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SENATE HANSARD 24 MARCH 2021 VOL 30 NO 28.

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Wednesday, 24th March, 2021

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

PRAYERS

(THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

HON. SEN. MUZENDA: Thank you Madam President. I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 1 to 5 be stood over until Order of the Day, Number 6 has been disposed of.

HON. SEN. MOHADI: I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

 

ADOPTION OF THE REPORT OF THE PRIVILEGES COMMITTEE INVESTIGATING CASES OF ALLEGED MISCONDUCT BY MDC-ALLIANCE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT

HON. SAMUKANGE: Madam President, I move the motion standing in my name that this House Considers and adopts the Report of the Privileges Committee investigating cases of alleged misconduct by MDC Alliance Members of Parliament.

HON. SIPANI-HUNGWE: I second.

HON. SAMUKANGE: Thank you Madam President. I must start by apologising; apparently there are some hiccups about my ipad. However, can I proceed to read my report?

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: You can proceed Hon. Samukange.

      1.0 Introduction

The Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (“CSRO”) of the Ninth Parliament constituted the Privileges Committee (“Committee”), in terms of section 16 (4) and paragraph 1 of the Schedule of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act [Chapter 2:08] (“PIPPA”). The Committee was tasked to investigate allegations of misconduct by Hon Members of Parliament from the MDC-Alliance. The allegations were raised in a motion by Hon. P. Togarepi in which he cited five occasions on which the derogatory conduct was displayed by Honourable Members in the National Assembly and the Senate when His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr. Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (interchangeably referred to as “His Excellency” or “the

President” or “the Head of State”) attended Parliament on these occasions, namely—

  • the Official Opening of Parliament of 18 September, 2018, at which Honourable Members of the MDC-Alliance of the National Assembly and the Senate did not rise when His Excellency entered the National Assembly Chamber;
  • the Budget Presentation Day of 22 November, 2018, during which Honourable Members of the MDC-Alliance walked out of the National Assembly Chamber into the courtyard and sang political songs as they did so. While in the courtyard, they continued to sing which disrupted the proceedings;
  • the State of the Nation Address of 1 October, 2019, which Honourable Members of the MDC-Alliance boycotted;
  • the Mid-Term Budget Review of 1 August, 2019, which Honourable Members of the MDC-Alliance boycotted; and
  • the Budget Presentation Day of 14 November, 2019, during which Honourable Members of the MDC-Alliance walked out of the National Assembly Chamber.

     2.0    Committee Composition

The CSRO established a Privileges Committee to investigate cases of misconduct by MDC-Alliance Members and Senators. The Members nominated were—

  1. Jonathan Taonana Samukange - (Chairperson);
  2. Sen. Joseph Madziva Chirongoma;
  3. Sen. Omega Sipani-Hungwe;
  4. Cecil Kashiri;
  5. Stars Mathe;
  6. Brig Gen (Rtd) Levi Mayihlome;
  7. Kindness Paradza;
  8. Aligenia Samson; and
  9. Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga who immediately declined to be a Member of the Committee as she was conflicted. She was accordingly replaced by Hon. Priscilla Moyo.

3.0 Terms of Reference for the Committee

  • The Committee’s mandate was to conduct the following—
  1.       To investigate the conduct of Hon. Members of Parliament from the MDC- Alliance in consecutive instances whereby they:
    1. did not rise for His Excellency, the President; and
    2. walked out of Parliament on His Excellency, the President; and
    3. did not bother to attend Parliament whenever His Excellency, the President attended Parliament
    4. To establish whether such conduct as outlined in (1) a, b and c above constitutes contempt of Parliament; and
  2. Any other incident that may arise from the investigation; and
  3. To report its findings and recommendations to Parliament by 28 February 2020.

3.2    Prior to the 28th February 2020 deadline the Committee received an Urgent Application which purported to interdict the Committee from conducting further investigations. In compliance with the General Rules of Urgent Applications, investigations were postponed to enable the Court to pass the judgement. The Committee’s work came to a temporary halt as the Committee awaited the delivery of the judicial decision. To date, judgement has not been handed down.

4.0 Committee Proceedings

4.1 The Committee’s inaugural meeting took place on the 20th of December, 2019. In that meeting, the Committee familiarised itself with its Terms of Reference and matters pertinent to its work. In subsequent meetings, the Committee agreed on the procedure to be followed and the need to ensure that the principle of confidentiality is strictly adhered to.

The Committee identified Honourable Members of Parliament from both the National Assembly and the Senate who were implicated. A total of one hundred and eleven (111) Members were identified, eighty-seven (87) Honourable Members of the National Assembly and twenty-four (24) Honourable Members of the Senate.

Through the administrative channels of Parliament, the Committee wrote letters to the implicated Honourable Members—

(a)   Advising them of the investigation and requesting them to submit affidavits in the first instance; and

(b) Inviting them to meet the Committee for oral evidence in the second instance.

Members were required to submit any other supporting evidence in their defence in conformity with Section 70 (c) of the Constitution which established the right to be heard. The following documents were submitted—

(a) a joint affidavit for Hon Senators; and

(b) minutes of the MDC-Alliance National Standing Committee meeting of 26 October, 2019.

