news on social media and those who hack other people’s accounts. So, it is an issue which is seized by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Post and Courier Services.

In my Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services we have seen that we should not lag behind. So we should join them. When social media spreads fake news we come in with a counter of good narrative. We have a twitter account and a cyber team as a Ministry which checks what is fake or what is happening on twitter, facebook and even on whatsapp and see the messages that are being spread by detractors so that we rectify them quickly by putting good narrative. Thank you.

*HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA: Supplementary question Hon. President. I once asked this question in this House to you, Hon. Minister. When you are fighting with the enemies are you also fighting for us or it is just for the Ministry only? You should also fight for those citizens who are affected because you have the capacity as a Ministry.

*HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: There are fake twitter accounts that circulate fake news. There is a fake account which purports to be that of my husband. When you see such things circulating on twitter, on social media, please get hold of the various media houses so that we can rectify to say we do not have such things. We also have a cyber team that can actually respond to such issues.

+HON. SEN. N. KHUMALO: Thank you President of the Senate for giving me this opportunity. My question goes to the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services. There were people who received the first COVID vaccine dose. When they went back for the second dose on the day that they were told, they found out that the vaccine was not available again. It is almost a month now and they have been going up and down and there is no vaccine available yet. I want to inquire from the Minister, when are these residents going to get the vaccine which they were promised. I thank you.

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): I want to thank Sen. Khumalo for that question. I hope I got it right where she is concerned about the second dose. I would like to assure this august House that the vaccinanes are coming. They have been ordered. They will be arriving this month and those who have had their first dose should go and check where they had it or anywhere else. As long as they have got their card they will be given a second dose.

HON. SEN. MOHADI: My supplementary question is, after they have stayed for quite a long time without getting the second dose does the first dose still work properly? I am not really assured there.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Hon. Minister, I do not know how technically competent you are.

HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: That is very technical. I was going to say, Mr. President, this is something which is very technical and I would refer it to the Minister of Health and Child Care, but otherwise as far as we are concerned as a Government we are saying all those who have received their first dose should go for their second dose.

HON. SEN. KAMBIZI: I wanted to direct my question to the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation but I realised she is not in the House and she has always been not in. So, I will direct my question to the Leader of the House. The Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation is a fully fledged Ministry and well staffed but it has two implementing arms under it. These are the Sports and Recreation Commission and the National Arts Council but of late, the Ministry has put in place structures at national, province and district, the same as Sports and Recreation Commission and the National Arts Council. Now the Ministry is doing exactly the same job that is supposed to be performed by the implementing arms in all these three structures that I have spoken about.

I then request for clarity from the Minister. Who then is responsible for making the policies, who then implements and who monitors? To me it appears there is a very serious duplication that will be costly to the Government. I thank you.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Thank you Hon. Sen. Kambizi. To me that sounds very technical and very detailed to the extent that either you wait for the Minister to come or you put that question in writing.

HON. SEN. CHIEF NDLOVU: Thank you Mr. President. My question is directed to the Leader of the House. I would like to know, in line with our clarion call of not leaving anyone behind, the measures that have been taken to assist learners who are in primary schools including those that are going to be writing their Grade 7 examinations. In light of the continued Covid pandemic that has disturbed normal learning and in light of the fact that children in rural areas do not have access to remote learning, I would like to know what is in place to assist those learners without compromising the assessment that is going to be given at the end of the year.

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): I would like to thank Senator Ndlovu for that very important question. COVID-19 pandemic has brought a serious problem and it has affected our education system. We are known as a country of a very good education system. What has happened is with lockdown, children are studying online from home. It has actually affected many children in the rural areas. The policy of Government is to make sure that we do not leave anybody behind and our children are the same, whether they are in rural or urban areas.

Mr. President, the country needs to move very fast on digitilisation and it is important and critical that all schools in this country do have the three items which are required for them to be able to be online. Our schools need to have electricity. We know that REA may not be able to put electricity as fast as we want considering that we do not know for how long we are going to be with this pandemic. The Ministry of Energy has been instructed by Government to make sure that they bring in a lot of investors in solar. As a country, we are lucky we have more than eight hours of sunshine so it is important that we bring many investors on board so that more schools have got electricity. Once we have got electricity, there is need to make sure that there are transmitters because connectivity is also critical. There is also need to make sure that the children have got the gadgets like laptops, smart phones and i-pad. This is why you saw the President launching ZITCO which is a local company which is producing computers, laptops and smart phones so that we have more of those gadgets. Once all our schools have got these computers, electricity and connectivity, we will be assured of giving our children equal opportunity to education.

We totally agree that at this point, it was very difficult from the time when the lockdown was implemented, so children could not continue with their lessons. So, this is where Government is trying to fastrack to make sure that schools have got electricity and that we also put a lot of money in terms of acquiring the gadgets.   The Ministry of I.C.T is making sure that there are transmitters in all ten provinces so that we bridge the gap between the rural and the urban children.

*HON. SEN. MOYO: Thank you Mr. Speaker. My question is directed to the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Public Works. Kombi drivers become reckless when they see police officers. They just drive whichever direction that they want. What is Government position on that?

*THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS (HON. CHOMBO): Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a Statutory Instrument that came through as a measure to curb the spread of the pandemic. For those who are travelling, it was found appropriate that people stop using kombis but start using ZUPCO buses. ZUPCO buses are fumigated, sanitised but again those who operate kombis were summoned to say those who are interested to use the franchise can join ZUPCO. ZUPCO is under Local Government and Public Works. We got a very few people, I think we got 600 to 700 that we are working with and the rest refused. V.I.D actually gives those certificates of competence and those that you see today who are reckless with their kombis playing cat and mouse with the police, those are the ones who are causing chaos in urban areas. We are working with the municipality police as well as home affairs police to assist us to get rid of these people and safeguard the lives of people in the country. We also have those who are travelling during the night and early in the morning before police are on the roads. We encourage you Members of Parliament to encourage citizens not to use these unregistered kombis. Those who are affiliated are using stickers named ZUPCO those are the ones that people are supposed to be using. Those without those stickers should be avoided at all cost.

