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SENATE HANSARD 19 DECEMBER 2023 VOL 33 NO 21

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Tuesday, 19th December, 2023

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

PRAYERS

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

MOTION

SUSPENSION OF PROVISIONS OF STANDING ORDERS Nos. 32 (6), 52 (1), 65 (2), 67 (5) AND 137

          THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Mr. President, I move that provisions of Standing Orders No. 32 (6), 52 (1), 65 (2), 67 (5) and 137 regarding the reporting of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, the automatic adjournment of the House at Five Minutes to Seven o´clock p.m. on sitting days other than a Friday and Twenty Five Minutes past One o´clock p.m. on a Friday, Private Members motions taking precedence on Thursdays after Question Time and Stages of Bills respectively, be suspended with effect from today and for the next series of sittings in respect of the Finance Bill [H. B.7A, 2023] and Appropriation Bill (2024) [H.B.6, 2023].

Motion put and agreed to.

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE

BILLS RECEIVED FROM THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

          THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: I have received the Finance Bill [H. B. 7A, 2023] and Appropriation (2024) Bill [H.B.6, 2023] from the National Assembly.

          Second Reading: With leave, forthwith.

SECOND READING

FINANCE BILL [H. B. 7A, 2023]

          THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Mr. President, on the 30th November, 2023, I presented to this august House the 2024 National Budget under the theme “Consolidating Economic Transformation”. The 2024 National Budget amounts to ZW$64,2 trillion comprising Vote appropriations of ZW$50,8 trillion and constitutional statutory appropriations totaling ZW$13,4 trillion.

          In section 3 of the Appropriation Bill (2023), charges the Consolidated Revenue Fund with a sum of ZW$49,5 trillion which relates to the 2024 Vote appropriation.

          Section 4 of the Appropriation (2023), charges returning funds with a sum of ZW$1,3 trillion Zimbabwe dollars which relates to the 2024 Vote appropriations.

          Mr. President, the purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the 2024 estimates of expenditure that were presented to the National Assembly. I seek approval for the National Budget of ZW$50,8 trillion to cater for provisions and reforms towards the achievement of Vision 2030. In this regard, the Vote appropriations present an opportunity as guided by Vision 2030 as well as the NDS1.  Vote appropriations also seek to ensure realisation of the overall objectives of programmes and projects being implemented by Government under the NDS1.

Mr. President, the successful implementation of the 2024 budget is hinged on the following assumptions.  Firstly, that we have normal to below normal rainfall season.  This is due to the El Nino effect.  I must say I am pleased, Mr. President, that in these last few days, we are seeing some rains.  It is pleasing indeed, but we cannot assume that it is now business as usual.  It is still business unusual. 

Secondly, also assuming that there will be declining ratio commodity prices.  Thirdly, we had a slow in the global economy amid even some geo-political tensions that persist.  Fourthly, we are assuming that we will continue to use the multi-currency.  We already issued an appropriate Statutory Instrument to that effect.  It is also in the Finance Bill.  Then we will also continue, Mr. President, to exercise tight fiscal and monetary policies and make sure that they are well coordinated.

The budget priorities, Mr. President, focus on again supporting economic growth, the micro economic stability, supporting productive value chains, infrastructure and ICT in the digital economy, the empowering of women, youth and supporting SMEs.  It also seeks to support our devolution and decentralisation agenda as a country.  The budget will also support the vulnerable, investing in education, health and wellbeing.  The budget seeks to support and strengthen our social safety nets, be they pure consumptive social safety nets or productive social safety nets such as the Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme.

The budget seeks to enhance production right across our various sectors of the economy.  It seeks to support effective human capital development and innovation capabilities of our citizenry.  The budget will also support our image building agenda, engagement and reengagement. 

Mr. President, Section 6.1 of the Bill empowers the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion to transfer funds already approved by Parliament through Votes in respect of a functional responsibility transferred between Ministries and departments during the course of the fiscal year.

Section 6.2 of the Bill allows discretion to the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion to transfer funds from the unallocated reserves which appears on the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion’s Vote to any other Vote as and when the need arises in order to meet inescapable expenditures.

Mr. President to support these Vote appropriations, the 2024 national budget statement that I presented did indicate areas where we need to raise additional revenue but giving relief to our citizenry where it is necessary.  Starting with the relief measures, Mr. President, for example, I want to highlight the issue of the tax bracket that we have increased the tax bracket for nontaxable bracket in terms of income tax to 75 000 a month and we believe that this will go a long way in supporting our employees right across the board, be they in the Government, be they in the private sector.

We have sought to introduce certain revenue raising measures.  For example, one area is that of the introduction of a wealth tax because we sought to simplify the word tax.  Ordinarily when you introduce a tax such as wealth tax which is meant to redistribute wealth from those who are more endowed to those who are less endowed, we tend to consider whatever the person owns.  It could be the amount of money in their bank account, including the number of houses they own, the number of cars that they own, the number of shares and the value of shares they own on the stock market, all manner of investment.  You will consider the total amount of wealth that a person owns, but it is because we want to simplify the process.  Since we are introducing this for the first time, we decided it is just cleaner to use the value of their investment in the property sector.  That is easy to follow, the data is easy to find.  We want to use this as a proxy towards understanding one’s wealth.  So primarily, this tax is not really a property tax, it is meant to be a wealth tax but simplified.

I must say after a robust debate, Mr. President, debate is public, it is either consultations and the robust debate in the National Assembly, in the Lower House, we all agreed that the threshold for the wealth tax which is linked to property should be raised from 100 000 to 250 000 below which it is not then administered, but also we recognise that the retirement age should be brought down from 70 to 65 in line with the Government and that the primary dwelling of an individual should not be touched.  It is sacrosanct.  We only care about property number two, three, four and so on and so forth, but the primary residence is not taxed.  So that is on the wealth tax.  I thought I should highlight that. 

Also, in the budget statement and in the Finance Bill, Mr. President, we sought to introduce a sugar tax.  Initially there was an error, I must clarify that, a typing error actually in our statement.  It should have been 0.2c per gram of sugar.  Mr. President, we want to really deal a blow for this issue called cancer in the sense that the cancer drugs are expensive, cancer machines are expensive.  Besides, over consumption of sugar does lead to some of these non-communicable diseases such as cancer.  We want to create a cancer fund that will allow us to then acquire the drugs, subsidise drugs, acquire the equipment to support the cancer agenda.   Yes, we introduced the sugar tax at 0.2c per gram.  It means then if you have let us say a can of 300ml of drink, be it Coca Cola or something else and there are 35g of sugar in it at 0.2c tax per gram, we are going to increase the price of that can of drink by only 7c.  We believe that if one is paying an additional 7c for the sake of creating a cancer fund, that is a noble way to spend our taxes or to contribute to the fiscus.

You recall, Mr. President, that years back, we introduced the AIDS levy.  We see this as a similar type of scheme.  That Aids levy has stood the test of time and has become an example to the world on how we should, as a Government, contribute our finances to financing and responding to the HIV pandemic.

Let me also highlight other revenue programmes, including the increasing of toll fees on our roads.  Although this is not in the Finance Act.  Usually the way it would happen is it is debated here in Parliament, but we then end up using a Statutory Instrument, in fact use regulations.  That is how the law works.  Again, we had proposed something and we all felt in the end that perhaps the proposals were rather too high and we have since halved the extent of the increase on our toll fees.  We have also halved the extent of the increase on our premium roads.  The reason why we need these extra revenues, Mr. President, is to support the budget estimates that we have presented here so that we can revamp our roads, build more roads and we can do road maintenance.  We are not very good at road maintenance.  We build a beautiful road from Beitbridge to Harare but then in a few days, line maintenance becomes an issue.  Why?  Because we have not budgeted adequately for it.   These toll fees will be ring-fenced for those specific roads so that we are able to then support that kind of expenditure.

Then on the minerals Mr. President.  Again, we have sought to make sure that our tax system, through the Finance Bill, we are able to use it to stimulate beneficiation.  I will give the lithium example where we are saying the export tax should increase to 6% for any company that does not then beneficiate the lithium to the level of lithium carbonate so that we know that we are maximising on the value of our production resources that we have introduced.  We should be concerned about the fact that when these minerals are extracted from those communities, they never go back and that land loses its minerals, they are gone and are never replaced.  We are proposing that a 1% community charge be levied to these companies as part of corporate social responsibility for the development of the area from which these minerals are extracted.  There is quite a bit in our Finance Bill and we will go through these issues one by one as we debate.  Our view is that what we propose in terms of revenue measures including some of the tax measures, should be sufficient to support the expenditures that we are proposing through the Appropriation Bill. 

          Mr. President, I now move that the Finance Bill, but also the Appropriation Bill be read a second time.

          *HON. SEN. TONGOGARA: Thank you Mr. President.  My question is directed to the Hon. Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion. The Hon. Minister introduced what is known as sin tax for tobacco smokers.  This tax is concerned with health issues.  If these funds are deducted, I was suggesting that the funds be directed to where they are supposed to go just like we do with the AIDS levy.  The levy is directed to the Ministry of Health instead of the money being kept in the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and if it is directed there, the channels needed to re-route it to the Ministry of Health might take a long time.  I thank you.

          HON. SEN. ZVIDZAI: Thank you Mr. President Sir.  I would like to appreciate the clarification the Hon. Minister has made regarding the budget.  I have got one or two points to raise, firstly, looking at the budget lines.  I realise that employment costs in the past year were on 9.1% and in the current budget, it is proposed to go to 8.8% which is a reduction of 0.3%.  Out there, we know very well that our civil servants are mourning for more, teachers for example are crying out that it would be appropriate if their salaries are pegged at 540USD or equivalent. 

          I wonder whether it is possible for the Hon. Minister, if he has cut cloth elsewhere, could he add it to issues of compensation of civil servants? 

          Secondly, I realise that the Hon. Minister has set out certain programmes that we enjoy a prescribed assets status, namely infrastructure for health delivery and other infrastructures.  I noticed that the big outcry out there in this country is the problem of water delivery in our municipalities and indeed, even in our district councils, the issue of potable water is presenting a problem to this nation.  Indeed, water is life as we all know.  I wonder whether the Hon. Minister could not include infrastructure for water delivery in local authorities and indeed in rural district councils to be listed to benefit from prescribed assets. 

          Thirdly, the Hon. Minister talks to issues of the mining industry as the backbone of our economy, together with agriculture of course and then His Excellency the President is pushing very fervently for a two-billion-dollar economy from just mining.  One of the facilities that can assist mining in a major way is the metallurgy lab which is just down the road. It is in an appalling state   it cannot analyse a lot of minerals and in the process, the country loses opportunities to extract and exploit some of the minerals that we do have. Mr. President, I thank you for this opportunity.

          *HON. SEN. CHIEF CHIKWAKA: Thank you Hon. President of Senate. My question to the Hon. Minister of Finance is on the tax that he wishes to introduce on sugar to those who consume sugar as the AIDS levy was introduced to cater for those who suffer from HIV/AIDS.  My question is, yes if we introduce these taxes, I am seeing that we might end up having a problem for us ordinary people. If we look at the ordinary men, they are already heavily taxed, especially in the rural areas.  For example, tax to be introduced on houses, it will be a burden to the ordinary citizens because we will keep on burdening the ordinary men.  New diseases will continue to come and we will end up introducing tax again for those diseases.  The burden then lies on the poor because those who are producing sugar are not affected, the cost is affecting the consumer/the buyer, and they will just add the tax to the cost of the product. 

On rented property, the property owners will include that tax on rentals and the ordinary man will continue to suffer. This will lead to price increases because once tax is introduced, everything goes up. I was suggesting that as a country, we must start to industrialise than introducing taxes.  The introduction of taxes will continue to affect the poor.  Hon. Minister, please help us in clarifying this issue of tax. I thank you Hon. President. 

HON. SEN. ZINDI: Thank you Mr. President. I also rise to pose a few questions to the Minister of Finance, Hon. Mthuli. My issue is mostly to do with the strategic reserve. Similarly, like what Hon. Sen. Chikwaka was saying, that we are raising or we are taxing for purposes of catering for the challenges that we are faced with.  With regards to this strategic reserve and levies or taxations which are being proposed, what I want to ask the Minister of Finance is that Zimbabwe is on record, I am sure he knows that we have over 60 different minerals. With those 60 different minerals, why do we not look at taxing the investors as they come into this country rather than coming back to the same people to raise revenue in this harsh economic environment?

I am saying so because we have given too much tax rebates and tax havens to the investors as they come into this country. In my own view, that is where we should be focusing on. Yes, I have heard the Minister making reference to the issue of value addition, but we have platinum which has already been mined in this country. I do not know for how many years now.  They are still taking and processing that platinum outside this country and yet not being accountable on the extra minerals that are found in that platinum which could also be a source of revenue as well to fund our social services. Why do we not come up with a template where we say for any would be investor that comes into Zimbabwe, for example desiring to invest in mining, this is the template?

Firstly, social responsibility has to be mandatory. I want to give an example of diamond mining in Manicaland. We have had diamond mining Mr. President and I do not know how many years now, but as I am speaking today, the road that leads to Marange where diamonds are being mined has no proper bridge that can allow two cars to pass at the same time, it is a gravel road. We do not have a template as a country that has got so much wealth, but we are not exploiting that wealth as investors come into this country.  I am proposing, if it is possible, through you Mr. President, that we need to have a template on corporate social responsibility. We need to remove the tax havens that we give to investors.