4.2 Legal Counsel

Guided by Section 70 (d) of the Constitution which gives accused persons the right “to choose a legal practitioner,..” the Committee advised the respondents of this right in letters inviting them to appear before the Committee. This resulted in Mr Muchadehama of Mbidzo and Muchadehama Legal Practitioners presenting himself to the Committee as legal counsel for the respondents; as did Hon Sen. Douglas Togarasei Mwonzora. The Committee advised Hon. Mwonzora that in terms of Statutory Instrument 37 of 2018 he could not appear before the Committee as legal counsel, due to the fact that he was conflicted. For the avoidance of doubt, Hon. Mwonzora was a respondent. After protracted arguments Hon Mwonzora conceded.

Mr. Muchadehama advised the Committee that a court application challenging the establishment of the Committee vis–a-viz the rulings previously given by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Adv. J. F. N. Mudenda (“the Speaker”) had been lodged. Mr. Muchadehama informed the Committee that the matter was sub-judice and lis pendens before the High Court. In Parliamentary convention as applied in Zimbabwe, the sub-judice rule prohibits Parliament from considering matters that are before the Courts.

4.3 Challenges faced by the Committee

The Committee faced the following challenges—

  1. In sending out invitations the Committee discovered that addresses submitted to Parliament by some Hon. Members were incorrect. This led to subsequent delays in delivery.
  2. Delays arising from Court Applications stalled the investigation.
  3. Numerous unforeseen circumstances including—
    • the COVID-19 Pandemic; and
    • the unavailability of Witnesses; the Committee did not meet its reporting deadline and accordingly sought extensions.

      

     5.0 Oral Evidence Received From MDC-Alliance -Hon Senators

5.1 The allegations against MDC-Alliance Hon. Senators were that they remained seated or walked out of the Senate Chamber when His Excellency delivered the State of the Nation Addresses of 18 September, 2018 and 1 October, 2019. The Committee invited Hon. Members to rebut the allegations. An assortment of defences were received from the Hon. Senators, including—

  • that during the Official Opening of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament in 2018, some were still new and operated on instruction from senior Members from their party, thus they were ignorant of Parliamentary Proceedings;
  • that the allegations levelled against them had already been addressed through the docking of their sitting allowances by the Hon. Speaker;
  • that they were threatened by their party that failure to comply with party instructions would result in Members being recalled;
  • that it was not stated in the Standing Orders that they have to stand up whenever the President comes to Parliament;
  • that walking out whenever the President was addressing Parliament did not constitute contempt of Parliament arguing that no international best practices could be found to support that. They stated that the Standing Rules and Orders had since been amended to make it contemptuous to walk out on the President, meaning the offence, was not an offence when it was committed;
  • that they had not been provided with adequate information to enable them to respond to the allegations; and
  • that it was not clear who had walked out because according to their understanding the Senate had adjourned; and that there was no basis for them to be held in contempt of Parliament or to be said to have been disrespectful to His Excellency when technically in their view they were not even supposed to be in Parliament.

5.2 The Committee received further evidence from other Hon Senators who were openly hostile to the Committee. Cases in point include the likes of Hon. Sen. Shoko and Hon. Sen. Sinampande, among others. They denied ever disrespecting His Excellency, yet it was common knowledge, supported by evidence submitted by them that they were whipped to walk out from the Chamber by their Party Leadership.

5.3 The Sergeant-at-Arms testified that Senate business was not adjourned but suspended awaiting the State of the Nation Addresses on both occasions.

 

6.0 ORAL Evidence Received From MDC-Alliance National Assembly Members

6.1 Evidence gathered from Honourable Members of National Assembly was substantially similar to evidence gathered from Honourable Members in the Senate. When it came to legal representation, a large number of Honourable Members waived their right and proceeded to testify. Mr. Muchadehama represented the minority that wished to have legal counsel.

6.2 Those that did not seek legal representation were not evasive but apologetic. Some assured the Committee that they would be the first ones to rise the next time the President comes to Parliament. They also provided unimpeachable evidence which was to the satisfaction of the Committee. For example, Hon. Dr Ruth Labode, among others, did not waste the Committee`s time as she acknowledged the allegations. She went further to state that, she may not have been around on some of the occasions but she remembered that on one or two occasions, she was certainly around. When asked to confirm if she had been around she would have acted in the same manner as her colleagues did, she responded in the affirmative citing the MDC-Alliance party stance as the reason that compelled Members to do so.

Some Honourable Members pretended to conveniently forget what had transpired regarding the five offences to the extent that whenever a question was raised, they deliberately pretended they could not remember. The committee determined that these Members suffered from periodic amnesia.

6.3 It is pertinent that this report informs Parliament that two Hon. Members behaved in a dishonourable fashion, and were extremely hostile to the Committee namely—

  • Settlement Chikwinya, who verbally abused the Committee to be precise while waving his hands and pointing at Hon. Chirongoma he said, “iwe mdara iwe unondideedza ndiri shamwari yako here ini! Unondiziva here? Haaa! pfutseki wako mhani usade kundijairira mhani iwewe”. Prior to this Hon. Chikwinya and the late Hon. Dinha had stormed into the meeting while the Committee was in deliberation demanding to make their oral submissions immediately; and
  • Job Sikhala, who when requested to take oath or affirm that his testimony was true and correct, he refused to do so citing the Constitution did not require him to do so. This prompted the Committee to resolve that there was no way he could testify without following the procedures. He went livid and hurled, Why did you waste my time calling me here…Haaa, stupid mhani...’’ to the Committee before storming out.

The Committee resolved that as per section 16(4) of PIPPA the matter involving Hon Sikhala and Hon Chikwinya would be dealt with in recommendations made by the Committee.