(v)HON. SEN. B. MPOFU: My question is directed to the Leader of the House. What is Government policy on repossessing land which is owned by indigenous Zimbabweans?

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you Mr. President, I want to thank the Hon. Senator for that very important question on the global agreement detailed the issues of BIPA. The issue of indigenous Zimbabweans whose farms were resettled was very clear that those who had the farms taken during the Land Reform, if there are people who have been settled there for a very long time, for example if there are more than 70 people who have been settled on that farm, that would call for the owner to go to Government for compensation either by getting another farm or money.

*HON. SEN. CHIEF CHUNDU: Thank you very much Mr. President. My question goes to the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. In the rural areas where we stay, we are seeing bus operators allowing standing passengers. My question is: what is Government’s position when motorists are overloading passengers and goods? This is because our people are being put at risk of contracting Covid.

*THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI): Thank you very much Hon. President. I would also want to thank Hon. Sen. Chief Chundu for asking a very important question to do with the curbing of the pandemic. When we see such rowdy transporters, we will see to it that their licences and permits are withdrawn. The Ministry will definitely withdraw the licences granted to them. It is because they would have disregarded the laws that have been put in place as a measure to curb the pandemic. When we see transporters who are operating in that manner, we will be grateful to know who they are and immediately stop them from transporting people.

          HON. SEN. MABIKA: Thank you Mr. President. My question is directed to the Leader of the House. What is the operational policy of Government in monitoring and evaluation of Government programmes? For example, we have women empowerment programmes in our districts but the officers are not mobile as they need to help the women. Thank you.

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you very much Mr. President. I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Mabika for that question. The Government policy is to make sure that all Government projects are monitored and evaluated because it is only through monitoring and evaluation that we can get the results we want. You are aware that as Government, we have a Minister who is in charge of monitoring and evaluation of Government projects and programmes.

In terms of lack of resources, I think that is a particular issue which needs to be raised with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises. That will be an issue because there is no need to say we are doing community development, we put officers there and projects which are not being monitored and evaluated. Even in agriculture, the issue of resourcing and empowering Agritex officers is very important. We are grateful that now they have got motorbikes and they can actually move around. I am sure this a situation which can also happen to SMEs to make sure that whatever projects and programmes they have initiated in these areas are monitored so that we achieve the results we intend to achieve.

*HON. SEN. CHINAKE: Thank you Mr. President for giving me the opportunity to ask my question. What is the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s position with regards to issuing of burial orders? It takes about six hours to get a burial order. You go to the hospital to get it signed and the doctor is not there. There is no social distancing and people are crowded in these places. What is the policy of the Ministry with regards to that issue?

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: I suggest you put your question in writing so that it is submitted to the relevant Minister for a detailed response and your question will have been done justice.

*HON. SEN. RWAMBIWA: Thank you very much Hon. President. My question goes to the Minister of Health and Child Care. In his absence, I will direct it to the Leader of the House. What plans does Government have for district hospitals to get scans? For example, Silveira Hospital in Bikita is a big hospital but there is no scan there.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: It is a specific question. If you can put it in writing so that the relevant Minister can do the research and give you a satisfactory answer. This forum is for policy questions.

*HON. SEN. DR. MAVETERA: Thank you very much Hon. President. Allow me to plead in this House to say when His Excellency appoints a Minister and a Deputy Minister, he would have noted something essential. We have scenarios where we do not have both the Ministers and the Deputy Ministers present. It shows they do not have respect for the Chair. There are pertinent question that are asked in this House that need responses.

My question is, what is the Government policy with regards to value addition on minerals? At one time, Zimbabwe had the largest deposits of alluvial diamonds but there is no value addition on those minerals. Looking at platinum, we are now second from bottom worldwide in the production of platinum. Let us have conducive laws that allow everyone who wants to continue mining to be involved in value addition so that we do not continue losing our minerals through those who take them as raw. We should see value addition in these minerals. Thank you very much Hon. President.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: I agree with the first part that is on the need of Hon. Ministers to come and respond to questions which are raised by Hon. Senators. It is part of the role of Parliament’s oversight and to ensure that they understand what Government policy is all about and whether it is being implemented. So, we are working together with the relevant authorities and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Hon. Sen. Mutsvangwa and the relevant authorities to try and correct this undesirable situation.

*THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you Mr. President Sir. I would like to thank the Hon. Senator for his question. It is a very important question. This issue of value addition and beneficiation is very important to this country. It safeguards employment in this country. He talked about diamond; it is there in my rural area. I listen to people as they cry for employment. When they request for jobs in sections of washing and polishing the diamond, their aim is to be part of the process because God gave different minerals in different areas. Some places have diamonds, others have platinum et cetera. Marange people look up to Chiadzwa, for their children to get employment and the province is looking at that please.