Conclusively perhaps, with that in mind, we may not find ourselves coming back to the Zimbabweans, taxing them ivo vatosvinika kare maZimbabweans and we allow the rich who do have the funds to just mine, take and send back the wealth to their homes. That is my proposal, through you Mr. President. I thank you.

HON. SEN. KAMBIZI: Thank you Mr. President. Mine is a quick one, but it also relates to taxes. First and foremost, I want to acknowledge and agree that for a country to run, it only gets its revenue from the taxes that must come from us the citizens and all the other stakeholders, including the internal mines, internal companies and the external ones. The bottom line is that, we must pay taxes to our Government because it relies on the taxes to run. That is my first contribution.

The second one is on taxation of COVID-19 allowances. I have got no problem with that, but what I want the Minister to clarify is, COVID-19 has been taxed. When it comes to payment of pensions, already, we know there is a tax in local currency.  When it comes to payment, is any civil servant going to get two types of monies as pension – one in Zimbabwean dollars and one in United States dollars? I think that clarification will be important.

Lastly, I have a contribution on the passport fees. There are many reasons Mr. President, why somebody needs a passport. One person might need a passport just to show their citizenship that they are Zimbabwean. The other one wants a passport for a work permit outside Zimbabwe. That passport gives him or her a lot of money when they are outside. Leveling the fees of a passport for somebody who is going to Australia for business and my own mbuya who only needs a passport to go and buy milk just across the border, I feel is a bit too much. I suggest that those who can afford to pay a lot of money for a passport, because it will give them tens of thousands of USD outside the country, those people can afford to buy a passport for even a thousand.  There are local people - citizens who want to go and visit South Africa for just a day and would not afford to pay USD150 for a passport. Why not peg the passport fee at USD52 for the local citizens who would want to just go and visit and then peg the fee higher, even to two, three, five thousand for those who want to go and make a lot of money?  Thank you Mr. President.

HON. SEN. GOTORA: Thank you very much Mr. President. I have a couple of issues to raise. The first one is about beneficiation of our natural resources. We seem to be concentrating on beneficiating lithium only, yet we have black granite in this country which is being mined in Mutoko, Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe (UMP), Mudzi and Rushinga. It does not even come to Harare, it goes straight to Mozambique, raw as it is. Nobody knows what weight that black granite is. When you go to Venice for instance, it appears like the Italians are mining black granite more than Zimbabweans. There is more black granite today in Venice than we have in Zimbabwe. Just like we now have more gold in America than we have in Africa where the gold is mined. Why do we not make sure that we beneficiate everything that is a natural resource in this country so that we only export finished goods? Black granite is selling at a very high price in Venice. Even if you go to Dar es Salam, the new Dar es Salam Hotel is completely built of black granite, when our poor airport is built on imitation black granite. Why do we not get all our natural resources beneficiated?

          The next one is timber.  In the world, we have hard wood forests and the largest hard wood forest is in Brazil. The next one is in Mozambique and the third one is in Zimbabwe, in your home district Hon Minister. What are we getting out of it? Nothing. Someone is just looting the black granite. I may differ from my colleagues who were a bit against the issue of taxation. Look, we cannot survive on donations, neither can we survive on loans and grants from other nations when our people are building 27 roomed houses yet they can only use a kitchen and a bedroom. What is the benefit of having a 27 bedroomed house when we can live in a three roomed house? If you go to Madagascar for instance, it looks like all the houses are built by one person because they have a standard module in which they live. Likewise, if you go to Rwanda, it is the same thing. What is the point of me having seven or nine vehicles parked in my yard when others are walking on foot, when we do not have medicines in the hospital yet someone owns seven Rolls Royce and seven Mercedes Benz?

          I am saying the Sovereign Wealth Fund can be created locally using the money that we see being splashed around in the country. There is too much money. If you go to Mbare for instance, the people you see there do not stay in old bricks. They stay in affluent suburbs and yet their money is not taxed at all. There is the issue of taxing vendors who are very difficult to tax and yet in the olden days in this country, we had cards which were issued by local authorities. Harare had its own card, Masvingo had its own card and so on. Why do we not have one standard vendors card in the country which will make the register of those vendors simple to be managed by the Ministry of Finance because there is a lot of money in vending. Some of us went to school through vending and we are graduates. I am saying we need to standardise certain things and be self-containing in terms of how we develop our country.

          There are issues with some of those taxes. When you tax people, they do not see where the money is going. People must see where their money is going. We need to ring-fence those monies so that when you tax people in Mbare, there are good roads there. If it is Mtapa in Gweru, when you tax their houses, they must have ring-fenced money which is going to work on their roads so that they do not move on dust roads where there were tarred roads. This business of throwing all the money into one kit as it were, discourages people from paying taxes and then they feel they are being robbed. My suggestion is that if you want to tax houses, let the money be ring-fenced for Mtapa, if it is Mtapa. If it is Sakubva, it must be Sakubva. The people of Sakubva must see where their money is going.

          The issue of corporate social responsibility in this country is voluntary. We do not have a law that forces people to be involved in corporate social responsibility. Why can we not have a law that makes sure that those people who are exploiting our natural resources are forced by law to do corporate social responsibility in addition to the taxes that my colleagues have spoken about in this House? If you go to them today, they will tell you that we are paying taxes to Government, so there is no need for us to work on the roads. What I am suggesting is that we need to realise that Zimbabwe is a rich country already but we need to make sure that those riches are directed where they are supposed to be directed.

          HON. SEN. MOHADI:  Thank you Mr. President for giving me this opportunity to say a few issues pertaining to our Budget. First and foremost, I want to thank the Minister who brought this Budget Bill to this august House. I agree with you Minister that as Zimbabwe, taxes have to be there. When I say I agree on that issue, I have other issues that I want to talk about because we ought to have strategies on how we want to manage the taxes. If it is not done, you will find that at the end of the day, we have nowhere to go or what to do. There will be no development as most of the time we will be consumed by talking and negotiating all the time.

          The Minister talked about the toll fees. I agree that toll fees have to be in place. In some cases, there are people who live around those tollgates and they pass through the tollgate three or four times a day. Some even go through the tollgate to look for their cattle or pass through the tollgate to fetch their inputs from nearby towns. I think there should be an exemption or a reduced fee for the locals so that they can do their errands unhindered.  Still on tollgates, you find that there is a tollgate just when you enter Masvingo and another one as you leave Masvingo. The tollgates are within a distance of 20km in-between. I think there should be a relook on that one.

Apart from the tollgates, I also want to add my voice on the minerals. There are some people who come genuinely looking for a specific mineral but at the end of the day, they go away with that specific mineral without anything that has been done to it, yet they know that it contains other minerals. There is much need for us as a country to look into that issue. There are so many people today who are coming into our country, as you know, we have a lot of coal, but within coal, you will find that we have other hidden minerals that need to be extracted before these people take it away but because they are making a raw deal, no one will ever ask them, they are the ones who benefit.

          There is also the issue of community beneficiation, our communities are benefiting nothing from the minerals that are being extracted. There is also the issue of indigenisation which I do not think proceeded as planned, whereby the custodian of that issue was given to local chiefs. Ten percent of the minerals is supposed to go towards developing local communities, but that does not happen.  As a result, nothing goes towards our communities. It could be a miner just wishes to build a pre-school or a classroom block after extracting our minerals, there is need to look into these issues holistically in order to increase our taxes rather than over-burdening the disadvantaged. People end up not benefiting due to some of these issues.

          Lastly, Mr. President, there is the issue of seizure of goods. You recall that I come from the border of Zimbabwe, that is Beitbridge.  I would urge the Hon. Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion to look into the issue of seized goods.  It seems as though there is no definite period whereby these goods should be held before being auctioned, auctions are done haphazardly.  There is need for these goods to have a definite time and pricing.  When goods are seized, the person whose goods have been seized will go to find money but if the seized item is wanted by a friend or relative, by the time the owner returns, he or she will not find the goods due to lack of time limit.  There should also be a standard of how the auctions are held.

          Mr. President, there are goods that have been seized since 2018 and are currently still within Government warehouses.  Some of the goods have been eaten by rodents and others have rotten.  If at all these things had been done properly, our Government would have benefited from them because they belong to no one. The goods cannot have owners especially after being kept in the warehouse for up to five or six years.  It seems as though they are just goods that have been thrown away but are still in our warehouses. 

Mr. President, I would go on and on, but once again, I thank the Hon. Minister for crafting a way for us to put our views forward.  With these few words Mr. President, I thank you.

          HON. SEN. SHIRI:  Thank you very much Hon. President and thank you Hon. Minister for tabling such an inclusive budget.  May I take this opportunity Hon. Minister, to remind you that in June, 2021, His Excellency the President launched the Disability Policy that proposes the facilitation of a disability levy.  The fund was supposed to be funded through the sale of fuel.

          Hon. Minister, you also introduced a raft of tax measures to the proposed 0.03% tax policy that would be obtained from the sale of fuel to go towards infrastructural development, together with the Wealth Fund, which is commendable.  What about the Disability Levy Hon Minister? When will this fund be operationalised?  What does it take for such a tax policy to be put in place? Hon. Minister, may you also extend exemption fees for persons living with disabilities who own their own cars?  Some persons living with disabilities cannot rely on public transport because it is not easily accessible to them.  I thank you.

          HON. SEN. MUZENDA:  Thank you Mr. President Sir. I would like to thank the Hon. Minister for giving us that good budget.  I have three comments that I wish the Hon. Minister to look into.  I think in order for the Zimbabwe Dollar to strengthen, we need to back it up using our natural resources, as has already been alluded to by my colleagues.  We have close to 60 types of minerals in this country, so if that were to be done, it would save us a lot of challenges.

          My other point is, is it possible to tax Zimbabwean citizens living in the diaspora, because other countries do that?  Unless, of course, if they have renounced their Zimbabwean citizenship, then they will be exempt.  Also, I am not sure if I am correct, are our teachers who went to Rwanda paying local tax or they are paying tax in Rwanda?  I thank you.

          *HON. SEN. MBOHWA:  Thank you Mr. President.  I would like to thank Hon. Prof. Ncube, the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion for presenting the Finance Bill.  When the Bill was presented, we noticed a lot of issues. However, I would like to appreciate that when the Minister was reading the Second Reading speech, he corrected a number of issues which shows that he is a listening Minister. 

          However, we continue to plead with you Hon. Minister; the cake is small, yet there are a lot of Ministries and departments which need to feed on the small cake.  His Excellency the President said that nyika inovakwa nevene vayo

          THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order! May I remind Hon. Members to put their phones on silence or better switch them off.

          *HON. SEN. MBOHWA: I was saying that His Excellency said nyika inovakwa nevene vayo.  We need to embrace this statement and understand that this is the way we need to go for us to resuscitate the economy, making it a vibrant one.  I believe that as Zimbabweans, we need to give out input and assist the Hon. Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion so that His Excellency’s Vision of resuscitating the economy is achieved.

          Mr. President, Zimbabwe is a rich country.  I have been to so many countries and I have noticed that Zimbabwe surpasses other countries in terms of its wealth.  However, our money is being siphoned out and not going through the fiscus.  There are many latest and luxurious cars in the country which you may not find in other countries like South Africa. If you get into towns, the consumption of food in expensive restaurants is quite amazing. You wonder where people are getting the money from. Even the fashionable trends in Zimbabwe’s towns are also quite amazing.  Zimbabwe is endowed with a lot of minerals and other resources.  So, there is great need to work with the Minister of Finance to see how money is being channeled through different sources, and that the money goes through the fiscus in order to resuscitate the economy. 

What was said by Hon. Sen. Zindi is indeed true. We have more than 60 minerals in the country and there is need for beneficiating such minerals so that we benefit as a nation first before exporting, instead of importing raw ore.

          It was mentioned that there are so many rich people referred to as Mbinga in the various communities who are not remitting taxes.  These Mbingas have luxurious houses on mountain tops, some of them destroy mountains to construct their mansions, so there is need to tax them. Average citizens build their average houses which accommodate their families, so there is need for taxing such luxurious properties. 

          I also want to say the sugar levy indeed had amazed us when it was mentioned, but after clarification, it then became clear to us what it means and we understood that.  It is important that Zimbabwean locally produced products should be correctly priced.  The 0,02% that we are charging, you find people charging 10% on cheap products.  As Zimbabweans, we have a norm of charging 100% on all goods despite the cost of production.  If sugar had a marked price from Triangle, with the Coca-Cola that we are taking, it means the 2% is lower than the figure that is being charged.  So, there is need for us to work with the Hon. Minister so that the money that is being realised from minerals is taxed. 

Looking at fuel prices, the percentages are negligible, they are not quite big margins, but what raises them is the mentality of Zimbabweans who, when they hear about the 0,02% rise, they hike prices by five dollars.   So, it is important for us to work together with the Hon. Minister.

          Hon. Minister, I want to thank you.  I am a leader in the Women’s Caucus in Parliament, and it is important that I mention that we appreciate that you increased our Vote as Women’s Caucus.  Through you Mr. President, women constitute 52% of the population of Zimbabwe.  Women are the ones who brought gender equality after noting the gender imbalance.  Therefore, sometimes I will be afraid that the budget might not consider the gender imbalance in terms of allocation of opportunities.  Looking at the fact of who contributes to the fiscus; let me digress a little bit; if you want a country to develop, it is important to empower a woman.  So, my plea is that may you empower us as women so that we have working spaces where we will be taxed.  It might help different women, some maybe helped by the construction of industry companies.