7.0 Findings of the Committee

7.1 Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy and is thus founded on the respect for the supremacy of the Constitution. Constitutionalism includes, amongst other values, respect for the rule of law, observance of the doctrine of separation of powers and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.

Section 2 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that—

“This Constitution is the supreme law of Zimbabwe and any law, practice, custom or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency.”

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (“ZEC”) declared the President the winner on the 2nd August 2018. The MDC-Alliance was not happy with the declaration by ZEC and duly invoked their constitutional right to challenge the decision in terms of section 93 subsections (1) and (3) of the Constitution, which states that—

“(1) …any aggrieved candidate may challenge the validity of an election of a President…by lodging a petition or application with the Constitutional Court within seven days after the date of the declaration of the results of the election…

(2) The Constitutional Court must hear and determine a petition or application under subsection (1) within fourteen days after the petition or application was lodged, and the court’s decision is final.”.

The Constitutional Court heard the case, dismissed the challenge and confirmed the ZEC results on the 24th August 2018. As stated in section 93(3) cited above, the Constitutional Court’s decision is final. The President was thus sworn into office on the 26th August 2018. The Constitutional Court incontrovertibly settled the matter in terms of the law.

After the courts settled the matter and at the commencement of the Ninth Parliament in September 2018, the MDC-Alliance resolved to continue to protest through numerous forms of demonstration against the Head of State. The MDC-Alliance Members exhibited this contemptuous behavior on five instances and continuously disobeyed rulings by the Hon Speaker.

7.2 Previous Rulings by the Speaker on the same

Due to the fact that MDC-Alliance Members of the National Assembly made demonstrations referred to earlier, the Hon. Speaker progressively ruled as follows—

(1) That the Sergeant-at-Arms with the help of the Zimbabwe Republic Police stationed at Parliament eject Members of the MDC-Alliance from the House;

(2) That they will not be allowed back into the Chamber and were suspended from sitting for that day and their allowances for the day were forfeited;

(3) That their sitting allowances be docked for five (5) months.

After the Hon. Speaker’s rulings the respondents continued to demonstrate against the President. This led to the motion by Hon Togarepi which eventually led to the establishment of this Privileges Committee.

7.3 The Law

Section 116 of the Constitution states that—

“The Legislature of Zimbabwe consists of Parliament and the President acting in accordance with this Chapter.”.

Further section 145(1) states that—

The first sitting of Parliament after a general election must take place at a time and date determined by the President, but the date must not be later than thirty days after the President elect assumes office in terms of section 94…”.

The President and Parliament combined form the Legislature and together they derive legislative authority from the people of Zimbabwe that elected them into Office in terms of section 117(1) of the Constitution. At the beginning of the life of a Parliament following a General Election it is custom and practice that the Head of State officially opens Parliament.

7.4 It is trite to mention that whenever His Excellency attends Parliament for the occasion of the State of the Nation Address or the National Budget Presentation, he does so in terms of Section 140 (3) of the Constitution. Rising when the His Excellency enters Parliament is the modus operandi known and applied world-wide to pay homage to the Head of State. It is salutary to note that not all traditions, practices or cultures are prescribed by law. The Office of the President is a constitutional office grounded in the supreme law that commands respect because of what it represents. Members of Parliament, like all other citizens and residents, are expected to acknowledge the dignity and legally sanctioned leadership status of an individual, in his or her official capacity.

7.5 In terms of Section 128 of the Constitution, Members of Parliament are required to take the Oath of a Member of Parliament before he or she sits in Parliament. This oath is prescribed in the Third Schedule to the Constitution reads as follows—

“…I will be faithful to Zimbabwe, that I will uphold the Constitution and all other laws of Zimbabwe, and that I will perform my duties…faithfully and to the best of my ability.”.

The requirement to agree under oath to uphold the Constitution is an unequivocal requirement to holding public office. In simple terms, if you uphold the Constitution and other laws, principles, or decisions, you must support and maintain it, under obligation.

7.6 The title “Honourable” which Members bear is used for high officials in many jurisdictions, the title demands that Members act in the best interest of the nation, province, state or territory concerned. In particular, public officers, have a fiduciary relationship with the citizens on whose behalf they act and are entrusted with the responsibility to protect and uphold the common interests of the citizens. These same citizens rise on sighting their elected representative and yet Members of Parliament refuse to do the same for the Head of State who like themselves, embody the people’s will. Members of Parliament have complementary obligations to their Parliament—

  • which should protect, strengthen and promote the Parliament; and
  • which should reflect favourably on the reputation of the institution of Parliament.

Generally, the behaviour of the Members of Parliament must be decorous and must not bring Parliament to shame.

7.7 PIPPA and the Standing Orders of both Houses of Parliament are clear on the powers of Parliament in disciplining its own Members.

7.8 Investigations by the Committee revealed that the MDC-Alliance met and made a resolution to disrespect His Excellency, the President. As stated earlier, the Committee received Minutes of the National Standing Committee of the MDC-Alliance held at the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House on the 26th of October, 2019, which stated that the leadership of the MDC-Alliance had, “reiterated the Party stance that the elections were stolen, and that ED was illegitimate”.

Furthermore, the same minutes reflected that, There was a standing instruction that we should never recognize ED’s address to Parliament.” and that, “Drastic action will be taken against those who continue to undermine the party position.”.