So, this issue of value addition and beneficiation is what the Government is looking at with pertinence. Looking at the action that has to be undertaken to say diamonds are mined, polished - they have since started in Mutare. They are looking for diamond polishing facility and it is our anticipation to have locals employed in these firms. When we export these minerals, we are actually sending away employment. I also want to say, the Second Republic, on the issue of value addition and beneficiation - we should notice that coke batteries are now done in Zimbabwe. A lot of companies are now into coal mining and we are now getting enough coal in this country. Long back we used to import coal but we are now getting it locally and it is giving us a lot of money. He also talked about platinum, if we continue to send raw platinum out of this country, we are losing because within that raw platinum we might be having other minerals that are being taken out of the country. That issue is actually under the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Hon. Chitando. These minerals actually will change the livelihood of citizens of this country. I thank you.

*HON. SEN. GWESHE: Thank you Mr. President. My question is in relation to COVID-19. In rural areas, people are being told on social media that if you are diabetic or hypertensive, you are not supposed to be vaccinated. Is it true? I thank you.

*THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you Hon. President Sir. I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Gweshe for the question on fake news that goes around through social media. Vaccination is very important, especially if you have underlying conditions. We came up with phases for these vaccinations, like essential services and vulnerable groups which means people who are diabetic and those with various ailments were in that group so that they would get their vaccinations first. Doctors and nurses would examine people with those conditions before they vaccinate them but it does not mean that those who are diabetic are not supposed to be vaccinated. Vaccination is very good for everyone, except for breastfeeding mothers. Thank you.

*HON. SEN. FEMAI: Thank you Mr. President. My question is directed to the Leader of Government Business. What is Government policy, regarding idle farms, where people who settle there are not utilising the land? Since Zimbabwe is well known for farming, what is Government policy in that regards? I thank you.

*THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVAGWA): Thank you Mr. President. I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Femai for your question. I think you have seen the President of the country stressing production because we can only improve our economy through farming. As witnessed by this year - the Government was serious in farming, that is why we have a bumper harvest. Previously we have seen that we were being affected by droughts and also people were not really utilising their land but this year about 84% of farmers, including the rural people utilised their land productively.

We are expecting a surplus harvest this year, for example we need 1.7 metric tonnes of grain so that we feed the nation but last year we had 900 000 metric tonnes only. This year through the Government policy of fully utilising our land, including the Pfumvudza/Imvukeala, we expect 3.7 million tonnes. When it comes to issues of food security it is close to the heart of Government. So, Government policy is that if you are given land you should use it as a business. The Second Republic has seen that there are people, probably who benefited from the Land Reform and they did not get loans from the bank in order for them to be able to farm but the Second Republic encouraged joint ventures with those with money to buy machinery and inputs, so that our farms become business. I thank you.

Questions Without Notice was interrupted by THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE, in terms of Standing Order Number 62.

*HON. SEN. DR. MAVETERA: Hon. Mr. President, I request for an additional time of 15 minutes for Questions Without Notice.

THE DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: The time for Questions Without Notice is extended by a further 15 minutes.

HON. SEN. CHIEF MAKUMBE: My question is directed to the Minister of Mines and Mining Development but in his absence, I will direct it to the Leader of the House. There are investors who are coming to stay and invest in our rural areas. They are given mining claims on sites where graves for our departed ones are. They end up carrying out their mining activities leaving those graves of our relatives and ancestors exposed. That is very destructive to our culture. What is Government policy on that?

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you very much Hon. President. I would like to thank Hon. Sen. Chief Makumbe for this very important question. The Government of the Second Republic is focusing on stakeholder consultation whenever investors come into the country. They are told and given guidance on what they are supposed to do when they engage the local authorities and our Ministers of State and Provincial Affairs. There is no investor who comes through without engaging the Ministers of State and Provincial Affairs. Investors do not come to disturb the stability that is in a community. The Government is always encouraging stakeholder consultation where they engage with traditional chiefs because they are of paramount importance to the Government of the land. The Government is always encouraging consultations. I thank you.

HON. SEN. KOMICHI: Thank you very much Hon. President. My question is on SI 127, which is to do with the management of foreign currency. Is the Government policy in line with what is happening on the ground? Consumers are being shortchanged as companies who are obtaining foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe use the black-market rate when pricing their goods. They can actually display 1:84 as the exchange rate but the actual price being used will be different. For example, if something is priced at US$10, at a rate of 1:84, it means the consumer is supposed to buy at a price of ZW$840 but what we see is that they change the tactic and use an exchange rate of 1:130. They change the price, which means that the price will go up in US$. I do not know if we understand each other. We are going to continue feeling the pain. I do not know if those working on SI 127 are observing this.

THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you very much. What Government did was to stabilise the financial situation. We know what was happening with the mobile money banking sector. We have those who were printing money because it was intended on bringing down the economy of the country. We are very grateful to the President, that in June, 2020, he mapped a move to bring an end to this chaotic situation in the financial sector.

The objective of Statutory Instrument 127 is to stabilise the financial situation in the country. The mandate is to ensure that the law is enforced and brought into operation. The issue of people who abuse the foreign currency obtained through the auction floor exchange rate, buy products and sell in US$ is an illegal act. The exchange rate that comes from the auction system actually shows the real situation on the ground. If there is something that is illegal and destabilising the good work that has been done by the Government, it is important to report such cases to the police to ensure development in the economy and put an end to such crime.

MOTION

FIRST JOINT PETITION REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND CHILD CARE AND THEMATIC COMMITTEE ON HIV AND AIDS ON THE PETITION FROM THE ADVOCACY CORE TEAM (ACT) ON THE AGE OF CONSENT TO ACCESSING REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE SERVICES BY THE ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG PERSONS IN ZIMBABWE

HON. SEN. KAMBIZI: Thank you Mr. President. I move the motion standing in my name;

That this House takes note of the first joint Report of the joint Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS and Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care on the Petition from the Advocacy Core Team (ACT) on the age of consent to accessing reproductive health care services by adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe.