Every five years, the number of women representations in Parliament is going down.  The reason is that women are poor, because election requires a lot of women. However, what do we do then when the budget does not address the gender imbalance?  During elections, those who vote are women, which shows that women are the majority…

          THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order! Hon. Mbohwa, do not code switch, choose the language you want to debate in,  please stick to one language. 

          *HON. MBOHWA:  I was saying, we do not give each other positions as women because politics is supported by money.  It is important for women to be empowered through the Women’s Bank.  The Ministry of Women’s Affairs should be capacitated with enough funding so that women are empowered.  You find that most small to medium business enterprises are in the hands of women.  When you go to such small to medium enterprises, this is where most people are employed. We appreciate the allocation you gave us, but we would not mind in terms of funding.  Last year the issue of Parliament, if you are called an Hounourable Member, you have the crown of the nation.  However, you find yourself being chased away from hotels, something which is quite embarrassing because people will laugh at you.  Indeed, people have laughed at me, this is an embarrassment to the nation.  Parliament needs to be funded, it should have money for operations, funds which should be there three months in advance.  As I speak, sitting allowances for Hon. Members from the last Parliament have not been paid.  You find that as a parent, you cannot do anything for the festive season during Christmas because Hon. Members have not been paid.  Some have to pay rentals, but their monies have not been paid, now it is six months.  When Parliamentarians work with proper motivation and incentives, they are able to expedite their duties with due diligence. 

          Mr. President, I am not just talking, but we have Hon.  MPs who   hike to their constituencies on Thursdays.  Some hiked in large haulage trucks and this is embarrassing.  It is important that this is addressed.  I want to thank the Hon. Minister because he listens and he has corrected a lot of issues.  Indeed, I thank you.

          +HON. SEN. MLOTSHWA:  Thank you Hon. President of the Senate.  I have a few questions and ideas that I want to share on the budget.  I took a tour around Matabeleland South in the past few days before the falling of the rains.  What I noticed is that we do not have water sources, we do not have dams, and we are in a dry province.  In Ward 1, there is a dam called Dubangwe Dam.  I have been calling those from ZINWA, I feel that the dam is under utilised.  I would want to remind the Hon. Minister of the President’s mantra of having an upper-middle class economy by 2030.  For us to have enough water, first of all water sources will help us. 

          Mr. President, the irrigation schemes that we have so far are not enough, they outnumber the irrigation schemes that we have.  What I noticed is that we are known in Matebeleland South by the President as a cattle ranching province.  We do not have enough water in that province. In the past few weeks, farmers were losing livestock due to starvation and this was perpetuated by the shortage of water.  I know that the problem is not for Matabeleland South only, there are other provinces - throughout the whole region of Matabeleland which do not have enough water.  Bulawayo is currently getting its water supply from Mzingwane Dam.  Even in Matabeleland North, people are also crying because of the death of livestock due to water shortage.  Minister, I pray that devolution funds be channeled to water sources.  As for the dam which is in Matopo, if you have this mantra of having an upper-middle class economy, why do we have to fetch water from the dam? You should have piped water so that we can have a developed lifestyle in Matabeleland.    

          Mr. President, as for now, there was not enough water, the dams were full of mud.  We are asking you Hon. Minister to attend to the water issue in Matabeleland South.  People in Matabeleland are very active, they are not lazy people, they are hard workers.  I can give you an example that in Matopo, we have Matopo National Game Park.  The road which goes to the game park is in bad state, there are a lot of potholes.  You cannot drive on that road.  May you look into that issue so that cars that are coming from South Africa and Botswana can pass through Matopo to Bulawayo. 

          On the issue of tollgates, the charges should remain at two dollars so that we upgrade our roads because there are a lot of accidents along this road that are caused by these potholes.   In Matabeleland, we also have a shortage of electricity.  A lot of development is going on, especially on infrastructure.  People are building houses in Gwanda and Matopo.  We want enough electricity in Matabeleland South or if there can be a fund so that people can install solar for themselves. 

          My last plea is that we have the Grain Marketing Board, is it possible that maize be consumed in the same province?  We have noted that there are a lot of trucks that are carrying grains from the irrigation farms and people are left behind starving.  Thank you Mr. President.

          HON. SEN. S. MOYO: Thank you Mr. President of the Senate. I thank the Minister of Finance also who is present when we are discussing the budget for 2024. People everywhere are crying and this is perpetuated by the fact that we are suffering in Zimbabwe. Everyone wishes that things be operational and go according to plan.

I will look into three issues. First of all, I will look into healthcare. I am really worried and pained by the issue that this country is rich with a lot of resources but our hospitals, specifically with mention of Matabeleland South, the people in hospitals are crying a lot and those in diaspora are trying to construct clinics. Even though these clinics have been constructed, we also want to know if there is a law that can assist us on how we can access medicines after constructing these clinics. We do not have enough medication in the clinics. We also note that there are no ambulances that can ferry people from their homes to the hospitals.

Last week when I was coming from my rural area in Plumtree, I found a lady walking with a 19-year-old daughter and they had been discharged from hospital. They were told that they need to go home but there was no ambulance to ferry them. When I arrived at Plumtree, there were about ten ambulances which were parked. All these ambulances were down and others do not have tyres, their engines were down.

On the ambulances, you could see that they need a little attention so that they can be attended to and start working. It is not only in the hospitals where we do not have enough vehicles, but there are vehicles in the Government that are taken for auction. Other vehicles stay for a long time idle and they say that they are broken down vehicles. They are being sold for peanuts. Can we not be able to sell these cars and take the funds to procure ambulances so that we can have medication in the hospitals?

There is also an irrigation at Gampu. There was a child who was bitten by a snake. There is a clinic that is 100 metres away from that place, but when he got to that clinic, he could not be assisted because there was no medication even staff. We want more staff to be recruited especially the nurses. This child that I am talking about did not get assistance and unfortunately, he was buried on Sunday. This was as a result of failing to get medication at the clinic and there were no nurses there.

I want to talk about mines. I have heard a lot of Hon. Senators mentioning that our country is rich in resources but what pains me is that if you go to other countries and tell them to come to Zimbabwe, they will take you as a joke. We see machinery everyday coming through the border and the mines are being opened. I really wonder what these mines mine that we do not get in this country when in this budget we talk of mines.

On Hwange Colliery, I believe that the Minister knows that Hwange Colliery has a lot of machinery that broke up before it was used. I believe that these machines are from Russia or China but are they paid for in full? The miners that are working in the mines say that they have not been paid for. I also want to know whether it is possible that they get this money to revive our mining industry. We see a lot especially on the budget of mines and transport that when the funds are released, do they go through the previous budget to see whether it was used effectively?

The money that has been disbursed is very little compared to the money that is needed for these mines. Does the Audit know that these funds that were released were disbursed and used accordingly? I feel that we have got a big problem especially in the Ministry of Mines. There is a lot of corruption in the Ministry of Mines. For example, when the cars are being auctioned, those cars are not bought by the poor but by those in managerial positions because they are the ones that are able to pay for them. They are supposed to pay up to $80 000 but they only pay $1 000 knowing that the car would be worth a lot more than that. We feel that the Minister should look into this and put his office in order.

On the issue of transport, it is really painful looking specifically at borders.  Matabeleland South. SADC trucks are moving day and night, causing accidents.  They are carrying machinery from Zambia, Malawi and others, do they have permits so that they pay to refurbish our roads?  These trucks are damaging roads and we will not have money to maintain our roads.  We also have the Malaichas who are from the diaspora, Manicaland, Chipinge, Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo who travel using their cars. I want to know where the money they pay is being taken to. We also want to benefit from the money that they pay so that we maintain our roads which are dilapidated. This will assist our citizens from Matabeleland and other provinces to have passable roads.

          I also heard one Honourable Member saying that with the drought  we are facing currently, there are seeds that you are giving people to plant. There is a traditional way where we used to plant before the introduction of Pfumvudza/Intwasa.  What amazes me is that our elders are now suffering from backaches, where are the tractors for ploughing which we used to get from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Agriculture?   Can you resuscitate that programme so that people do not go back to digging?  Here in Parliament, we heard Hon. Members saying that the Minister has been given USD500 000 and the Deputy Minister USD350 000 but there are no medicines in hospitals.  Why do you not look at this as we do not have medicines in hospitals, as our senior officials?  We say our economy is not performing well but we have got a lot money that we give precedence to other issues. 

With these few words, I am disappointed to hear that some people in Zimbabwe are lazy. If I want a stand, it costs USD13 000.  After building that house it takes me years to complete.  Why do we have to charge exorbitant figures for the land that we call ours? Taking a closer look there is a former Minister who had more than 200 stands, which I do not understand if he had paid for them or they were issued for free.  However, if they were paid, where were these funds acquired from?  Thank you.

          HON. SEN. NCUBE:  Thank you Mr. President.  I would like to thank the Minister of Finance for crafting a transformative budget, under very difficult circumstances.  It must be appreciated that as Zimbabwe, we are under sanctions.  It means that everything we do, we have got to rely on ourselves.

 I would like to comment, particularly on revenue lines, the tax-free threshold.   In actual fact, wider than that Hon. Minister, through our President, where we have got the tax-free threshold as Z$750 000.00.  Would it not be possible to actually benchmark the Zimbabwean dollar component within the budget to the USD because we see that every Tuesday, the inter-bank rate changes.  What does that do to the buying parity of the Zimbabwean dollar? That is one.

I would also like to appreciate the fact that there is a provision to build 500 dip-tanks country-wide in this budget, but every dip-tank must be accompanied by a borehole because I have seen a situation where people have got to ferry water 10 km to the dip-tank.  Hon. Minister, just make sure that we integrate the construction of a dip-tank with that of a borehole. 

You have also made a provision to buy or acquire a thousand buses over a period of time, 4 to 5 years, in order to assist in terms of transportation issues.  Hon. Minister, if we actually want to decongest cities, particularly Harare, the addition of more buses is not the solution, without taking care of the routes of strategic planning within the city. What I have noticed is that some of the roads are already saturated and you find that it becomes even more convenient to use mushika-shikas or even the combis which are very dangerous.

If you add more buses for inter-city travels, that is ok but for de-congesting crowded areas like Harare, we need to look at this a bit more deeply.  We need to introduce bus-rapid transit as the solution.  We have seen it being introduced in Cape Town, Cairo, Casa Blanca even in Lagos, it works.  The transport efficiencies in Harare are actually going down.  So if you add more buses, which actually increase the grid-lock, you actually reduce efficiencies. 

Hon. Mbohwa was very passionate about gender issues.  If you travel through Harare around 10 p.m., women will still be waiting for transport to go home and they will be expected again tomorrow at 0800 a.m. at work.  We need to look at this in terms of the requirements, which are necessary in improving transportation services.  It is just like a cake, there are a number of requirements which are needed.  Pushing in more buses is not the solution without looking at other demands and they are a number which I can touch on very quickly.  Reliability, accessibility, integrated roads, integrated network et cetera.  Those have got to be looked at very carefully.  There is space for that in Harare but transport is a nightmare.  Accidents are many because of the indiscipline of kombis and mushika-shikas.  That is an area which needs improvement.  I thank you.

          *HON. SEN. MAVENYENGWA: Thank you Mr. President for the opportunity to contribute towards the 2024 National Budget which was presented by the Minister of Finance, Hon. Prof. Ncube. Firstly, I want to thank the Hon. Minister for the various taxes which were proposed so that the Government can fund its different programmes in line with fulfilling Vision 2030 which will give every Zimbabwean a decent livelihood.

          Secondly, I concur with Hon. Mbowa on what His Excellency said that a country is built by its people, especially pooling resources for building the economy of Zimbabwe. I want to talk about the sugar levy which will be beneficial to those who suffer from cancer. Cancer is indeed a scourge and you find that among other diseases like diabetes and cancer, people are suffering because of over indulgence in sugar. You find it is difficult for some to access healthcare, particularly those who come from rural areas. Some come to us as Hon. Members facing different ailments and chronic diseases and the Member of Parliament might not be in a position to assist.

I believe that the AIDS levy has been beneficial to a lot of people, which culminated in the procuring of different medication. You find that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has gone down because of the funding which comes through the levy. I believe the same can happen through the sugar levy which will be channeled towards cancer. This should happen and I say that this tax is going to help people who suffer from cancer which does not select, even Hon. Members have also been affected by cancer. So, I want to propose that if that money is collected, then it should be channeled properly to those who are suffering from cancer.

I also went through the budget as well as the taxing of luxurious houses costing US$250 000. Indeed, the Minister raised the bracket in a meaningful manner because this is found mostly in our urban areas where you find service delivery being affected by opposition politicians who are running urban councils. So, the Hon. Minister proposed something which should uplift our urban centres because service delivery has been deteriorating.

We want to appreciate the Hon. Minister’s proposal which is meant to uplift our urban centres. At the moment, especially during the rain season, it is difficult to travel because there are a lot of potholes and the drainage system is not working properly. Sometimes you have to wait for the rains to subside because the drainage is poor and people face challenges when going to work. Having observed all that, I want to thank the Minister and I propose that when the money is collected, people should understand and see tangible results of how the money would have been used.

I also want to look at the Parliament budget. The Hon. Minister increased the Vote allocated to Parliament from the initial proposal, but looking at the operations of Parliament, we have external assignments where we engage with the people we represent. We have consultations which are done and all these things need to be funded, and there is need to continually increase the budget so that we meet people we represent. There is also need for us to be properly funded so that we execute our duties. We need induction and hearings, including other programmes that are done outside Parliament Building. Parliament is one of the three arms of the State, together with the Executive and Judiciary, so we need to work to fulfill the national duties.