7.9 The Committee found that Tabitha Khumalo, the then leader of the Opposition, Prosper Chapfiwa Mutseyami former Opposition Chief Whip, Nomathemba Ndlovu, former Deputy Opposition Chief Whip in the National Assembly and Lilian Timveos former Opposition Chief Whip in the Senate were the chief instigators and enforcers as they ensured that their collective party strategy, that is disrespecting His Excellency whenever he attended Parliament, was executed as had been agreed upon by the MDC-Alliance at Harvest House on the 26th October, 2019.

7.10 The Committee discovered that, all MDC-Alliance Members and Senators acted in common purpose by commission or omission.

7.11 The majority of MDC-Alliance Members were defiant and unapologetic for their misconduct. Hon. Watson was particularly hostile and disrespectful in her responses to the Committee suggesting that the Chairperson was fooling himself or trying to fool her which was not palatable to the Committee.

7.12 In summary, the Committee found the MDC-Alliance Members guilty of contemptuous behaviour. They also exhibited gross disrespect by boycotting, walking out and singing political songs, on the five occasions mentioned earlier in this report.

         8.0 Observations

8.1 Since time immemorial, whenever the Head of State walks into or out of the Chamber, all Members rise. This is a standard practice of showing respect. The acts of walking out and not standing up, as a sign of respect, is un-parliamentary and disrespectful to the Head of State and constitutes contemptuous behaviour.

It is, therefore, the Committee’s view that these allegations are of a very serious nature which are designed not only to demean and humiliate the President himself but to scandalise him. This conduct was also intended to send a message to the local, regional and international community that the President was not democratically elected. The Committee felt that it was equitable that all the Honourable Members of Parliament who disrespected the Head of State be given the similar punishment as their offences were similar. These Members are listed in Annexures A and B appended to this report. Annexures C and D contain lists of former Members of Parliament who were recalled during the investigation. Annexure E Lists Members who passed away during the investigations.

       9.0   Recommendations

9.1   Taking into account the severity of the matter, the Committee recommended—

(1) that Parliament, withdraws Diplomatic Passports from the Honourable Members listed in Annexures A and B from the date of adoption of this report; and

(2) that those Members pay a Level 12 Fine to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Turning to Honourables Chikwinya and Sikhala, it must be stated that Contempt of Parliament is committed during Parliamentary proceedings. There is no need for further investigations as a record of what transpired already exists. It is the view of the Committee that both Hon Chikwinya and Hon Sikhala committed Contempt of Parliament when they appeared before the Committee; for this reason the Committee recommends that they pay a level 14 Fine to the Consolidated Revenue Fund in addition to the Fine given in paragraph 2 above.

         10.0 Conclusion

10.1 The Committee would like to thank all Hon. Members who made this report possible under very difficult conditions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative that this Report be adopted as it is, so that the message to the disrespectful Hon Members is sent home once and for all.

ANNEXURE A

LIST OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS

  1. G
  2. S
  3. S
  4. L. T
  5. S
  6. J
  7. C
  8. W
  9. R
  10. S
  11. G

12.Chimina. L

13.Chinyanganya 14. Dube. Brian

15 Dube. Godfrey

  1. Dube. Patrick

17.Gabbuza. J. G

  1. l . T
  2. C
  3. S
  4. J. R
  5. J
  6. W
  7. M. R
  8. C
  9. W
  10. S.V
  11. N
  12. S
  13. B
  14. J
  15. J

33.Mangora. B

  1. Maphosa. L

35.Markham. A. N

36.Mashakada. T

  1. Masuku. P

38.Mataruse. P

  1. Maxwell
  2. M
  3. S. M
  4. M. M
  5. Molokela-Tsiye. F. D
  6. Moyo Charles
  7. Moyo Peter
  8. P
  9. D. L
  10. E
  11. A
  12. Ndlovu Stella
  13. S
  14. J

53.Nyoni. I

54.Phulu. K .I

55.Sansole T. W

56.Saruwaka. T.J.L

  1. J
  2. G. K

59.Sithole James

60.Tarusenga U.D

  1. Tekeshe D

62.Toffa. J

  1. Tshuma. D

64.Tsunga. R

  1. V
  2. N. J

ANNEXURE B

LIST OF HON. SENATORS

1.Chifamba. J

2.Chinake. V

3 Femai. M

  1. K
  2. M
  3. T
  4. T
  5. V
  6. B
  7. E
  8. M
  9. Mwonzora . T D
  10. P
  11. M. R
  12. Rambanepasi C.
  13. Rwambiwa E.

ANNEXURE C

LIST OF PERSONS RECALLED FROM THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

  1. Khumalo Thabita
  2. Hwende Charlton
  3. Mutseyami Prosper
  4. Chibaya Amos
  5. Chidziva Happymore
  6. Majaya Bacillia
  7. Mugidho Muchirairwa
  8. Muradzikwa Zengeya Virginia
  9. Ncube Francisca
  10. Ndlovu Nomathemba
  11. Erick Murai
  12. Wellington Chikombo
  13. Earthrage Kureva
  14. Dorcas Sibanda
  15. Caston Matewu
  16. Lynette Karenyi
  17. Concilia Chinanzvavana
  18. Susan Matsunga
  19. Prince D Sibanda
  20. Unganai Tarusenga
  21. Murisi Zwizwai

ANNEXURE D

LIST OF PERSONS RECALLED FROM THE SENATE

1.Chabuka. K

  1. S
  2. M
  3. G
  4. Sinampande H. M
  5. L
  6. T
  7. H

ANNEXURE E

MEMBERS WHO PASSED AWAY DURING THE INVESTIGATIONS

  1. V. Java Tsvangirai
  2. A. Muyambo
  3. K. Dinar
  4. S. Mushayi
  5. C. Rambanepasi.

I lay the report and its recommendation on the Table and ask that it be adopted.