HON. SEN. FEMAI: I second.

          HON. SEN. KAMBIZI:

          Introduction

       Pursuant to Section 149 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Advocacy Core Team (ACT) petitioned Parliament of Zimbabwe on the age of consent to accessing reproductive health care services by adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe. Accordingly, the petition was referred to the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS for consideration. Thus, the Joint Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS considered the petition and resolved to inquire into the issues raised in the petition. This report is a summary of key findings on the enquiry into the subject matter.

Objectives

The objectives of the enquiry were:

  • To assess the level of access to reproductive health care services for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe;
  • To understand the legal frameworks that support or hinder the provision of reproductive health care services for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe;
  • To appreciate the barriers to accessing reproductive health care services by adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe;
  • To get first hand experiences and feedback from the public on the access to reproductive health care services for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe; and
  • To solicit for public views and recommendations for improved reproductive health care services for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe.

Methodology

Due to the exigencies of Covid-19 pandemic, the Joint Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS received separate oral evidence submissions from the petitioner, the Advocacy Core Team on the 1st and 14th of September 2020 respectively. The oral submissions were aimed at explaining in detail the issues that were raised in the petition.

On the 28th September 2020, the Joint Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS held an oral evidence meeting with the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, General (Rtd.) Dr. C.G.D.N Chiwenga on the subject matter. The purpose of the meeting was to afford the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care the opportunity to respond to issues that were raised in the petition.

The Joint Committees considered the oral submissions from both the Advocacy Core Team and the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care.

Thereafter, they resolved to conduct public hearings in selected areas in the ten provinces of the country from 9th to 12th November 2020. This was meant to solicit for public views on the subject matter. Accordingly, the Joint Committees split into three (3) teams as tabulated below.

Team 1

Date Place Venue Time       of        Public

Hearing

09/11/2020 Hwange Lwendulu Hall 1100hrs-1300hrs
10/11/2020 Bubi Tatazela Hall Inyathi 0900hrs-1100hrs
10/11/2020 Nkayi Agape Mission 1400hrs-1600hrs
11/11/2020 Gwanda Gwanda Hotel 0900hrs-1100hrs
11/11/2020 Plumtree Plumtree Community Hall 1430hrs-1630hrs
12/11/2020 Bulawayo Nkulumane Hall 0900hrs-1100hrs
12/11/2020 Bulawayo Pumula South Hall 1400hrs- 1600hrs

Team2

Date Place Venue Time of Public Hearing
09/11/2020 Wedza Wedza Sunshine Inn 1000hrs-1200hrs
09/11/2020 Marondera Mbuya Nehanda Hall 1430hrs-1630hrs
10/11/2020 Bindura Chipadze Hall 1000hrs-1200hrs
10/11/2020 Mt Darwin Mt Darwin Community Hall 1400hrs-1600hrs
11/11/2020 Karoi Chikangwe Community Hall 1000hrs-1200hrs
11/11/2020 Chinhoyi Cooksey Hall 1400hrs-1600hrs
12/11/2020 Chitungwiza UNIT L Hall 1000hrs-1200hrs
12/11/2020 Harare City Sports Centre 1430hrs-1630hrs

Team 3

09/11/2020 Gokwe Gokwe Community Hall 1030hrs-1230hrs
10/11/2020 Gweru Mkoba Hall 0900hrs-1100hrs
10/11/2020 Gweru Gweru Main Theatre Hall 1400hrs-1600hrs
11/11/2020 Masvingo Mucheke Hall 0900hrs-1100hrs
11/11/2020 Bikita Better Schools Program Nyika Hall 1400hrs-1600hrs
12/11/2020 Mutare Sakubva BeitHall 0900hrs-1100hrs
12/11/2020 Rusape Vengere 602 Hall Makoni 1400hrs-1600hrs

In addition, the Joint Committees also received written submissions via email and   webinar platforms. The public hearings were funded by Parliament in conjunction with   the National AIDS Council with its Strategic Partners namely: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Educational, Scientific and   Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and World Health Organisastion (WHO).

Petitioners’ Prayer

In the petition, the Advocacy Core Team was beseeching Parliament to consider amendments to the relevant legislations that ensure all adolescents and young persons under the age of 18 years can consent to accessing reproductive health services by ensuring that:

The Public Health Act of 2018 is amended to provide that there should be no age restrictions on accessing Reproductive Health Care Services by persons aged 12 years and above, and these services include: HIV testing, pre and post counseling, access to contraceptives and other pregnancy prevention management services for adolescents and young people; and to ensure that there are proper administrative measures to monitor and provide Reproductive Health Rights for persons aged 12 years and above.

The Children Justice Bill is enacted to provide for access to reproductive health services for adolescents and young people aged 12 years and above.

All other appropriate legislations are amended to ensure consistency among policies guaranteeing access to critical and often lifesaving health care services for adolescents and young people.

Summary of Submissions

Evidence from Oral Submissions

Access to Reproductive Health Care Services among Adolescents: The requirement of Consent as a Barrier

Unpacking the petition to the Joint Committees, the Advocacy Core Team explained that the petition does not seek to adjust the age of consent to sexual behaviour or the minimum age of marriage, hence, this should not be linked to the age at which adolescents can access reproductive health information, education and services.

The Advocacy Core Team argued that:

In spite of Section 76 and 81 (f) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe guaranteeing everyone the right to health care services including Reproductive Health Care Services (RHS), the setting of legal minimum age with which an adolescent can access RHS without parental or third party consent has created a barrier for adolescents to effectively access these services.