Again, you find that we have staff and there is need for proper remuneration of Parliament staff because it is their own source of livelihoods and this will help them because Parliament employees depend on Parliament and the welfare of parliamentarians should be looked into. Hon. Sen. Mbohwa mentioned that you find Hon. Members failing to have proper accommodation, and sometimes some people do not even recognise the former Members of Parliament because they cannot even afford decent clothing for themselves. It is important to have loans for building houses so that once you are an MP you build your own house. We do not want a situation where former MPs do not have houses and they live like destitutes. So, may the Hon. Minister relook and reconsider the Vote allocated to workers and Members of Parliament in the budget.

Hon. Minister, I want to appreciate that indeed, you are working to improve the economy of Zimbabwe. People might be pained by the taxes, but looking at the different countries, you find that taxes that are paid might even be lower than the taxes we have here. It is important that such taxes are paid so that we meet Vision 2030. With those words, I want to believe that the Hon. Minister is going to consider some of the points. I thank you.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Thank you Hon. Senator, please remember that you address the Hon. Minister through the Chair.

          +HON. SEN. RICHARD NDLOVU:  Thank you Mr. President for the opportunity that you have given me to add my own views on the 2024 Budget that was presented by Hon. M. Ncube before this august House.

          First of all, I would like to thank my fellow Hon. Members who contributed before me to the salient issues of this budget.   Worldwide taxes are paid.  Taxation is something that exists and it is usually uncomfortable, but it is done such that every country can develop and it is also a means of making sure that people develop their own country.

          When you are talking about the budget, you are discussing issues that relate to the development of the country.  Looking at the budget, a lot of issues have been mentioned, but I do not want to repeat these issues.

          An Hon. Member having passed between the Chair and the Hon. Member speaking

          THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  Order!  Sen. Gotora go that way.

          +HON. SEN. RICHARD NDLOVU:  People are suffering in different provinces.  I will give an example of Matabeleland North.  There is a lot of timber that is being harvested in Tsholotsho and Lupane, but I do not know what is happening.  Community members just see big trucks carrying timber from Lupane and Tsholotsho and are told that these trucks belong to high ranking officials and Ministers, but the residents in these places do not get anything.  There is no proper development that is being done in these areas.  Does the Minister take note of such things?  What is the Minister’s efforts on developing the areas from where this timber is being taken and also improving the lives and the livelihoods of these people?

I come from Matabeleland South.  We have a boundary with Hwange National Park.  We also have a boundary with Botswana.  We are a tourist country and we have a lot of wild animals.  Elephants have left the national park and have escaped to Botswana.  There are now a lot of elephants in Botswana.  Even to travel around the area, the elephants come to our dams in Plumtree and they finish all the water in these dams.  What measures do you have in place Minister?  There used to be electric fences in these game parks to reduce the human wildlife conflict, but for now, these animals are just moving around freely.  Elephants have a lot of freedom.  They graze until they get to Plumtree and harm people.  What are we saying as a country?  We do not want to hear that people perish or are being killed by these wild animals.

An Hon. Member having passed between the Chair and the Hon. Member speaking.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  Order Minister!  Please go back.  You cannot cross the line between the Hon. Member and myself.  You can pass through behind him.

+HON. RICHARD NDLOVU:  I wanted the Minister to take note of what I was saying, I wanted to say it in his presence.  Talking about these elephants that have become troublesome, they are breaking open the granaries.  Every day, they break into people’s huts and even get buckets of water out.  These are the animals that bring a lot of money into the country, but we do not take note that we are supposed to prepare sanctuaries for these animals such that we can enjoy the money that they bring into this country.

In Plumtree, we do not have anything.  There are only elephants, but we do not even have water.  There are small dams that when the elephants come to drink the water, they finish all the water at once.  We want them to erect electric fences so that elephants can remain in their and do not come into contact with human life.

We have the country’s Beitbridge border post which everyone is applauding, for its majestic construction, but where I come from, the Maitengwe border which was constructed in 1995 to 2000, our neighbouring country constructed a tarred road to the border post.  We only constructed a border post before a tarred road. There is no tarred road such that people just come and get money from there.  Could we not prioritise the Maitengwe Border Post and also the road that leads to Maitengwe Border Post as it passes through Mahlambuzi, Tekwane, Dokotele until Plumtree so that even the tourists from the diaspora would not have their wonderful cars damaged when they are on their way coming to Zimbabwe because they bring with them, a lot of foreign currency to this country?  You are not taking note of the roads that they are using.  We are asking for the Hon. Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion to look into this issue because it portrays a good future for the country and we will therefore enjoy the future.

Also coming to the taxes which the Minister has mentioned, we are accepting them, but we want to know are these taxes being used effectively or they are being abused?  If you look at Harare City, it has a population of over 1 000 000 people, but if we say US$10 each, how much can the Minister make?  Looking at the roads that are in Harare, we are asking that the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion be a supervisor and overseer to make sure that the funds that are allotted to different Ministries and the departments of the Government, whether these monies are being effectively used or they are being abused.  If the oversight role was being done by the Minister, we could have seen that our cities would have had a great difference.

As I have mentioned, the Beitbridge border post is an example of great construction and effective use of funds.  Everyone is admiring that place, but in some places, there are a lot of indicators that funds are not being used effectively.  There is a lot of abuse of funds.  I am appealing to the Minister to look into this.

We accept and applaud you for preparing such a budget, but we want to make sure that everyone does not abuse his or her office and money is not abused.  I will not repeat what has been said already.  I want to thank the Hon. Minister for presenting such a brilliant budget. Thank you Mr. President.

          +HON. SEN. CHIEF NGUNGUMBANE: Thank you Hon. President of the Senate for this opportunity to add my voice to this budget.  A lot has been mentioned and I will not repeat.  My first point to the Hon. Minister is, I thank the Hon. Minister and his team for doing such a good job and for bringing this budget. I thank him for listening to us.  When this budget was prepared a few weeks back, there was a lot of issues when it comes to taxation that people were supposed to pay.  I want to thank you for listening to the concerns of the people. 

          I have quite a number of issues that I would like to talk about. The first issue would be that you presented your budget in Zimbabwean dollars.  I would want to buttress the point by Hon. Sen. Mackenzie that every week we have the auction system where they will be valuing our currency against the US dollar. It is not possible to tell us the value of the budget in US dollar.  In some areas, people do not understand such issues.  We have services that are only paid in US dollars and here the budget is presented only in Zimbabwean dollar.  We would want you to tell us the amount of the budget in US dollars.  There are some services that only require US dollars, why not pay for the services in Zimbabwean dollars at the current prevailing bank rate?  The other issue is of the stadium. You promised us that you would refurbish the National Sports Stadium and install the bucket seats that are required by the FIFA Board and CAF.  

          Mr. President, it is really embarrassing that such a country like Zimbabwe, with a lot of minerals and such intelligent people, the national team is said to go and use Rwanda as its home ground.  That on its own does not portray the image of Zimbabwe well. I want to thank you Hon. Minister; we have failed so far to play other games in this country because of this issue.  I want to applaud you for your effort of refurbishing the stadium.  Looking at other grounds which were constructed a long time back, grounds like Rufaro, Gwanzura, you would ask yourself if it is still a football pitch or it is now a farm because the weeds have overgrown the lawn. What measures do you have Hon. Minister, of developing the infrastructure even other recreational services?  Gone are the days where we used to take sports as recreation facilities whereby we would be just having fun.  Sports can be likened to an industry. If you take a look at the rich people in this country or in the world, they are from the sports fraternity.  If you look at the boxers - Tyson, the money that he earns for one round, all the Senators here, our salaries cannot match with the money he gets and this shows the importance of Sports, Arts and Culture. 

          Arts and culture are not just for recreation where people will just go and meet up for socialisation and where people just do traditional dances and go back.  Our people get opportunities to be employed, get income and mingle with other high-profile artists.  This encourages and gives them better ideas. 

Still on the point of grounds and football pitches, there is an outcry on the problem of ownership. Most of our grounds that belong to local authorities, only the National Sports Stadium, Magamba and Khumalo are the ones that belong to the Government. 

          Mr. President, if you look at the people that use these grounds, they have to pay taxes, if I am not mistaken, out of the gate-takings, they pay 32% for example in a football match.  If there is a match between Dynamos and CAPS here in Harare, ZIFA will take 6%, PSL will take 15%, SRC will take part of the percentage. The police will take their part also.  Police are part of the uniformed forces or security forces and their role is to protect citizens in the country including the people that go to these recreational facilities. Amazingly, those that were there before us saw it fit that the police, when they go to the recreational facilities,  are supposed to be paid.  I feel that this is not correct, a police officer is supposed to do his duty accordingly.

          We know that there are challenges in getting money but even the money that is paid there is not enough, including this 32%. There are other responsibilities that have to be paid for, for example transporting players and so on.  We are kindly asking you Hon. Minister to critically analyse these levies that are paid as gate-takings.  The Hon. Minister must take sports as an industry not as just recreation.  I am not sure of the year where Dynamos was supposed to play with CAPS at City Sports Stadium but when they got there, they found out that the ground had been hired by Prophet Magaya.  If we built a ground, what is its priority? Is it for the one with money or it is for the one who wants to do sports and some form of recreation?  This should be looked into. 

There are a lot of things Hon. President, there is also the issue of borders. This has been mentioned a lot, especially the good work that the Government has done.  If you go to these borders, we are facing challenges of smuggling.  What measures is the Minister taking pertaining to curbing the issue of smuggling? The income that could have been obtained by the Government from the goods that are smuggled is very high. If we relax on protecting our borders, we will end up giving our enemies an idea that we are easy to be penetrated for attack. I want to encourage the Minister of Finance, Hon. Ncube to prioritise the protection of our borders and make sure that porous points are taken care of.

There are issues of road network. The Minister of Finance has brought before this House ways and measures that he wanted to use to develop our roads using the money from the Government fiscus. We thank the Government for the Beitbridge-Bulawayo Road. The Government has constructed the road and it is very nice. However, Mr. President, there are some other roads that were included in the budget which were not attended to. If I recall well, the Minister said that they cannot do this all alone. They said they will find partners to work with in developing these roads. I wanted to know Mr. President, what is the position pertaining to obtaining partnership and also working with other companies with respect to the rehabilitation of the other roads that have not yet been attended to? There is only one road that comes to my mind, the Buchwa-Rutenga Road.

When we grew up, we were told that this road will be tarred but only a piece of the road was tarred around 5km or 6km.  To-date from 1980s, nothing has happened. That road is important when goods are being transported from Chikwarakwara to Rutenga and taken to Zvishavane. This road is shorter and quick also. It even lightens the load and shortens the travelling distance taken by transport. It reduces traffic load in other roads. I appeal to the Hon. Minister to look into this issue.

I will go on to the issue of electricity. We witnessed that we once had a time that we have electricity and now we are back to power cuts. They once went to attend to the power plants in Hwange which is sometimes on and off. This might be a sign that these machines might be old. For these machines to operate now, it costs a lot to us. I now want to ask the Minister…

[Time Limit.]

The Hon. Minister once said they will be working with independent power producers. What is your position pertaining to this issue? I have been asked by other chiefs from Midlands to enquire on the issue.

I cannot take my seat without mentioning the issues around history or heritage. There is a Vote on the national chiefs’ council which was passed by this House in 2013. It is almost 10 years now since the vote has been passed. There is no clarity Mr. President on how this money is being used. If you look at the Chiefs’ Council at the Appropriation Bill, we have got what we call Independent Bodies, Human Rights, National Chiefs Council, National Peace and Reconciliation et cetera. They have a department that looks into the Vote of the Chiefs’ Council. I want to know Mr. President, when is this Vote going to be given to its appropriate people? It is almost 10 years now.

I remember the other year when Minister Chinamasa was the Minister of Finance, we almost failed to pass this Bill because this Vote was not mentioned in the Appropriation Bill. I want to know Mr. President, when would this Vote be fulfilled. Where there would be secretariat that looks into the tasks and duties of the Chiefs’ Council.

Mr. President, I would also want to discuss on the issues of welfare of all the citizens in Zimbabwe. We thank the Minister for the good work that you are doing. We know that your hands are tied, you do not have enough resources but you are expected to cover every possible area that the Budget is supposed to cover including the civil service, the Members of Parliament and everyone else. The 2030 vision of the President that no one and no place should be left behind, we need someone to champion the President’s vision.

For the vision of the President to be fulfilled, the civil servants are supposed to be motivated and have enough energy to move on. I do not know how civil servants are surviving. I honestly ask myself, from the beginning of the month to the end of it, that person goes to work, pays rentals and a lot of things. We know that there is not enough money but we would want you to look into the salary that you pay the civil servants, including our chiefs, kraal heads and village heads. For the first time, Minister I want to thank you. You gave the chiefs, kraal heads and the village heads bonuses. This is the first time and we want to thank you for this. Let it not be only an issue of this year, we want it to be always done.

Did you know Hon. Minister that if you are going to have review for the civil servants’ salaries, the chiefs and the traditional leaders are not recognised until the chiefs in this House alert you. We appeal to you Hon. Minister, that may the chiefs be given what is due to them. I know that my time is up but I want to talk about the welfare of MPs and the staff of Parliament…

THE DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order! Your time has expired. Thank you very much Hon. Sen. Chief Sen. Ngungumbane.

          *HON. SEN. MUZODA:  Thank you Mr. President for affording me this opportunity to contribute to the 2024 National Budget which was brought to this august House by the Minister of Finance. I want to say a few words about the Budget, looking at mining. Indeed, we agree that Zimbabwe has over 60 minerals which can contribute to the sustenance of the day to day operations of Government. The challenge that we face is that the extraction of these minerals is done by foreign companies. I want to ask the Minister whether we have a law which looks at foreign investors and miners?