HON. SEN. SIPANI – HUNGWE: Thank you Mr. President for allowing me to second the motion. If you may allow me to narrate this in my mother language.

HON. SEN. ENG. MUDZURI: I do not think the report is complete. He did not read the annexures, Table A, B, C, D, E so that we know who is who. The report is not complete. Can it be completed?

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: The report is not going to be debated and it is going to be sent to you with the full details. Hon. Sen. Hungwe, you may proceed.

I lay the report and its recommendation on the Table and ask that it be adopted.

HON. SEN. SIPANI – HUNGWE: Thank you Mr. President for allowing me to second the motion. If you may allow me to narrate this in my mother language.

HON. SEN. ENG. MUDZURI: I do not think the report is complete. He did not read the annexures, Table A, B, C, D, E so that we know who is who. The report is not complete. Can it be completed?

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: The report is not going to be debated and it is going to be sent to you with the full details. Hon. Sen. Hungwe, you may proceed.

*HON. SEN. SIPANI-HUNGWE: Thank you Mr. President for giving me this opportunity. I would like to thank Hon. Togarepi for this motion which culminated in the formation of the privileges Committee which carried out investigations to look at the circumstances surrounding what transpired on that particular day. Mr. President, let me support the motion by saying that in our African culture, when an adult comes we are expected to stand up for him to demonstrate that we honour and respect our elders.

If we walk out when our elders enter into the august House, it means that we do not respect them. Whether it is a relative visiting you, it is not acceptable that when they walk in, you walk out. I would like to talk about what happened when the MDC Alliance members failed to respect His Excellency the President Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa who is also the Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. This was a deliberate ploy to tarnish his image globally so that the international community would conclude that he was not elected and also that he did not win the presidential elections. However, we know when elections came, there were several people who competed for the same position and whoever emerged as a winner took leadership.

This demonstrated that we only want to denigrate and despise other people. People know that Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa won the 2018 harmonized elections. We know that and we heard the Chairman of the Committee Hon. Samukange presenting his report saying that this is a collective effort which came out after deliberations within the party. Yes, it is good to have opposition but we need to know that we are all Zimbabweans, if we ask each other about our identity you will discover that we are related one way or the other. It does not matter whether you belong to the ruling party or to the opposition party.

So we are saying that there should be no repeat situation of what happened when the opposition members walked out because this means that wherever you go, you are identified as a Zimbabwean. Let me not waste time but proceed looking at the deliberations that were done by the Committee which saw it fit to make a decision so that there is no repeat of this kind of behaviour. We must know that even the salaries that we are getting are not much but at least we have something and it is said that we are going to have an increment, we were given cars that we are using as Hon. Members even passports, no one is new here and some have been around for quite some time. We have requested time and again that we want diplomatic passports and this was done long back, but His Excellency the President saw it fit that every Hon. Member deserves to be given a diplomatic passport because of their position.

We see some people going out to invite sanctions using those diplomatic passports that make it easy for them to travel abroad. These are the same beneficiaries who invite sanctions upon their own nation just because they are bitter that Zimbabweans did not vote for them and they voted for Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa. This is a beautiful country, in other countries you do not get such things happening. I am 60 years old, I have not seen these things happening in other countries. Those who have televisions saw this happening, some heard it on radios when the Constitutional Court was convened, issues were deliberated in the public and in was determined that Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa won the elections; V11 forms were requested and there was no evidence to support the opposing letters.

It is important that if someone is voted for and inaugurated, other countries will come and witness the inauguration, then we need to honour and respect that. Let us not despise our august House, that is why we are called Hon. Members. Being honourable means that you are honoured, even those who voted for us are not happy when they see such behaviour. Some end up questioning saying, ‘how come you are singing songs of other political parties in the august House?’ This should be done at rallies not in the august House. However, when we come to this august House, we need to sit down and deliberate as adults. So I am saying that Mr. President, I support the report that was presented by our Chairman Hon. Samukange and all that is contained in that report. We know that even when a child breaks house rules, they should be disciplined.

I support the report that was presented by our Chairman Hon Samukange and all that is contained in that report. We know that even when a child breaks the house rules there should be discipline. So l am saying I do not think this will happen again. It happened and it is history. It should end there. Let us honour and respect our President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The President is saying, let us come and talk. Today he is in Victoria Falls with other leaders of political parties because he knows that we are one nation. Let bygones be bygones. Let us walk together. Everyone is allowed freedom of speech.

You can do whatever you think and believe in but when we look at the Lower House, this House is more senior. In the Lower House, there are some young people who might think that this is good. Fighting is not a good thing. It does not produce good results but if there are things that are wrong, people need to engage and talk. These issues were deliberated even in the highest courts in the nation and the courts made a decision that Dr E. D Mnangagwa is the legitimate President for the Republic of Zimbabwe. I thank you.

THE HON DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Standing Order Number 117 provides that every Senator against whom any charge by way of motion has been made and whose conduct having been heard in his or her place must withdraw while such charge is under debate and must take no further part in the proceedings.