For instance, reference was made to Section 35 of the Public Health Act of 2018 and the National HIV Testing Guidelines of 2014 which limit the age to accessing Reproductive Health Care Services to 16 years.

The Advocacy Core Team also cited the National Adolescents and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health Strategy II, 2016-2020 (ASRH Strategy II) as the Government of Zimbabwe’s guiding document for the provision of Reproductive Health Care Services for adolescents and youths. They stated that the ASRH Strategy II targets the age groups between 10-24 years and advocates for Reproductive Health Care Services for adolescents to be provided in a youth friendly way.

During the oral session held on the 28th of September 2020, the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care concurred that Section 76 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees health for everyone including Reproductive Health Care Services. He also confirmed the existence of the National Adolescents and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health Strategy II, 2016-2020 (ASRH Strategy II) but emphasized that the ASRH Strategy II is premised on-age appropriate sexual reproductive health information and services. Furthermore, the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care confirmed the existence of the National HIV Testing Guidelines of 2014 which limits the age to access these services to 16 years.

However, the Advocacy Core Team further argued that the requirement of consent is also limiting Health Care Service Providers from effectively attending to adolescents when providing Reproductive Health Care Services due to inadequate legal protection where services are rendered without the legal consent. The petitioners implored the Joint Committees to consider legislation that protects health care service providers and third parties from liability where they provide Reproductive Health-care Services or consent to provision of such services in matters involving persons below the age of 16.

The Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care asserted that ideally, individuals with the capacity to consent should be allowed to do so, no matter what their age. Assessment of capacity, however, is rarely straightforward for adolescents. Capacity to consent requires the ability to communicate a choice, to understand the options, to reason effectively about these options, and to make an un-coerced decision. Active involvement of a concerned and capable parent is the best possible situation for sexually active adolescents. Parents are presumed to be competent decision makers. They have legal and financial duties to care for children including adolescents.

The Advocacy Core Team further purported that the restrictions have resulted in a public health concern in matters relating to the increasing spread of HIV and STIs among adolescents, unplanned parenthood, illegal termination of pregnancies, and the perpetual vulnerability of adolescents in particular the girl child. To buttress their case, the Advocacy Core Team presented the following statistics:

  • The national teenage pregnancy rate was at 22%;
  • Studies show a general lack of comprehensive information and knowledge about Reproductive Health-care Services (RHS) among adolescents and according to Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey, 2015(ZDHS 2015) only 41% of boys and girls in the 15-19 age groups have sufficient knowledge or information on reproductive health;
  • Zimbabwe has one of the highest maternal mortality in the region and 15% of these are among adolescents and young people,
  • AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescents and is the cause of an increase of 50% in adolescent mortality giving negative RHS outcomes according to World Health Organization (WHO);
  • According to the progress report on the 90-90-90 Global fast track targets on HIV, 48% of young people in Zimbabwe do not know their HIV status as they need parental consent. One of the key contributors to this outcome is the age of consent for accessing SRHR, HIV and AIDS services as there is no law that explicitly define the age of consent for accessing SRH services

Causes of Early Sexual Activity among Adolescents

The Advocacy Core Team attributed the causes of early sexual behviour to:

  • Modern Food and Diet;
  • Peer Influence/Pressure;
  • Social Context; Technology-Internet,
  • TV and Globalisation of Western Culture;
  • Parental Behaviour—some parents are absent from their homes in pursuance of jobs while others subscribe to religious sects that promote child marriages;
  • Reduction in Abstinence Messaging;
  • Genetics – (may be subset of Modern Food and technology); and

On the same note, the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care singled out poverty as the key driver to early sexual behaviour among adolescents in Zimbabwe. He, therefore, emphasised that key issues to be addressed are the underlying causes of early sexual activity like poverty, school drop-outs and orphanhood.

Evidence gathered during the public hearings

It is imperative to state on the onset that young women, adolescents and youths were mostly in support of the petition while older women, men and religious leaders formed majority of the resenting voice.

Key drivers of early sexual behaviour among young people.

Submissions that were made during the public hearings also spoke to some of the issues that were presented to the Joint Committees during the oral evidence meetings with the Advocacy Core Team and the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care. These include the key drivers to early sexual behaviour among adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe and barriers that restrict access to the SRHR services by adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe. It was highlighted that the diverse nature of young people affects their sexual behavior. The categories mentioned were namely: orphaned children; child-headed families, children on the streets, children in school, children out of school and children indulging in alcohol and drug abuse. The following is a summary of the submissions made in relation to the key drivers of early sexual behaviour:

  1. Poverty

It was noted that economic challenges among young people in Zimbabwe and their diverse backgrounds were forcing them to irk out a living by selling sex (child prostitution). Absence of social safety net for the orphans and vulnerable children further intensify their dire situation.

  1. Exposure to technology

Unguided use of technology was exposing children to sex related material on internet for example, pornography. Consequently, children were tempted to experiment on what they see.

  1. Alcohol and drug abuse.

It was submitted that Vuzu parties were rampant in Bulawayo and other parts of the country, where adolescents and young persons were said to be indulging in sexual behaviour.

  1. Communication between parents and children.

It was observed that there was poor or lack of communication as parents either are too busy, absent, in the diaspora or think it is inappropriate to talk about sexual reproductive health issues with their children.

  1. Lack or inadequate information on SRHR.

It was observed that young people fail to make informed decisions about their SRHR needs due to lack of or inadequate information about their bodies and risks associated with indulging in early sexual behaviour.

It was pointed out that deviant behavior by young people was leading them to making wrong decisions or choices on their SRHR needs.