          Sometimes we see trucks full of mineral ore from different mines crossing our border into Mozambique. Do we have a law which helps us as a nation to see whether we have an inventory of the minerals that we have? I want to ask the Hon. Minister to look at this issue because we have a lot of raw minerals leaving the country without any beneficiation.  I want to add by saying everyone knows that every mineral is associated with other minerals which are found in our soils. You cannot find one mineral, but you find different minerals. If we extract raw platinum and ferry it to South Africa without processing, who benefits from that process? Is it the Zimbabwean people or the miner who is exporting the mineral ore?

          I want to say a few words on devolution. Since 2013, we have seen people being elected into provincial councils, but they do not take their positions. Government is saying that we need devolution. People are elected into provincial councils, but they are not given the task of exercising their duties in the provincial councils. Who is taking over their responsibilities?

          THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order. You are asking a very important and topical issue. That issue does not reside with the Minister of Finance. That is actually an issue which resides with the Minister of Local Government. You should ask it at the relevant time. They will give you an explanation I am very sure.

          *HON. SEN. MUZODA: I thought that since we are discussing the budget, it might be necessary to get an explanation. I want to come back to the welfare of civil servants. Indeed, my colleagues in this House have mentioned it that Government does not know how civil servants are surviving. This is painful because corruption starts with underpaying workers. You expect them to come to work everyday, but you do not pay them well. They earn meagre salaries which cannot pay their rentals. In most urban areas, there is no accommodation which is less than $100 a room per month. This is quite concerning.

          I want to say that the monies that are being given to civil servants and Members of Parliament are very little.  The RTGS component is only meant for doing shopping at OK supermarket. Our request is that please look at the plight of Members of Parliament because the money that they are getting is quite meagre as you know that our exchange rate is very unstable. You cannot use RTGS to board buses to rural areas, you have to use US dollars for public transport. This needs to be looked at so that Members of Parliament may have sustainable livelihoods. I thank you.

          HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA: For the benefit of the Minister and our legal drafter, let me debate in English. First of all, I want to thank the Minister because during the Pre-budget presentations and discussion, you displayed a very good attitude towards the advancement of this country. You were in attendance all the time and I want to thank you for that. You sat and listened for four days, we never missed you. That shows that you are serious. For some of us who have been in this Parliament, we have seen different Ministers, how they behave and how they perform. A number get bored and think this is monotonous and they disappear and let the wheel just run on its own. I want to thank you for the commitment. I also want to reiterate the point that has been made by others which is very important, issues raised with regard to the budget you presented.  The National Assembly raised issues regarding the housing levy, tokens, passports and others – and you have basically acceded, climbed down and made adjustments already.  I want to be open, some ministers do not want to change anything, we have seen ministers even in the Senate, arguing that whatever they table, should at all cost sail through and they are prepared to fight Parliament at whatever cost.  The fact that you have climbed down shows that you are a very serious and listening minister.  The more you listen, the more the economy will improve – that is my introduction.

          I also want to advise on the issue of post-budget review - it is very useful.  I do not know why this time around we kept postponing until the budget was presented.  So budget debate commenced in Parliament without the Post Budget Seminar - that is a very valuable contribution to the budget.  Next time, we should not debate the budget without conducting the post budget review.

          Hon. Minister, I was looking at the statement that you presented on Page 218 with regards to mining.  The heading is, Mining Tax Revenue Contribution.  A number of Hon. Senators have already mentioned the fact that we are a leading mining country.  Here, you are saying that the total revenue of the mining sector has remained subdued and I am very concerned. You stated that platinum as number one, contributed to revenue and that the contribution of gold remains insignificant at 0.33% despite accounting for about 32% of mineral exports - that is a serious contradiction.   I believe as Parliament, we are meant to pursue this issue and ask why.  How can gold contribution remain insignificant when we have said we have moved from 12 tonnes and we are now at 32 tonnes per year?  Why would an increase in the production tonnage lead to insignificant contribution?  You said exports account of 32% of mineral exports from gold.  I think we need to look at that.  This is a subject that needs a whole day.

          Hon. Minister, when we say mining tax revenue contributions, unfortunately, the documents that I have are your documents – we do not have the absolute figures.  It is all in percentages and that is hiding something that we think we should have benefitted from.  What are the absolute numbers in terms of contribution?  How much did mining contribute?  I am raising this issue because in one of the Hon. Minister’s presentations in Parliament a few years back, the Hon. Minister reported that between January and July, the mining sector raised about 600 million in revenue, but Government got 15 million out of 600million.  These are the issues that we need to be addressing if we are going to improve our economy.  Where is the money going to? Out of 600milion, the money that goes to Government is 15 million.  Who takes the rest? Is it the companies that own the mines?

          So our celebrations that we now have diamond, platinum and lithium are actually premature because the real benefit from these minerals to Government and the people of Zimbabwe is negligible – it is insignificant.  Indeed, I can use the word insignificant if out of 600million, 15million goes to Government - that is insignificant.  Why are we saying we have so many minerals when we are not benefiting anything?  This is a subject that I think, as a country, we need to sit down and say this royalty’s business of companies is trying to make value out of the minerals.

          I now move to Social Protection and you start in your paragraph by saying, “in line with NDS1, the theme of leaving no one and no place behind …” ; we want to thank you for most of these social protection measures and it reminds me of ESAP.  I know you were very active when they were saying, adjustments with a human face.  So there are reforms with a human face where you are giving us various programmes.

The issue of Basic Education Assisted Module (BEAM). Thank you very much for the very noble programme for the vulnerable. One critical issue is, when you pay BEAM to the beneficiaries – that has remained a challenge.  The release of BEAM funds has remained a problem because some of the beneficiaries sometimes cannot pay for their examination fees because the money would not have been released timeously.  Can we address the issue of timeous release of money?

The levy or tax on sugar – a very noble idea.  The reasons are well accepted, but in the last six months, we were meant to understand that our local sugar is more expensive compared to imported sugar.  The Hon. Minister even gazetted allowing the importation of sugar in order to bring down the price.  Now, with this tax, our sugar will even be more unaffordable and attract more importations.  You know the effects of that, it means demand for local sugar will be lower and we will lose out on various fronts.  I am not sure how you are going to reconcile the already high price of our sugar viz-a-viz those of other countries and the tax which is going to make it worse.

I want to move to the issue of the Chief’s Council Vote, my brother, Hon. Dr. Sen. Chief Ngungumbane has just gone out, he did come out very well on this issue.  I am happy that the staff from the Attorney General are in this Chamber.  The Vote for the Chief’s Council is a constitutional Vote unlike other ministries’ Votes.  It is a special constitutional Vote.  It is an obligation; it has to be there.  Ministries can even be abolished, changed, you can give them a Vote and still move them around but Chief’s Council, ZEC, Human Rights Commission and similar bodies receive constitutional Votes.  However, this Vote is being spent unconstitutionally.

          THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order! Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira, you will get the opportunity to debate the Votes when you are at Committee Stage.  This is really supposed to be a section whereby we take the Minister to task on policy issues.  However, you may carry on but you are going to have the opportunity when we go into Committee Stage to go Vote by Vote and scrutinise the Votes, each as it comes.  I thank you.

          HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA: Thank you Mr. President.  I stand guided.  I thought I was not debating the Vote but the principles behind the Vote, which is that this is a constitutional Vote, no number but I still stand guided by the Chair.

          On the issue of the exchange rate, all said and done Minister, I think the greatest area where things have gone wrong is the issue of exchange rate.  Our USD vis-a-vis our own currency and I have said this before that we are lucky to have a person like Hon. Prof. Ncube as our Minister of Finance.  Those who know your curriculum vitae will agree with me.  You have an impeccable curriculum vitae across the world.  Few Ministers will have such CVs like you have. I know it in detail, that we cannot take it away from you.  If those who know what you have done, where you have been, where you have schooled, where you have lectured, where you have worked including the African Development Bank and the boards of banks you sit on, we cannot wish anything better, of course with our Reserve Bank Governor who is now retiring, you were such a very formidable team.

          May you help us Members of Parliament and Senators on what we should do to assist you to ensure that this runaway inflation caused by the depreciation in our value of our currency is dealt with?  I know we stand here and raise issues for your attention but some of it, may you share with us, we need to help you.  This issue of the rate changing everyday is the only demon in our economy and we have to expose that demon and make sure that we stabilise the exchange rate, thereby stabilising the economy.  The value of this budget, what you have given us will be more useful and achieve better results.  I thank you.

          THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. MTHULI NCUBE): Thank you Mr. President.  I thank the Hon. Senators for their contributions.  I also want to thank them for their quality contributions which are very helpful and will advance the quality of the budget as a policy instrument that will advance the development of our country.

          When I was presenting, I noticed that there was a textual error where some number was not properly captured.  The drafters actually made an error regarding the amounts for the unallocated reserve.  I just want to state that for the record that figure should be 6338345501000…

          THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Hon. Minister, may you stick to the Finance Bill.

          HON. PROF. MTHULI NCUBE: Let me turn to the input from Hon. Sen. Tongogara who commented on the Aids Levy initially and then juxtaposed the sugar content tax to say this is a good idea if it is going to target cancer but it should be managed appropriately so that it really targets the cancer scourge.  I think I want to make it clear to the Hon. Members of the House that this tax is not a sugar tax.  We are not taxing sugar; we are taxing sugar content in drinks because you have a choice as to how much sugar you put.  Having produced sugar, how much do you put in sugar drinks, it is the content that we are dealing with.  So, that is what is linked to certain non-communicable disease such as cancer. We want to make sure it is managed appropriately so as to compensate society and citizenry for suffering from this disease.

          Let me turn to Hon. Sen. Zvidzai regarding employment cost and civil servants’ salaries.  What we have proposed in this budget and this is at the request of the leadership of civil servants; initially, I resisted it for last two years when we introduced the Aids levy.    We wanted it to remain an allowance because we thought that really it is better feeding the employee.  However, eventually they convinced us that this 300USD should be included as part of salary and then it is pensionable.  I argued that what we are trading; you have a trade between the pensionable benefit in future for the benefits now.  I asked them, is that what you want and they said that is what we want. It was a result of a long conversation of the Tripartite Negotiation Forum.  If you look at how this is going to be taxed Mr. President.  The first hundred dollars in this USD300 is not taxed but the next USD200 is taxed at 20%.  Those are our tax laws so we want to be clear, that is the tax that is in place.  You can think of it then as a tradeoff between the 20% that they are losing now in taxes versus the future benefit pension because Government will contribute towards their pension.  That is the tradeoff that we should debate and this was requested by civil servants’ leadership.

          On the issue of the prescribed asset status for health infrastructure, I am pleased that Hon. Sen. Zvidzai is supportive that we have extended this benefit.  Hon. Sen. Zvidzai was saying can we extend the provision towards water delivery infrastructure as well.  I agree with him, we will.  I thank him for that proposal – [HON. MEMBERS:  Hear, hear.] – This will ensure that we can crowd funds and investments from our institutional investors.  In fact, they are short, they are all not meeting their prescribed assets, set up targets that we set annually through IPEC. For them to comply, we have to include issues such as the water infrastructure. 

          On the issue of the mining industry, I think we have a multi mineral ore bodies and the proposal here is that we really must pay attention that most of our all bodies have multiple minerals not just lithium.  It is lithium and something else or coal and something else or gold and something else.  We should be alert and make sure that we maximise on the benefit of all minerals.  In fact as I speak, we have a new policy or rather I emphasise that if someone has an exclusive prospective order, it should be for a specific mineral.  If it is gold, then it is gold, if you find the gold, you say yes I have found the gold in such and such a place.  You cannot say I have found but also some lithium, platinum so can I mine, we will say no, mine what you asked to mine. 

          The lithium and the other things belong to Government.  Someone else will come along and mine those items.  We want to be very tough on the EPOs and how they are awarded and how then minerals are exploited once they have been discovered. 

Let me turn to Hon. Sen. Chief Chikwaka.  He started by going back to the issue of sugar tax, again I want to emphasise, it is the sugar content tax.  Also, he thought that the taxes will be heavy for citizens, we have already reduced the taxes.  Also the world over, all governments have a problem with noncommunicable diseases.  These are very difficult diseases to deal with.  We are looking at cancer, cardiovascular diseases.  We have found a way to deal with HIV but even HIV, it is causing comorbidities, cardiovascular morbidities including cancer itself.  We always need to find a way to respond and the way we can respond as Government is to target what we call sin taxes because we could not find a better word.  It is about alcohols, sugar, cigarettes and so forth.  This is part of that sin taxes agenda where we target these taxes to enable Government to respond effectively to the scourge of these non-communicable diseases.  One thing that is coming out, may be real experts will bear me out is that COVID, MCD cases across the world seem to have gone up by as much as 50%.  It could be the issue of long COVID factor, I do not know what is going on but we have a challenge.

Hon. Sen. Chief Chikwaka also mentioned the issue of the licencing of the informal sector to make sure that they are VAT registered before they can source goods for manufacturing and that may be the system will become cumbersome.  That is what we want, that is how we formalise the informal sector.  We have to find a way to make sure they contribute, they stick to our laws, they know the laws, they are clever entrepreneurs and so forth.  Let us try to formalise.  If this fails, we will adapt maybe the other ideas that will come through until we get it right of making sure that the informal sector contributes to the fiscus, to the economy in a traceable formal way. 