The Senate will therefore allow for the adjournment of debate in order to allow Hon. Senators to go and study the report so that they may come and give their responses to the House.

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON ZIYAMBI): I move that the debate do now adjourn.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume: Thursday, 25th March, 2021.

MOTION

LEAVE TO MOVE RESTORATION OF CONSTITUTION OF ZIMBABWE AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 1) ON THE ORDER PAPER

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON ZIYAMBI): I move for the restoration of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill (No. 1) which was superseded by the end of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament on the Order Paper.

Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

RESTORATION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF ZIMBABWE AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 1) ON THE ORDER PAPER

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON ZIYAMBI): I move that the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.1) Bill that was superseded by the end of the last session be restored on the Order Paper. The reason why we could not proceed is that the previous time when it was on the Order Paper, we had to make an application for an extension and the court reserved judgment. They did not allow us to proceed with business of the House in terms of that amendment. Now that the judgment is out and they have given us a green light and a timeframe to do that, I now move that it be restored on the Order Paper so that we can proceed to dispose with business of Constitution Amendment No. 1

Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

REPORT OF THE THEMATIC COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs) ON VELD FIRE MANAGEMENT

HON SEN. CHIEF MTSHANE: I move the motion standing in my name that this House takes note of the report of the Thematic Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Veld Fire Management.

HON SEN MUZENDA: I second.

HON SEN. CHIEF MTSHANE: Thank your Mr. President for giving me this opportunity to present the Committee’s report on veld fire management. If you may allow me Mr. President to start with the introduction of the report.

1.0. Introduction

In recent years, environmental management and sustainability have gained recognition in the world over. Efforts have been made by nations to demonstrate the serious attention that environmental management and sustainability deserve. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 20-22 June 2012 resulted in a focused political outcome document which contains clear and practical measures for implementing sustainable development. In Rio de Janeiro, Member States launched a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were built upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, through the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 03-14 June 1992 also presents a testimony of governments’ commitment towards a sustainable environment. The main Government institutions involved in fire management in Zimbabwe are Environmental Management Agency, Forestry Commission, Agricultural Technical and Extension Services and local authorities. Their roles include awareness raising, education, capacity building and enforcement of fire legislation.

As part of its oversight role, the Thematic Committee on Sustainable Development Goals embarked on a verification visit to assess and appreciate the measures being employed by the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry through the Environmental Management Agency in curbing veldfire. The measures are aimed towards attaining SDG 15 “To protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystem, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt land degradation and biodiversity loss”. The visit sought to apprise the members on how the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry is upholding its policy towards mitigating the impacts of veld fire.

2.0. Objectives

  1. To assess the effectiveness of the measures put in place in curbing veld fires as part of efforts towards achieving targets under SDG 15 “To protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystem, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt land degradation and biodiversity loss”.
  2. To appreciate the challenges being faced by communities in curbing veld fires.

3.0. Methodology

The Committee received oral evidence from Mr. M Munodawafa, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry and Mr. S Kangata, the Director from the Environmental Management Agency on the measures being used to control veld fires in the country. It is from this oral evidence meeting that prompted the Committee to undertake the verification visits to Hunyani Farm in Zvimba District, Lupane Ward 7, Umguza ward 24, Hilton Farm and Land-mill farm in Umzingwane District.

4.0. Committee Findings

The following sections summarises the Committee findings and observations on the legislative framework on veld fire management and control, and at the visited areas during the verification exercise.

4.1. The Legislative Framework on Veld Fire Management and Control

The Government of Zimbabwe has put in place several legislative provisions with regards to veld fire management and control. It is a requirement under Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 (EMA 2007) that any land users, owner or occupier of any land should put in place fire prevention mechanisms. The regulations compel land users, owners and occupiers to have pre-suppression, suppression and post-suppression measures in order to curb veld fires. According to Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 as read together with Environmental Management Act (CAP 20:27), no person is allowed to light a fire outside residential and commercial premises during the period July 31 to October 31 of each year, which constitutes Zimbabwe’s fire season.

The Traditional Leaders Act (29:17) of 1998 empowers traditional leaders to apprehend and prosecute environmental offenders including those that breach veld fires regulations. Parks and Wildlife Act (CAP 20:14) of 1996 (Parks and Wildlife Act 1996) also have measures that are in place before the start of the fire season in order to avoid and curb veld fires. The measures include putting in place standard fireguards that are at least nine m wide for external boundaries and at least 4.5 m wide for internal boundaries. In an attempt to reduce the impact of fires in protected forests, forest fire protection measures are mandatory under the Forest Act (CAP 19:05) of 1996. These fire protection measures include; controlled burning of fireguards around selected areas of productive forest; maintenance of fire lines by disking or hand scuffling; the inclusion of fire protection clauses in the agreements in timber concession, commercial grazing and areas leased for safari operations. The Forestry Act of 1996, also prohibit smoking in a State or private forestry and that anyone who throws away burning material shall be guilty of an offence and is liable to a fine or six months in jail or both.

Despite the existence of such an array of regulations, the biggest challenge is the lack of enforcement mechanisms. For instance, fines and imprisonments are hardly applied to those found breaking the law. Besides lack of enforcement, the fines and penalties imposed on people who start any fires are also very menial and not deterrent. Moreover, perpetrators are not legally obliged to compensate victims for the damage. This is particularly so, given that identification of the perpetrators is often difficult. In addition, the legal process to prosecute the perpetrators is very long. According to EMA, the process of prosecution of environmental crimes in the country’s courts takes too long with some cases dating as far back as 2010 receiving judgments only two years later.