  1. Broken down families and social fabrics.

It was submitted that families and societies were no longer as closely-knitted as they were in yester years, hence children were now vulnerable as they are exposed to abuse from some rogue elements in both the families and societies. The submissions that were made to the Committee also revealed that most of sexual abuse cases involving children, the perpetrators are parents, guardians, close relatives or pastors and most of these cases go unreported.

  1. Early Puberty.

It was observed that early puberty may be due to inorganic food or lifestyles. Thus, as children develop physically faster than their real age, it changes how they think about themselves and how people relate to them socially. Consequently, young persons were more likely to hang out with friend older than themselves who engage in risky behaviours such as early sexual behavior and substance abuse.

  1. Peer pressure among young people.

It was noted that in the absence of appropriate guidance, children were prone to give in to pressure and to conform to what their peers do.

Barriers in Accessing SRHR Services by Adolescents and Young People

  1. Restrictive legal framework.

Public Health Act requires that a minor below the age of 16 years be accompanied by a parent or guardian when seeking health care services. It was noted that this requirement makes it difficult for young people to access SRHR services especially in cases where the parent or guardian is a perpetrator. Further to this, there is absence of a legal framework that protects the service providers in providing SRHR services to young people.

  1. Unfriendly services.

There were concerns that service providers had a judgmental attitude towards young people who seek SRHR services and information.

  1. Cultural and religious beliefs.

It was regarded a taboo in both African culture and Christianity in general for young people to indulge in sexual intercourse at a tender age.

  1. User fees.

It was highlighted that young people did not afford the costs associated with accessing SRHR services.

Submissions in Support of the Petition

The Committee was informed that, young persons in Zimbabwe should be permitted to access healthcare services without parental consent since facts on the ground show that children are engaging in sexual acts yet it is culturally a taboo for a child to discuss sexual matters with a parent.

Children were already exposed to a lot of misguiding sexuality information from the internet and social media and it was better to give them comprehensive sexuality education and avail Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services at their disposal to safeguard them from negative consequences of bad sexuality decisions and practices. Opening up access to SRHR services would help children make informed decisions about their sexual health and avoid health hazards such as unintended pregnancy, illegal and unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections. It would further promote awareness of HIV/AIDS status by adolescents and the young persons in Zimbabwe.

It was submitted that upholding the Constitutional principle of “best interest of the child” first was critical since some young persons and adolescents were being sexually abused by their parents or guardians as well as close relatives. Therefore, restricting them to only accessing healthcare services with parental or guardian consent would present a conflict of interest for the perpetrator who happen to be the guardian or close relative. Consequently, the parental or guardian consent becomes an impediment to adolescents and young persons in such circumstances and may result in increasing cases of unwanted pregnancies, illegal and unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections.

It was also submitted that, the restriction on accessing health care services by adolescents imposed by Acts and policies should be amended to take into account the needs for access by children in child headed families and those that are on the streets. It was further submitted that Zimbabwe health systems should work towards achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 that seeks to promote good health and wellbeing by ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

Some members of the public submitted that promoting access to reproductive health care services for adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe without the need for parental consent would encourage young persons and adolescents to seek guidance on sexual reproductive health from the right platforms such as youth friendly corners. There were concerns that the current socio-cultural system does not provide room for adolescents to discuss with their parents about sexual reproductive health as a result they tend to seek advice or guidance from wrong platforms that can be misleading.

The Committee was also informed that, there was need to amend the Public Health Act and open up access to health to protect children living with disabilities who are vulnerable to abuse and face communication barriers with health personnel too.

It was submitted that abstinence and morality messaging should continue but for those children who fail to abstain, Government should open up services and yet still prefix such assistance with proper counseling and removal of user fees. Only children that would need the services due to different circumstances are the once who should access services and it should not be mandatory.

Moreover, it was highlighted that, health personnel responsible for providing healthcare services should be educated on the proper code of conduct that does not discourage adolescents and young persons to access such services. There was need for a reliable toll free line to ease access to information. In addition, legislation that protects the health service providers should be in place to ensure effective service delivery on reproductive health care services for adolescents and young people.

Some members of public noted that SRHR is broad and is not just about sex, but covers other non-sex issues which are difficult to open up to parents like menstrual hygiene and other matters of puberty. Allowing children access to SRHR services would ensure that they get the needed help in every facet of SRHR.

Concerns were raised regarding adolescent or teenage pregnancies which promote the vicious poverty cycle involving school drop outs, child marriages and Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in society and which also condemns especially the girl child to suffering and sometimes death. It was felt that it was better to give even the so called naughty children a second chance in life and not let a sexual morality failure prescribe perpetual doom for their future.

Opening up SRHR services will help the children in need and will not promote promiscuity or errand behaviour just like children who know where to get drugs of abuse but still choose not to use them.

Submissions opposed to the Petition

It was submitted that statistics showed that the national teenage pregnancy rate was at 22%. Additionally, Zimbabwe Demographic and Health survey in 2015 reveals that the highest percentage of teenage girl pregnancies was among 18 and 19 years of age. Of these, almost two thirds were in rural areas. It further reveals risk factors for teenage pregnancy as low level of education, living in rural areas and teenagers in the lowest wealth quantile. Against this backdrop, young persons and adolescents did not require access to sexual reproductive health services without parental or guardian consent rather they need access to education, opportunities of higher education and employment, improved protection from sexual abuse and information on reproductive health.

It was also submitted that, Section 60 (3) states that parents and guardians of minor children have the right to determine, in accordance with their beliefs, the moral and religious upbringing of their children. Contrary to Section 60 (3), the petition seeks to take away the parents’ right to preside over the moral and religious upbringing of their children and a child’s right to belong and be identified with a family through values. Furthermore, Criminal Law (Codification Reform Act) stipulates that a child below the age of 16 is not capable of consenting to sexual intercourse and it is an offense to have sex with children below that age. In their views, the petition seeks to encourage an offense that is prohibited by the criminal law of Zimbabwe.