Then Hon. Sen. Zindi, the issue of strategic reserves, she made a very important point that we also need to find a way of capturing revenues from investors as they arrive in the country not to wait.  This is a good idea, we will investigate this issue, already we are looking into other issue of EPO licence fees.  If a foreign investor is only paying US$1 500, that is a very low amount and we ought to raise it.  I am aware that the Ministry of Mines is in hot pursuit on this issue.  I thank her for that issue. 

The other thing that we have done is we have removed the special economic zone status provisions for any mining project. No mining project can be awarded special economic zone anymore, it is gone.  It was passed in this House as you recall two years ago.  I know that those who had received SEZ status, actually there are three mining companies.  They have been trying to persuade us to stay but then we have said to them look, you need to beneficiate, if you show us your beneficiations plans, what you produce in the end, we are happy to extend special economic zone status to only that portion of your business which is doing beneficiation.  For instance, you can imagine, if it is a steel producer, we cannot give them; SEZ status for the mining of the ore.  That aspect no, but for the actual production of the steel in a linked business, in a factory, personal manufacturing, we have become very clear, we are going to revise the framework for the mining sector going forward.  Then they need to create a template for how these investors should conduct corporate social responsibility.  I agree, what we have proposed in this budget was the initial one percent tax or levy which will be ploughed back into those communities but a more comprehensive framework should be developed.  As I speak, the President has set up special Cabinet committee to look into these issues around mining sector, the incentives, revenues, contracts, will be reporting to the President in the next few months.  I am a member of that Committee. Once that Committee has met and go through the issues, I can assure you, there are no more tax heavenlies in mining, it is a thing of the past.     

I now turn to Hon. Sen. Kambizi, he mentioned that for us to run a country, we need tax revenues even more so for Zimbabwe under sanctions, under various credit situations where we are unable to access credit easily globally because of arrears, clearly we need to rely more on domestic resource mobilisation.  That is why in this budget, we tried hard to find ways to increase revenue so that we can finance development. 

Also there was the mention of US$300 that we have now included the salary for civil servants which is taxable, but pensionable. When it comes to pensions, as we do now, pensions are payable in both USD and ZWL. We will maintain that arrangement for civil servants.

          On the passport fee, we have reduced this and we are differentiating between those who want urgent passports. Typically, they are business people who have emergencies. They can afford and they are paying more than ordinary citizens. On passports, we were very convinced by the strategy that we need to catch up with the other nations. We are trying to introduce equipment at the airport, since now that we have got the e-passport with a chip and so forth that the machine should be able to read that chip and you should be able to walk through the gates without talking to any individual. It should be fully automated. The same that you find in Dubai, we want that to be introduced in Zimbabwe by end of 2024. We will use the money for that.  

          Hon. Sen. Gotora was very eloquent on the issue of beneficiation that we must insist on the beneficiation of every mineral. I think that should be the goal. I really agree with that and thank him for that proposal. We are already insisting on lithium, platinum, granite and chrome, but it is a blanket request from him and I concur. I think as the Cabinet Committee that the President has set, we will go through the motion. This is one of the things that we will feature highly. I must say that when we sit here, I listen very carefully.

          Some of these ideas that we are proposing, not only will you find them in the budget or with amendments, you will also find them in the way we set other policies beyond the budget. So, we listen carefully. This issue is already an idea for our Cabinet Committee of imposing beneficiation blanket across everything. It applies to timber as well which is found in Lupane and other places like Tsholotsho. We need to beneficiate and I fully agree.

          The issue of taxing vendors was also mentioned and again it is our hope that the measures we have put in place should allow us to make sure that the vendors contribute their fair share to our taxes. In the proposals, we heard that there should be hawkers’ licences, those cards that he mentioned will be introduced. We used to be there and so we will go back there and it works.

          On the issue of the wealth tax, I can assure the Hon. Sen. that this will be ring fenced. We have said this should target urban infrastructure. What is happening at the moment is that Government is called upon from time to time to intervene to develop infrastructure in our cities, but that is typically not properly budgeted for. This will solve that problem. If you look at the growth of countries, cities ought to contribute a lot to the growth of an economy. We want to make sure the infrastructure is quality infrastructure and then the city can really contribute to the gross of the economy.

          We do not want to deprive areas which are contributing, let us say less this wealth tax and say since you contributed very little, we cannot give you a lot of money, we will give it to those who are contributing a lot. There is also a redistribution aspect that we must consider. For instance, you can imagine Mr. President, we were taxing people in Mbare, it is just an example. We will not tax them, this is just an example. The value of their houses is not as high as Borrowdale, then we say you Mbare people are contributing rather little, so the allocation for infrastructure will also be low.

          We are suggesting the exact that what people at Borrowdale are contributing, a good part of that should go and support those who are in Mbare, but quite a bit should also be using Borrowdale itself. We need to strike a balance between redistribution and revenue contribution, area by area.

On the (CSR) Corporate Social Responsibility, again I agree that at the moment, it is a voluntary issue. Going forward, we should make it compulsory across the mining sector. For now, it is already there because we have got the 1% tax and it is for lithium sector and granite sectors. So, we are getting there slowly, but eventually, we have blanket low to say there must be CSR.

          I now turn to Hon. Sen. Mohadi on the toll fees for the infrastructure upgrade and maintenance of our infrastructure. She mentioned a very important point that there are some citizens who naturally live near a tollgate and we should make sure that they are not overally taxed because they go through that tollgate many times a day. Should we not make sure that we lower the toll fees for them - we are already doing this. What happens is that there is a monthly fee that is negotiated with ZINARA which is lower than for the normal motorist who uses the toll gate once as opposed to our citizens who live near these tollgates.

It is already in place, but Hon. Sen. Mohadi will take a look and see if we have done enough or we should lower further and we make the necessary adjustment, but this principle is accepted. The spacing of these tollgates, you mentioned Masvingo that there are two tollgates that are 20 kms apart, we should look into that. You emphasised the issue of the multiple mineral ore bodies where we should be alert and make sure that we are not losing other minerals.

For example, if you look at Zimplats here in the Ngezi area, we think of it as a platinum producer, but there is a more valuable mineral that they produce called rhodium, which overtime, we will wake up to it and then discover that there is rhodium. So, now we are alert and we are making sure that the understanding of what is exported is clear that those minerals are also in there and they pay royalties accordingly. We are now alert, but we will continue to do more. There are always leakages and we want to make sure that we plug the holes.

She also mentioned the importance of CSR for the benefit of the communities. The issue of seizure of goods, here it is ZIMRA which is really up my ally, ZIMRA reports to me. The goods are kept for six months and not auctioned on time. I will really investigate this issue and I thank Hon. Sen. Mohadi for raising this. There must be some inefficiency somewhere, it ought not to be the case.

I now turn to Sen. Shiri who talked about the fuel strategic levy which she thought was a good idea, but also mentioned the issue of the disability levy and perhaps a discount for those with disability at our tollgates and make sure they pay a lower toll fee. These are good ideas and we will look into this and see whether we can extend these benefits to those who are less abled. We already have this benefit when it comes to importation of goods and so forth, but why not toll fees? It is a good idea and we will look into that.

I now turn to Hon. Sen. Muzenda, regarding backing our currency using our natural resources.  In a sense, this links to what Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira talked about in supporting our domestic currency and dealing with stability issues.  In a way, this also kind of motivated the introduction of our gold coins as a store of value as an investment asset, then digitising it into what we now termed ZiG which allows us to transact and use it for buying goods and services in our shops.  Basically, the idea here was having a gold backed medium of exchange which can support value of a currency.  That is the idea.  These ideas are going the right direction, which is that our natural resources can be used to back a currency.

          In any case, when we are building reserves, we ought to also build gold reserves because that is a physical asset to back a currency.  We will think of other ideas and other proposals.  If you have other proposals, we are happy to take those on board. Also, Hon. Sen. Muzenda made a proposal that perhaps we should think of taxing the diaspora.  I think that is something to think about.  Other countries do that, as long as someone maintains the citizenship of whether it is United States, wherever, the taxman follows you to say, we know you are Zimbabwean but you ought to pay your tax because you are a citizen over here too. 

          The issue with us is slightly different.  We receive about USD2 billion from diaspora in remittances.  That goes directly to support families. It supports valuable and targeted form of aid.  I am not so sure that we want to perhaps tax it.  Even on IMTT, we remove the 2% tax, even for those remittances to say we appreciate that the money is coming here to support us.  Besides, indirectly it ends up paying tax anyway, because if it is coming to ambuya somewhere in Gokwe, that ambuya will end up going somewhere to buy sugar, this and that.  As they do that, they pay things like VAT.  So it ends up being netted into the tax bracket indirectly through the recipient on the ground.  So I do not think we want to go beyond that.  I think we should be clear that the USD2 billion is coming in every year.

          There are teachers that we sent to Rwanda, I understand that they are paying their taxes in Rwanda.  I think they will only stop paying when we then have this avoidance of double taxation agreement, but I will also stand guided by my staff on such issues.  My understanding was that they would pay at the source of their salary. The source of their salary is in Rwanda.

          I now turn to Hon. Sen. Mbohwa who was pleased that I was able to make some adjustments to some tax proposals in response to the debate in the Lower House and also to the public contributions.  Certainly, I had to do this, but also because the budget proposals are exactly that.  These are proposals, when we present a budget you make proposals and you should be prepared to adjust in response to certain segments and new ideas.  Some are very good ideas to input and that is what we did.  Thank you very much for the public knowhow, especially for their contributions.

          Hon. Sen. Mbohwa also mentioned that we are a rich country and these taxes that we raise, should be directed at the needs and I agree with her on this.  It should be targeted, let us say for example, the sugar content tax is targeted at the cancer scourge.  Sen. Mbohwa also talked about – I think she used the word mambinga, I do not think we have got any other word to describe the phenomenon that they have got to pay their fair share of taxes.  That is why the wealth tax is a starting point.  Sen. Mbohwa also said that we should make sure that the use of the sugar content tax is really monitored and not abused.  She also welcomed the increase of budget for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which I increased last week in the Lower House.  We will go further and also introduce prescribed asset tax so that we can support women entrepreneurs.  Actually, that bank is an example to the world.  We should even do more, it is either capitalise the bank to keep going.  I said to the management that they must look at other models where they can expand their reach out there by partnering with the POSB bank, which is a bank with more reach than they currently have so that they can provide services to women all over the country.

          This bank needs support, so if we can cow the investment from pension funds through the prescribed asset status, I think this will go down well, it is an example to the world. She also talked about investing in more space for women entrepreneurs who are vending.  I fully agree and then supporting our women politicians because the population of women politicians in our Parliament is dwindling.  I agree with this.  She then talked about supporting our Parliamentarians with hotel accommodation.  I think we have had some systems that have glitches, but there is an issue about sticking to a pre-agreed three months – we agreed as Parliamentary Standing Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (SRO) that the budget should be given three months in advance by Treasury.  We stand committed to that, we just have to implement this.  It will assist in managing issues regarding hotels.

          Then on transportation, Hon. Mbohwa talked about this issue that Parliamentarians need their vehicles, we will deliver.  As we recall, in the last Parliament we made an adjustment at the end and each MP is allowed to bring in two vehicles duty free up to an amount of USD60 000.  That provision still stands.  We will continue so that any Member of Parliament can bring a second vehicle through that window.

          The Hon. Sen. Mlotshwa, I heard what you said, but I am not going to use Ndebele, there are technical terms.   I will speak in English.  Hon. Sen. Mlotshwa mentioned issues of water challenges in Matabeleland South.  She is right and when she mentioned a specific dam called Lubango Dam which needs to be better utilised.  I will discuss these issues with the Minister responsible for Water and Agriculture.  I will alert him to this issue.  The issue is that we are going to do to deal with the water challenge.  We have in this budget, a borehole drilling programme of 35 000 boreholes.  Of course, we cannot do it in one year.  In fact, I worked it out that we are targeting to import 80 drilling rigs, where 35 000 villages will benefit.  If each rig is doing about two boreholes a week to get water, it is going to take us about four years to drill these boreholes.  So expect this to be a multi-year programme.

          I must say that also in Matabeleland South, there is an exemplary project, where there is an irrigation project at Antelope Dam.  This is an exemplary project of rural development.  In fact, there are two examples, there is Antelope Dam and there is Bubi-Lupane Dam, where the Ministry of Agriculture is irrigating wheat, maize and also, I think around the Antelope there is also cattle but not yet in Lupane.  The idea is that we will get to a certain hectarage after which we will then invest in agro-processing facilities in the area.  So, bread we will then get it made near Antelope and Lupane. However, there is a certain critical acreage that must be under tillage before we get to that programme, otherwise the beneficiation aspect, agro-processing is not commercially viable.   That is what the experts are telling us.

          Going back to the dam issue, we have the Thuli-Manyange Dam, which is under construction.  Again, we will go into 2024, we will budget for it so that it is completed.  I think also for Matabeleland South and other areas where we have good livestock and quality beef, we need to invest in pasture development.   Once you have got a dam, we should open up land and just grow lucerne to feed cattle and also have a grass cutting programme from provinces with grass. I recall that three years ago, we pushed as Government on this but I think we slowed down. At least I am not getting information that we are still pushing on it whereby we cut grass from Mashonaland East, Central and West where we have better rains. It is baled and sent across to provinces like Matebeleland where there is need under a programme by Government. So, growing cattle feed and bailing feed from provinces that have better rains maybe a way to deal with the livestock food issue.