4.2. Findings at Visited Areas

4.2.1 Hunyani Farm: Bee-Keeping Project

The Committee visited the Shanduko Bee-Keeping Project at Hunyani Farm in Zvimba which is a fire management project. The Project started in 2017 with a membership of 32 women. The objective of the project was to protect the environment from veld fires whilst at the same time ensuring self-sustenance. It was alluded by Mr Kangata that the women decided to start this bee-keeping project after realising that the forests were being destroyed by fire every year. They contacted the Zvimba Rural District Council offices in Murombedzi and informed them of their intended project and were advised to come up with a project proposal which gave birth to the project in-discussion.

Shanduko Bee Project partnered with the department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services, Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Forestry Commission, Zvimba Rural District Council and Environmental Management Agency. In the partnership, Zvimba Rural District Council and the Environmental Management Agency donated 64 bee hives, harvesting suits, two overalls, two smokers, a protective hat and wax for the project in 2017. The project members started using the donated equipment in 2018 and it took time for the hives to attract bees with only nine hives attracting bees that year. Honey harvesting started in November 2018 and they got 62 bottles of honey. The Chairperson of the project highlighted that the harvest was not big enough to supply a large market and their readily available clientele was the Apostolic Faith sector (Mapositori) from within their community. The Committee was informed that members of the project decided to decentralise the project to other areas in Zvimba which are Pioneer and Braeside Farm with each allocated 20 active beehives while 35 active beehives remained at Hunyani farm. This was meant to expand their threshold of conserving the environment from veld fires through engaging other surrounding farms.

Shanduko Project Members and traditional Leaders highlighted that occurrences of veld fire have been reduced since inception of the project and hence applauded the women of Shanduka Bee-Keeping Project for their initiative which was contributing positively towards curbing veld fires and improving livelihoods of its members through income generation project.

Shanduko Bee Project members highlighted that they face major challenges to the project that included termites and ants’ invasions that destroys the hives. Another challenge that was highlighted was that of theft from illegal gold miners in the area. They did not have enough resources to secure the areas. They mainly relied on members who stay closer to the hives to monitor and keep watch over the hives. They indicated that most of the perpetrators were not from that community but they come from the surrounding areas scouting for gold and when they cannot find it, they resort to stealing from the bee hives. Moreso, these illegal gold miners were also the culprits causing veld fires in the area.

4.2.2 Lupane Ward 24: Fire-Fighting Team

The fire-fighting team was trained in March 2016 and is composed of both males and females. Fire-fighting trainings were done and coordinated by the Forestry Commission, Environmental Management Agency and the Lupane Rural District Council. After the training, fighters were given tools such as shovels, rakes, fire beaters and knapsacks for water spraying to use during fire-fighting. The fire-fighters made a brief demonstration to the Committee of how they were trained to fight veld fires as a way to show that they clearly comprehended what they were taught during trainings and that were able to practically apply the knowledge in real life situations.

A village head for Gundwani A1 Farm highlighted that veld fires in his area were a result of negligence by the community. This led to the establishment of Veld Fire Prevention Committees in the Gwayi Conservancy. The Committees were trained and the training also cascaded down to village level as villagers usually came on board to assist in curbing the fire as soon as there is an outbreak.

The fire-fighting teams have challenges of limited fire-fighting equipment and of transport to take people to the location where the fire would have started especially when there is an outbreak at a far distant area. The teams were expected to take the leading role whenever there is fire outbreak. However, they did not have suitable clothing such as safety shoes and as such, some would be wearing sandals (mapatapata) which slows them down and at times makes it difficult to reach other places in fear of their own safety. Despite those challenges, fire-fighters thanked Environmental Management Agency, Forestry Commission and the Local Authority for training them. They highlighted that the training had helped to reduce the occurrences of veld-fire in the area to a great extent.

They were also facing challenges from A2 farmers since the farmers do not have many workers and some of the farms were not occupied. Fire from these areas brings a lot of problems because there is no enough manpower to curb the fires. Thus, they made a plea for A2 farmers to employ a number of workers on their farms so that whenever there is fire outbreak, they should attend to it before it spread out. They also underscored the need for A2 farmers to construct fireguards around their farms as provided for in the legislation.

Traditional leaders in Lupane complained that they did not have power and the authority over A2 Farmers which however contradicts with the Traditional Leaders Act (29:17) which prescribe traditional leaders as the custodians of communal land. The community highlighted that most of the fire outbreaks emanate from A2 farms which were not occupied. Some farms have not been occupied for the past 20 years and therefore they requested that the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement should consider resettlement of some people in those farms so that there may be compliance to Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 in terms of fireguard construction around the farms.

4.2.3 Umguza Community: Veld Fire Prevention Measures

The Umguza community like any other community in the country face problems of veld fires. The Committee was informed that fire usually emanates from the Forestry Commission gazetted areas in Mandundumela and at times it takes three weeks for the fire to extinguish. The community therefore requested Forestry Commission to construct pre-suppression measures like fireguards in their gazetted forests as provided for in legislation.

The community pointed out that the major people who cause fire were hunters and bee smokers who after lighting up the fires they just leave and do not put off the fire. The other drivers were cattle herders on their way to and from the cattle market sales. Mostly these cattle herders sleep on their way and they often use fire to keep them warm during the night. At sunrise they will continue their journey leaving behind fires which will then spread. Cigarette smokers also contribute to veld fires from cigarette stubs left burning.