It was further submitted that promoting access to reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe without parental consent was seen as a way to encourage young persons and adolescents to indulge in immoral behaviors. Thus, they underscored the need to revive social clubs or recreational facilities that will occupy young persons and discourage idle time that leads to sexual immorality.

The Committee was also informed that, some services that were being advocated for by the petition such as access to contraceptives were viewed as harmful to adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe. They therefore argued that such reproductive health services should be rendered to responsible individuals and not adolescents and young persons who are still maturing. They also proposed that a comprehensive study be conducted to ascertain the long term effects of contraceptive use by minors. They further argued that the health system was currently struggling to provide contraceptives to women in Zimbabwe hence there was no need to increase the number of those accessing contraceptives.

Zimbabwe was regarded as a Christian state and rooted in morality and in their view, the petition suggested that our trusted religions had failed, which they totally disputed and for them, getting back to the roots and Christianity was the solution. Accepting the petition was seen as tantamount to giving up on children. Teaching children abstinence and moral righteousness were the only solution to SRHR challenges that the petition seeks to solve.

It was pointed out that disobedient children should not cause change of law or be protected but face the consequences.

They also pointed out that parental guidance and protection was an integral part of our Ubuntu and children will always need their Parents support and should never be left to run their sexuality before reaching adulthood. Taking away parents’ protection from children would, in their view, have a detrimental implication which would lead to an immoral society.

In their view, opening up access to SRHR will result in more child exploitation, statutory rape, shortage of contraceptives, abortion on demand, rights without responsibility, collapse of family structure and spiritual bondages.

They advocated for the age of consent restriction to remain, arguing that the very fear of getting pregnant or sick would ensure that children abstain and remain safe; but once they get access to SRHR services on their own, they will be tempted to indulge.

Joint Committees’ Observations

The Joint Committees made the following observations on the submissions received on the petition:

In spite of the diverse nature of adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe which brings about differences in their SRHR needs, they do not have access to reproductive healthcare services.

Although Section 76 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for healthcare services including reproductive healthcare services for every citizen, the Public Health Act of 2018 restricts age of consent to access the same to 16 years. Furthermore, there is no law or policy that protects the service providers when they provide the SRHR services to adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe.

Apart from the restrictive legal framework, culture, religion and the judgmental attitudes of the service providers act as barriers impeding adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe from accessing SRHR services.

The Education Amendment Act allows pregnant girls to be in school yet provision of SRHR services is restricted to 16 years.

Most young women, adolescents and youths who participated during the public hearings were in support of the petition while older women, men and religious leaders formed majority of the resenting voice.

While parents or guardians, culture and religion play a very important role in the upbringing of children, statistics have shown that adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe are indulging in early sexual intercourse when they are ill-prepared for the risks associated with such behavior, hence the petition to Parliament.

Some of the young people could not express their opinions freely in the presence of their elders and religious leaders during the public hearings.

There was an outstanding misconception that the petition sought to lower the age of consent to sex and promote mandatory distribution of contraceptives to all children.

Despite the divergent views, there remained a unanimous agreement on the gravity of the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights matter as raised in the petition. However, it was on the solutions that the submissions would differ.

Considerable number of participants, especially those against the petition attested to lacking appreciation of the petition’s contents. Consequently, they had misconceptions from social media and other lobby groups thus, the committee had to intervene to clarify its mission more often. As is the case with most parliament hearings, majority of people in the grassroots did not get a copy of the document under discussion ahead of the meetings.

Despite it not being the core of the petition, there was an overwhelming support for harmonisation of ages of consent to sex and marriage at 18 years.

Joint Committees’ Recommendations

Flowing from the above observations, the Joint Committees recommend the following:

Adolescents are not a homogenous group of people, hence the MoHCC should provide case by case assessment of this diverse group in order to provide for their varying SRHR needs especially the at-risk adolescents and young persons by December 2021.

The MoHCC should amend Section 35 of the Public Health Act to provide SRHR services for young people under the age of 18 years and provide for the protection of the service providers by June 2022. Furthermore, service providers should be trained on how to provide friendly SRHR services to adolescents and young persons by April 2022.

The MoHCC should embark on awareness campaigns on SRHR issues for young persons in Zimbabwe by August 2022.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and MoHCC should immediately ensure that pregnant girls in school access SRHR services without difficulties.

MoHCC should ensure that adolescents and young persons friendly corners are established where it is convenient for them to access the SRHR services by June 2022.

The custodians of culture and religion should not tire in strengthening their systems in the upbringing of children and should continue to preach the abstinence message in order to instill moral values in children.

The Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation should provide recreational facilities for adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe in order to occupy themselves reasonably by December 2022.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development should allocate substantial budget to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare in the 2022 National Budget to enable it to provide the social protection measures for the vulnerable adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe in meeting their financial needs.

The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs should immediately expedite the amendment of relevant legislations to provide for more deterrent sentences to perpetrators of child sexual abuse or rapists or child sexual exploitation.

Conclusion

Despite the divergent views on the most appropriate course of action to take, it is evident that the issues that were raised by the Advocacy Core Team in their petition were lived realities in the communities of Zimbabwe. Adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe are indulging in early sexual behaviour and what drives them into this varies depending on circumstances. What is worrying are the undesirable consequences associated with this risk behavior, which the prayer of the petition attempts to address. It is, therefore, important for the Ministry of Health and Child Care to ensure that access to SRHR services by adolescents and young persons in Zimbabwe is accommodative to carter for them in their diverse nature.