The issue of piped water, I am reminded Mr. President; I was speaking to the Member of Parliament for Lupane East, there is a place called Lake Alice. When the MP facilitated the drilling of a borehole which is solarised and they put tapped water into one or two villages, villagers cried. I saw the video myself, tears streaming down their cheeks because children had never seen tapped water. So, the issue of tapped water is impactful in the rural areas. We have to make every effort to invest in easy access of water so that women do not go around carrying buckets. It is such drudgery to go and fetch water, put it on your head and so forth. It really affects women’s health and is not gender sensitive. Piped tap water is gender sensitive.

The road to Matopo, I fully agree and it is a tourism area. I know that Bulawayo-Kezi Road very well and it is in a bad state and needs to be attended to. I think your sentiment that perhaps could a road be done under public-private partnership as mentioned by Hon. Sen. Mlotshwa, where we can then toll the road is a very good suggestion.

Supply of electricity for housing in Plumtree, Gwanda and so forth, I agree that we really need to do something about this but then we have an electrification challenge overall in terms of the amount of electricity produced. Now, we have issues with Kariba catchment area and it will be until April before we know whether we have got some recovery in terms of electricity production or not. Hwange 1 to 6 is coming under upgrade, which is a good thing. Over time, we know we will increase the amount of electricity but we are also encouraging independent power producers to invest in electricity generation.

We have improved our framework which is made up of three pillars. We now have an economic tariff and we believe that at 16.88 cents per kilowatt hour, most solar power investors are profitable. Most of them are profitable at 9 to 10 cents per kilowatt per hour, so they are okay. We are also providing Government guarantees for power purchase agreements so that if ZETDC cannot pay for the electricity, Government will step in to pay for that electricity. We are allowing for these investors to access foreign currency to service their loans and that is called foreign currency convertibility and access agreement. We are doing something about it and over time there will be an increase in electricity production and hopefully these houses will be connected.

I now turn to Senator Moyo who talked about the health sector and need to invest in hospitals especially in Matebeleland South. We are going to build a new district hospital in Umzingwane District. We are on to it already. It is part of a programme that we started in Harare South, Hopley area when we built a polyclinic there. That is done and then we moved to Cowdry Park, Mataga area in Zvishavane and we have now finished the polyclinic in Chimanimani in a place called Runyararo. Our next target is that district in Matebeleland South where we are now going to build a bigger hospital which is a district hospital but also in Wedza. We are doing those two simultaneously.

I know that programme so well because I negotiated it. What we did for that programme is, we sourced almost US$200 million from South Africa. That arrangement was funded by South African banks and we persuaded the South African Government to give a guarantee to their banks to lend us money. So, the South African Government was very critical in delivering this project. We are going to build 30 polyclinics and every province will get at least two, maybe three and then six district hospitals. The same company called NMS from the UK has built over 60 such facilities in Zambia and I sent a Treasury and Ministry of Health team to go and see the district hospitals in eastern Zambia and they were blown away by the quality of the equipment.

If you go to Hopley or Mataga now, you will be amazed at the quality of the equipment. I had never seen a mobile x-ray machine which comes to you. You do not go to it and whoever is using it is able to do whatever diagnostics and it is shown on a screen or sent by bluetooth to a printer for printing. I am just describing high-quality world-class machinery. So, we are coming to Umzingwane District. We will procure ambulances.

On drugs, we have received 460 tonnes of drugs from Egypt. Basically, Vice President Chiwenga and myself made arrangements in Egypt for these drugs to be sourced. We spent US$16 million on that. They have all been delivered. Some of them came by sea, air and the last delivery was about three weeks ago. As I speak, I hear NatPharm do not even have space to store these drugs. I am waiting to see these drugs being moved around our hospitals and supplied to our patients but I agree with Senator Moyo that we have to stay focused on supplying public hospitals with drugs. It is important.

On mineral beneficiation, he touched on this issue that I already tried to deal with that let us beneficiate our minerals. On Hwange Colliery, he asked whether we are giving support or not. Hwange Colliery is a corporatised entity which is listed for a start in the London Stock Exchange, Johannesburg Stock Exchange and here it is suspended but technically it is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. It is a serious corporate and one of our most illustrious corporates but it is under administration or curatorship because of issues with creditors and so forth. We are now working on a programme to get it out of administration just like we did with AirZim two and half years ago. The Treasury team led that exercise and I will tell my team to get on to Hwange and fix it.

If you look at Hwange, it is more than a mining company which owns houses, hospitals, schools and the city. There is no City of Hwange without Hwange Colliery, but when we restructure this company, we have to think about whether we need to keep the houses on the balance sheet of the company or those houses should be under the local authority.  Should the hospital be on the balance sheet of the company or it should be under the Ministry of Health and Child Care.  You see where I am going with this.  Cleaning the balance sheet of the company should be one of the things we do.  We should think through it but we are on to it to resuscitate Hwange Colliery.

          On the trucks that are plying our roads causing accidents and so forth.  I think this is a case for rail.  We are also on to revamping the NRZ.  There is an agreement between, for a start, our three Presidents, President E. D. Mnangagwa, President Nyusi of Mozambique and President Masisi of Botswana to harmonise our railway system so that we have the same gauges and wagons can move across the three countries easily.  What I am really trying to say is that this matter of the railway line is high on the agenda.  If we can fix NRZ, upgrade it, then we can say all these trucks carrying these heavy minerals and so forth please use the wagons on the rail to move these minerals and stop damaging our roads and causing accidents, we will get there.  We are determined that in 2024 we will make progress in supporting the NRZ.

          The Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme, the need for mechanisation again, I agree with Sen. Mbohwa that the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development is working on this programme to mechanise.  You have got hand held tractors Mr. President.  You can hold them along and they can do this.  Even for Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme where you drill a hole, there is also hand held equipment which can drill that hole.  It is available.  I am aware that the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development is pursuing this.  We will have an improvement going forward.

          Hon. Sen. Mackenzie Ncube is again grateful that we are really trying to cast a transformative budget.  A budget that will transform the economy under pressure from sanctions and the credit squeeze.  He wondered whether we should benchmark the Zimbabwean dollar element of the tax-free budget.  We should benchmark that on the United States dollar exchange rate.  That is exactly what we did in this budget.  You will find that that threshold is as close to US$100 as possible and we are saying that anything below US$100 should not be taxed.  We tried to do that, but as a principle I accept his proposal and we will try to implement it.

          He argued eloquently that when we are developing dip tanks let us make sure that we also drill boreholes.  Those should be integrated.  I fully agree.  Now on the issue of buses, we talked about 1 000 buses.  He is right that over time we might feed into the congestion of our cities.  We are aware of that but we still feel that there is a gap in terms of just the number of buses that still need to be filled.  Going forward, I can assure him that his idea of developing a light rail system is well received.  In fact, as I speak there is a project that we are supporting as Treasury.  My deputy went all the way to Marrakech to the IFDB Africa Investment Forum to support the project.  I asked him to go and support a project and they are trying to raise capital to build a light rail system within Harare.  I am not allowed to reveal the project because it involves a private company, but we are in hot pursuit of this issue.  There is the issue of dealing with the ring rod around Harare.  It is about 110km or so.  We tried to do it before using support from Japan and others, but we need to go back to it and redevelop our railroad to manage the traffic situation around Harare.

          Hon. Sen. Mavenyengwa, the issue of sugar tax.  Again, it is a tax on sugar content if I may clarify.  Maybe we were not clear.  I really want to clarify that he also was happy that we will use the wealth tax revenues to support infrastructure development in our urban areas.

          Then the adjustment to the Parliamentary budget.  Yes, we adjusted it by 225 billion last week when we were debating in the Lower House and one of the reasons was because of the cost of constituency visits for example.  There are a few things that are needed.  It is the issue of the constituency visit, the constituency office and then the CDF.  Three things that caused us to revise the budget and we think that we did quite a bit to accommodate those three additional issues.  Then the salaries for staff.  We certainly want to make sure that they are well supported through the budget. 

          Hon. Sen. Ndlovu, the issue of timber beneficiation.  I can only agree with you.  It is very critical.  Then the Maitengwe border post.  It needs to be developed.  I know it was in 2019 I think and I am committing things to memory, we actually set aside a budget to do this border post but it was not done.  Maybe it is an issue of prioritisation.   I have taken note, Mr. President.  We will deal with it.

          Hon. Sen. Chief Ngungumbane was happy with the adjustment that we did.  We listened through the debates of the public, from the Lower House.  We adjusted our proposals on the national budget.  Then perhaps I gave the budget in Zimbabwean dollars and perhaps he was wondering why set it in Zimbabwean dollars.  I should be giving a United States dollar equivalent.  That we can do.  There is no problem but then we must accept that the Zimbabwean dollar is our domestic currency.  So that is our starting point.  We can always give the United States dollar equivalent. 

          He made a very important point that we should insist that certain services be paid for in domestic currency.  I agree with him.  That is why we have tried to say corporate tax, for example 50% of it should be paid in Zimbabwean dollars and we will keep expanding the type of services that ought to be paid in domestic currency.

          The renovation of our stadiums, we are supporting this.  We are quite happy with that and we will expand the programme to other stadiums but also crowed in the private sector.  In the National Sports Stadium, we are also working with a private company that is going to assist us to revamp that stadium.  Sports after all is a business.  It is not just some social activity.  It is very serious business.  He mentioned a very interesting point, I was not aware of this Mr. President, about the takings – ZIFA 6%, PLC 15% and others, SRC and then the police also take something.  I thought that they were already covered somewhere, I thought rather the budget.  This was a surprise they take a part of gate takings.  Maybe there is some rational for this, but I am equally surprised.  Maybe we will look into it and see whether we need to make adjustments here. 

          The smuggling through our borders, we are trying to create a border authority.  Government is working on that.  We have a drone monitoring programme.  We have acquired the drones that will monitor our borders.  We are trying to make progress to deal with this issue of smuggling.  It is never easy at all.

          Then on the PPPs, working with the private sector to develop certain roads.  Yes, we have approached some companies.  We are working on some agreements.  Hopefully we will be successful.  We are looking at for instance the Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road.  It is a prime target for a public private partnership arrangement.  You mention the Buchwa-Rutenga Road.  I have taken note.  I will discuss with the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development that it should be a priority road.

          The issue of electricity, we are working on revamping Unit 1 to 6 having concluded 7 and 8, which is under way and this will improve our electricity output. 

          On the Vote for the National Chiefs’ Council that we need a secretariat, I agree, it has taken long.  The leader of the Chiefs’ Council, Hon. Sen. Chief Khumalo, deputised by Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira, came to see me with some of the senior leadership within the Chiefs’ Council and I support the proposal that we need to establish a secretariat, so that Vote can be managed by that secretariat. 

          On the welfare of civil servants, yes I must thank also Hon. Sen. Chief Khumalo and Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira for insisting that even chiefs ought to be paid a bonus.  They came to see me and I listened and we paid bonuses for chiefs, headmen and those below that structure.  Also, on salary adjustments, we have a formula where the salary of a chief, at least the entry salary, is linked to that of a teacher. We have used that as a default position.  We have to start somewhere, otherwise it will be difficult to see where a chief should belong.  We said  a chief, at least in terms of the entry level, should be almost the same as that of a teacher.  We start from there and then make other adjustments.  It means that whenever we adjust a teacher’s salary, we should also adjust the chiefs’ salaries and those in the structure below.  That is how we have constructed it.  We may seek improvements from that model.  We are happy to listen to some ideas, but that is how we have structured it for now.

          Hon. Sen. Wunganayi, the Senator argued eloquently about the issue of beneficiation that we ought to insist on beneficiation and also that there are some smugglers. You see trucks full of ore leaving our borders, we should really police this.  There should not be anybody exporting anything without MMCZ export licence and on this, we go back to our enforcers to make sure they do their job.  They should again be careful and monitor multi mineral ore bodies.

The swearing in of provincial councils again is an important issue.  I thought this was also linked to the issue of the Devolution Bill. Once that is sorted out, then we can do the swearing in because those two are linked.  

          Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira, I thank you for recognising my commitment. Mr. President, I must thank him for recognising my commitment to the process. After all, that is what the Hon. Minister of Finance should do, to show commitment to the budget and that is what I do for a living as long as one is Minister of Finance. 

          The adjustment we have done, we have been listening to the debate, public, Lower House and made the adjustment before we came to the Upper House in Senate.  He bemoans the absence of Post Budget Seminar; he is right, it is always a useful thing to have a post-mortem of the budget and I think this ought to be done. 

          On the contributions of gold, specifically 0.33% to the coffers when it in fact contributes to 32% of export revenue, that incongruence needs to be understood and fixed.  I fully agree that we need to revisit some of these minerals to make sure they contribute fully to the fiscus.  You need actual figures for USD, we are happy to provide them offline. I just do not have them.  I checked with my team and they also do not have them at the back.  So, we are happy to provide these Mr. President.

          On social protection, with regards to the timely payments of the BEAM funds, I fully agree.  We are having a few challenges with BEAM. For some schools, you will find the entire school is on BEAM.  Then you say, what criteria did they use to select the right students who are deprived and need to be supported.  Someone says that the, SDC which is the School Development Council, should be more active in supporting the leadership to select students who need to be supported through the BEAM programme.  So, these are some of the administration issues that we need to fix, but there is no excuse for untimely release of BEAM funds.

          Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira also agreed with the sugar content tax, but we should just check that it does not affect our sugar price. This is a sugar content tax not tax on sugar, so it should not affect the price of sugar at all. 

On the issue of Chiefs’ Council budget, it is well made and I have already responded to that.  On the issue of exchange rate, he is correct, I think looking at most of our fundamentals, we have managed to put everything in place Mr. President.  In the last five years, we have run a budget deficit along the lines that are considered to be global best practice, budget deficit of below 2% on GDP, look at a current account and the similar part where again it remains in positive parity.  All that is commended, but the issue that still bothers me, the Senate and everybody, is the issue of the exchange rate instability. That is our ultimate challenge that we need to deal with and it is linked to the past, the hyperinflation, the past that we have lived through. The fact that we did not for 10 years have a domestic currency, we had a US dollar and now we have ours and some feel that it is not good enough, those are the facts. 

          The fact that we have not been able to access credit lines easily for balance of payments support, once you have a hard currency as part of your domestic currency, it is even harder to build foreign reserves because your US dollar is domestic currency, it is not even foreign currency.  So how do you build foreign currency reserves when the currency that you ought to be using for building reserves is domestic currency?  So, you can see how complex this issue is.  I must say that we have a few strategies and plans going forward for dealing with this issue of the currency and the exchange rate.  I cannot say more because whenever we say something about exchange rate in currency, it is just having fun, so I will stop here for now.   We are happy to receive any input, ideas and any suggestions from Members of this Senate and the public for us to move forward on the issue of the currency.

          Mr. President, I think I have covered good ground in terms of the input for Members of this august Senate. I thank them for their input and debate, I thank you very much Mr. President of Senate.

Mr. President, I move that the Bill be read a second time.

          Motion put and agreed do.

          Bill read a second time.

          Committee stage: With leave, forthwith.

COMMITTEE STAGE

FINANCE BILL [H. B. 7A, 2023]

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 16 put and agreed to.

On Clause 17:

THE CHAIRPERSON: Hon. Minister, I realise that on Clause 17, amendment of Part 2 of the Schedule to Chapter 4 of Chapter 23:04 is repeated. Can you make that correction on page 16 and page 18?

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. MUTHULI NCUBE): Yes Mr. Chairman, there is a repetition there. Clearly, that is an error. They should be renumbered Mr. Chairman. This correction was in the Lower House. So the latest Bill should have been corrected. I do not know what happened, but clearly, from 17 to 20, those were renumbered and then from 21 onward, it is okay. This was corrected in the Lower House. I think it is just one of those errors in printing that was made.

Clause 17 put and amended to.

Clauses 18 to 58 put and agreed to.

          House resumed.

Bill reported without amendments.

          Third Reading:  With leave, forthwith.

THIRD READING

FINANCE BILL (H. B. 7A, 2023)

          THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. MTHULINCUBE):  I move that the Bill be now read the third time.

          Motion put and agreed to.

          Bill read the third time.

SECOND READING

APPROPRIATION BILL (H.B.6, 2023)

          THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE):  Thank you Mr. President.  On the 30th of November 2023, I presented the 2024 national Budget proposals under the theme Consolidating Economic Transformation.  The budget that I proposed is ZWL$64.2 trillion.  I can say that we really tried hard to balance the attention to support those who are less deprived, the poor and also to stimulate growth.  If you consider what we have allocated for productive Social Protection programmes such as Pfumvudza/ Intwasa, the health sector, the sugar content tax, what we have allocated for the education sector which is the largest recipient of the budget – it is fair to say that this budget tries hard to be pro-people and pro-poor.  At the same time, we have not forgotten that we need to continue investing in our public sector investment programme, our infrastructure where some of the toll fees will be directed to upgrade that infrastructure to maintain it – that is where growth comes from.

          We have not forgotten our industries Mr. President, where we continue to have various incentives to support our industries for purposes of retooling.  For example, the tourism sector, we have extended the duty-free provision for equipment and tools of trade in the sector such as tow trucks and so forth to support our tourism industry.  We feel that this budget with the amounts that are being proposed are targeted to support the development of our country.  If you look at some of the critical areas of support in terms of votes Mr. President, we are very sensitive to the needs of women.  We have increased the budget allocation; we have also been sensitive to the needs of the youths – where again we increased the budget allocation.  In the area of disability, we have allocated an additional budget to the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development for supporting infrastructure development for disabled learners within institutions.

          When it comes to oversight institutions, we have also increased the budget for the Auditor General’s Office so that she can carry out this oversight function including the digitalisation that they need to do.  When it come to Parliament, we are very sensitive Mr. President, to the needs of our parliamentarians, constituency visits, building constituency offices, CDF and so forth and we increased that budget last week by a further 47% which amounted to ZWL$225 billion.

          When it comes to war veterans Mr. President, we also increased the budget by another ZWL$4 billion to cater for funeral expenses of war veterans.  I think it is fair to say that there are certain areas where we have been sensitive to make sure that those areas receive adequate budget within our envelope and our envelope is constrained by our domestic resources that we are able to marshal within borders.  We are focusing on domestic resource mobilisation and also the constraints we face abroad.

           Mr. President, given that the economy will grow at 3.5% next year compared to 5.5% - last year we had 6.5%,  then in 2021, we had a growth rate 8.5% - we feel that at 3.5% rate of growth, this is the size of budget that the economy can carry on the back of revenues that are about 18% of our economy or the Gross Domestic Product.  We feel that we have made appropriate allocations through the Appropriation Bill. 

Mr. President, I now move that the Bill be read a second time.  Thank you.

          *HON. SEN. TONGOGARA: Thank you Mr. President.  My contribution is about the Ministry of War Veterans.  As a new Ministry that has just started, I am appealing to the Hon. Minister if the Vote allocation can be increased so that they can have something to quick start them.

          On the Ministry of Health and Child Care, I am seeing that on the curative section, a large allocation has been given.  On the public health, we have realised that a number of diseases are coming out which need to be prevented instead of waiting for these diseases to be cured.  Why are we not going with the mantra that we prevent instead of curing?  I thank you.

HON. SEN. ZVIDZAI: Thank you very much Mr. President. I would also like to thank the Hon. Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion for the Appropriation Bill for 2024. Looking at the Ministry of Local Government, particularly with respect to disaster risk mitigation and in view of the changing issues around climate, disease, carnage on the roads, would this envelop suffice to deal with the challenges that we face around disasters in a country?

          Secondly, in the past five or so years, we have lost more than half a million herd of cattle to January disease which I think can be classified as a big disaster and perhaps, the Minister would have increased the allocation there so that the January disease can be dealt with once and for all. I thank you.

          HON. SEN. MOHADI: Thank you Mr. President.  Once again, I want to thank the Minister of Finance.  We have seen the budget here, we also encourage for the disbursement of these budgets because you will find that maybe after a quarter or end of year, most of the ministries will not have half of what has been budgeted for, which may portray them to be inefficient. So we encourage that disbursement for these budgets should be done timeously, if possible quarterly.  I thank you.

          HON. SEN. ZHOU: Thank you very much Mr. President for giving me the opportunity to appreciate the Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion for this pro-poor Appropriation Bill (2024).  The Government and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion have prioritised cross-cutting issues, things like persons with disabilities, the youths and women.  This way, Zimbabwe will be able to achieve the goal of an upper middle income by 2030. 

          I also noticed that under Higher Education, the Appropriation Bill is targeting persons with disabilities and introducing some stand-alone budget provision that are aimed at establishing disability resource centres, especially in universities across the nation, which is really best practice in inclusive budgeting. 

          I also want to thank the Hon. Minister that this Appropriation Bill 2024 on Health Care talks about providing resources for the assisted medical treatment orders. Most of our vulnerable members of society will benefit not only by consulting doctors, but also will have access to medicines.  With these few words, I am very pleased that this is a very pro-poor Appropriation Bill (2024).  I thank you.

          *HON. SEN. KATUMBA: Thank you Mr. President.  I would like to say a few words thanking the work that the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion is doing.  I want to concentrate on the Industry and Commerce that if the Minister could carefully scrutinise that area in order to revive the industries in our country.  Most of our industries are closing, many youths are at home jobless.  I am therefore saying that the Minister should put more allocation to the industry so that we broaden the base of taxation.

          HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA:  Thank you Mr. President.  I am back to continue with my previous contribution in which you advised that I should rise at Appropriation Bill Stage.  My issue is to do with Vote 31, National Council of Chiefs.  I had mentioned that this Vote is a Constitutional appropriation.  Going into figures, this Vote being a Constitutional Appropriation, over the last ten years, I believe we have been doing things unconstitutionally.  I want to raise the issue to all the legal minds in this room to go and relook at this issue where you provide a Vote for the National Council of Chiefs but those who administer the Vote are not the Chiefs Council itself.  I think it is a serious violation of the Constitution and it has to be addressed.  I thank you. 

          THE HON. MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE):  Mr. President, I thank the Hon. Senators for their inputs, questions and suggestions.  Starting with Senator Tongogara, in terms of the War Veterans Budget, we did debate this at lengthy.  We also listen to the public and I also hear what the Hon. Senator is saying.  We felt that the area of need was really around the funeral assistance issues.  That is where we added an additional 4 billion.  We feel that with what we have allocated, we were going to make progress in supporting the Ministry.  Also, Mr. President, Government donated 21 mining claims to the War Veterans Fund to make it 6 farms to the war veterans fund.  I am aware that they also want to set up a bank, they have got some hunting concessions as well.  They also want to set up a real estate company and a financial services company and also a veterans hospital overtime.  They have got big plans, so we think that it is worth supporting them on that agenda, 6 farms if they run properly.  In fact we have two provinces that still have not given us farms because each province is supposed to give a farm.  Two provinces need to give us farms. 

          Mr. President, we feel that supporting this investment company can really profit the War Veterans Department.  We feel that both those assets plus what we have allocated in the budget would carry the day in terms of support for the Ministry.  Through the Ministry of Health again we have allocated quite a bit on the creative side, perhaps we should add more.  What happened in the Ministry of Health is that there are two additional sources of resources which are not in the budget.  As I said for instance for the NMS hospitals, we were actually borrowing almost 200 000 000, the amount is not in the budget, it is actually going to benefit the Ministry.  We look at what we are receiving in terms of the resources from the global fund for HIV aids, from GAVI for vaccination and contributors to our dedicated health fund.  So there is quite a bit of resources going to the Ministry of which resources are not accounted for in the budget. 

          Mr. President, we feel if these resources are used well, the Ministry has quite a bit of resources.  Also we have worked hard to meet the Abuja principle target that the budget should be 15% of the overall budget.  Mr. President, when you look at the above the line budget of about 40 trillion and we are talking about the kind of allocation we have in health, it amounts to about 14% of the budget.  We feel we worked hard to get to the Abuja target, probably, this is a highest level we have reached since I started budgeting for the Ministry five years ago. 

          Hon. Sen. Zvidzai, the issue he raised was to do with disaster risk mitigation.  I am sure looking at the El Nino issues and what happened in 2019 that again we need more budget.  Again we have reflected on this.  We feel that we have allocate quite a bit of budget but besides, for disasters we always have the unallocated reserves as our back pocket because we do not know when they will occur and how they occur and how much is required.  So, we always have that contingency plan.  I can assure him that we will apply adequate resources when such disasters occur. 

          Hon. Sen. Mohadi on timeous disbursement, I agree with her. Actually we have a new system we are putting in place now where we will consider the cashflows available for the next week or two in the first place before we trigger the budget releases.  Currently, in terms of our system we do the budget releases and then wait for the cash to come through.  The Ministry then is expecting money, then money does not arise for two to three weeks, then it becomes a problem. So, to lower expectations or to align expectations it should be the cash availability first that should be communicated.  We will manage this as we go forward.

          I agree with Hon. Sen. Zhou that this budget is pro-poor as it is supporting social services, social infrastructure, looking at what we did for education, health and social protection programmes.  The issues of health budget for assisted medical orders again when we come to execution, we will make sure that we really focus on that so that we deliver approximately for this sector. 

Finally, Hon. Sen. Charumbira on Vote 31, you are right, this is a Constitutional Vote, it should be administered accordingly.  I agree that going forward, let us set up a secretariat which is under the National Chiefs Council to manage the budget, let us develop that capacity because at the moment we are saying there is no capacity, therefore, it should be done through the Ministry of Local Government.  I agree with Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira’s sentiments.  I thank you Mr. President. 

I move that the Bill be read a second time.

          Motion put and agreed to.

Bill Read a second time.

Committee Stage: forthwith. 

COMMITTEE STAGE

APPROPRIATION (2024) BILL [H.B. 6, 2023]

          House in Committee.

          Clause 1 put and agreed to.

          Clauses 1 to 5 put and agreed to.

          On Clause 6:

          THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Hon. Chair, on that clause, there is a correction which was done in the Lower House but was not captured. It is a textual amendment that needs to be made. There is a figure in that paragraph 2 of 6.7 trillion. It should read - ZWL6 338 345 501 000. Thank you.

          Clause 6 put and agreed to.

          Schedule put and agreed to.

          House resumed.

          Bill reported without amendments.

Third Reading: With leave, forthwith.

THIRD READING

APPROPRIATION (2024) BILL [H. B. 6, 2023]

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE):  Thank you Mr. President Sir, I now move that the Bill be read the third time.

Motion put and agreed to.

Bill read the third time.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Thank you very much Hon. Minister and I would like to thank the Hon. Members of the Senate for the hard work which you have put in today.  Your dedication, patience and determination to ensure that today’s main Orders are concluded. I would like to wish you Merry Christmas with your families until we meet again next year.

On the motion of THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT PROMOTION (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE), the Senate adjourned at Eighteen Minutes past Seven o’clock p.m. until Tuesday. 6th February, 2024.

 

 

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