*HON. SEN. FEMAI: Thank you Hon. President for giving me an opportunity to participate fully on this issue that has been brought before us on the report of this Joint Committee. Firstly, you have heard in the report that we divided into three groups. I led Group Three that went in various places that I can actually name. What I heard is what I will report in this House.

The issue that we have Hon. Senators is not an issue to say we can compare the old days, the 1940s and the 1960s with the status quo amongst us. This has nothing to do with culture. This has gone out of the cultural sphere. This is now about protecting our families. Inasmuch as we love culture, those who petitioned us did not say we should not follow the Constitution or our culture. They said we are seeing something happening, should we let it go and leave it as it is? Truly speaking, our two committees went for a fact finding tour, receiving views of the public on the petition. They could not just agree by merely reading the petition, so they had to go out there and see it to themselves.

I led the group that went to Gokwe. It went to Gweru and there were two meetings, the first meeting at Mkoba hall and the second one at the Gweru Municipality. The team also went to Mucheke Hall in Masvingo, BSPZ at Nyika, Beit hall in Sakubva, Mutare and Vengere hall in Rusape. What we heard there Mr. President, are the recommendations that you heard from the report.

This issue needs us to put our heads together and come up with a sustainable solution. There are some amongst ourselves who are still able to sit down with their children and advice them accordingly. However, the petitioners are saying there are orphans and other children who are vulnerable are actually coming across these things. Some are disabled and they do not have people to address them. Some are very young and they do not have knowledge of the subject. They are easily influenced. Are we supposed to leave them like that?

If one of your domestic animals has a problem, you will try and find a solution to assist it until it heals because it is still young. This is the situation that we have at hand. If we do not assist the domestic animal because it has gone out of the way, there is no healing to talk about. This petition did not say we want to take away the role of parents on their children but it is aimed at orphans and vulnerable children. They should get assistance. This is their standing position.

We went to Gokwe as I have mentioned, it was a 50:50 situation. In Mkoba, we were even shown young boys and girls who now know issues to do with sex. Our children are not told anything to do with sex by their parents. No one is telling these children about sexual activities. These children know these things without being told. They actually google and watch it on television. They have different sources of information on that topic.

Ourselves, we knew these things through our childish games we played as youngsters but we used to reprimand each other on statements that are not supposed to be said. However, it is a different scenario for children of today. Technology is teaching them something totally different. Parents do not tell their children to switch off the television. They actually laugh at what is coming out on television. They do this in front of children. Children are easily influenced by what they see. They know all the programmes, some of them we do not know. What then should we do given the scenario at hand? That is why you see that it was brought before us. The recommendation that was read before us actually shows that we saw the reality. This is why we made such a recommendation.

Last week, the Committee went to Concession, in Mashonaland Central. We saw a nine year old girl with a baby and we do not know what really happened. This is what we witnessed, shocking as it is. We could not comprehend or understand how that happened. This pained us to imagine if this was our daughter. If your child contracts the virus at a tender age, there will be an argument between parents. They will be accusing each other that it is your fault.   Now the petition is saying, is it not possible to allow the children, just as they run away from a lion or a snake, will they not access these sexual reproductive health services at that young age as a way of running away from diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Children have a right to survive. These are wishes of those who wrote the petition. What then should we do? How would you feel if it is your grandson/daughter who has been abused? Imagine that parents have passed away and children left under the custody of guardians. No one will follow-up to check how those children are living. Some people who are guardians will abuse those children and they have no one to accompany them to access health facilities. Will they ask that relative who would have abused them to accompany them to the clinic?

          Now, if the law allows them to access those services on their own, they will go to a nearby health services centre. These children if they have information they will know where to rush when they face such problems. Times have moved and things are now changed from our generation. During our time, when it was Christmas eve, we would not sleep due to excitement that we are going to eat meat, drink tea and bread. We could not sleep in anticipation, thinking how we would celebrate Christmas but these days, children no longer value tea because it is always available in our homes. They choose what they want and they actually mix everything.

These days that is why there are many diseases which used not to be there, for example diabetes. Times are now different from way back. I plead with you Hon. Members, when you debate this issue you have to take into consideration that these things that are happening in this country – there are some who are still in denial that these things are happening because they have not yet experienced them. Some actually were against the wearing of masks until they got sick. That is when they admitted that masks should be put on, COVID-19 is real.

Some Hon. Members who are going to debate on this issue, you should take your time. If you want to research, you can research to find out whether what we came across is realistic. Those in either of the two Committees, are in agreement that these things do really exist. This is not about changing the existing law of majority age. Should we abandon these children who are 10 years old, let us allow them to get assistance from health personnel. The health personnel should treat those children without any fear. Right now they are asked to bring a parent or guardian. The children are afraid to tell their elders about what they will have done and they will never come with the parent or guardian but they would not stop doing it. They are afraid of being beaten up. If grown up people are afraid of being beaten what about the children? If the health personnel ask the child to bring the guardian or parent, it is scary. They know they will be in big trouble.

It is my desire Hon. President, if I was alone, I was going to pass this report and admit to the changes. I want to appeal again and again that these things that I saw – I do not have a child or grandchildren who has done that but I support the change of law on children. Thank you Mr. President.

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

          HON. SEN. FEMAI: I second.

          Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume: Tuesday, 22nd June, 2021.

On the motion of THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS AND CULTURAL HERITAGE (HON. SEN. MAVHUNGA-MABOYI), the Senate adjourned at Twenty-Seven Minutes to Five O’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 6th July, 2021.

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