The Committee was informed by the fire-fighting team that they face challenges of walking long distances to reach the places where they have to construct fireguards since the area is very big. The other problem was that the stretch of the fireguard is supposed to be 23km which is too long. The community therefore appealed to the local authority for equipment to use in fireguard construction such as a tractor. It was also highlighted that most of the people in the community were elderly and it is difficult for them to travel long distances to put out a veld fire.

4.2.4 Landmill Farm (Umzingwane Distrisct): Hay Bailing

The farm owner indicated that he is involved in hay bailing activity and every year he produces about 300 bales of hay. This is an initiative that was introduced by the Environmental Management Agency with the aim of reducing biomass in the area. It was reported that other people in Umzingwane area were also undertaking this initiative as well as constructing fireguards around their farms. The Environmental Management Agency is educating them on veld fire prevention methods (fire-guard construction) and fire-fighting techniques.

It was highlighted that veld fire occurrences were last witnessed in 2017 and they were mainly caused by gold miners who use metal detectors. They therefore, appealed to the Committee to engage relevant Government departments to act on these gold miners especially on the use of metal detectors. Members of the community also registered their displeasure that the graders at district offices were too expensive for them to hire in constructing fire guards. It was further brought to the attention of the Committee that some farms had absentee landlords and these were the sources of most veld fires. They also appealed to local authorities, Forestry Commission and Environmental Management Agency for fire-fighting equipment such as fire-beaters, knap sack sprayers and safety clothing.

4.2.5 Hilton Farm (Umzingwane District): Hay Bailing

The Hilton farmer is also involved in hay bailing project and make more than 2500 bales every year. Of these, some were for sale while others were for livestock feeding at the farm. The Committee learnt that the farm covers 30 hectares and it also houses How Mine Gold Mining Company. Artisanal miners were blamed for causing veld fires in the area through their use of metal detectors in search for minerals. The farm owner highlighted that he designed a rewarding system to all those who report culprits who starts veld fire.

On challenges, he indicated that there was inadequate equipment for use in hay bailing. Artisanal miners who were using metal detectors in search of minerals also pose as a major challenge. The Committee was informed that there is no law which prohibits use of metal detectors. These sentiments were also echoed by Mmembers of the Republic Police who attended the meeting. They indicated that without a law, they could not prosecute small gold miners with prospective licences for use of metal detectors.

4.3 Committee Observations

  1. The Committee noted that there were no comprehensive early warning systems at all visited areas. Early warning is one of the most critical aspect of fire management. Early warning, though not very comprehensive but coupled with fire communications, played a pivotal role in increasing the community’s response to fire outbreaks at all visited areas. The Committee however urged EMA to assist local farmers to improve fire monitoring and early detection.
  2. The Committee observed that enforcements help in preventing veld fires. Traditional leaders ability to enforce traditional ways of prevention is key towards curbing veld fires. Traditional leaders were closer to the people and command power in their areas. Payments of cattle as penalties to the chiefs or village headmen by veld fire offenders was deterrent. These measures therefore, reduce the occurrence of veld fires in rural communities.
  3. The Committee noted that punitive measures on offenders were good enough to deter people from causing veldfires if these punitive measures are well enforced and stringent enough as indicated by the members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police who were in attendance at visited areas.
  4. The Committee noted that there were no visible signages for veld fire alerts with inscriptions on where fires can be reported in rural areas. Without coordination, the risk of fire spread is high and thus exposing properties to veld fire risks and damages. Therefore, a carefully managed fire control strategy is needed in rural communities to produce desired results.
  5. The Committee observed that the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry through its parastatal EMA did not have veld fire protection plans in-terms of fire guards construction. An effective fire protection plan will reduce the impacts and spread of veld fires. There is need for an integrated veld fire management approach which does not only focus on protection from fire but a system that takes consideration of other aspects of veld fire management such as education in fire guards construction in rural communities.
  6. The Committee noted that most residents attained educational information on veld fire management practices in their wards. This shows that the veld fire management measures established by EMA were effective. The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry through its parastatal EMA has managed to reach out to the villagers.
  7. The Committee witnessed both male and female fire fighters practically demonstrating how they coordinate to extinguish veld fires, thus putting their learnt theory into practice. This showed community commitment towards the fight against veld fires and pointing to the notion that fire management is everyone’s responsibility. However, the Committee expressed concern on the cutting down of tree branches rather make fire beaters using worn out car tyres in the fight against veld fires.
  8. The Committee noted with concern that in most parts of the country, some A1 and A2 farms were vacant and have no fire guards constructed around them and these farms were used by hunters who are the major culprits in veld fires. These vacant farms aides towards the violation of Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 which obliges land occupiers to have the prerogative right to put in place fireguards surrounding their lands.

4.4 Committee Recommendations

  1. The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry should review the fines and penalties that are being imposed on those perpetrators who are causing veld fire since the existing ones are not deterrent enough by December 2020.
  2. The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry should ensure that environment protection be part of the Command Programme through the Environment and Conservation Subcommittee by February 2021.
  3. The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement should ensure that 20% of the tax from agricultural land use should be used to equip farmers with fire fighting equipment as well as road servitude and grass cutting equipment in rural areas by December 2020.

4 The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry should ensure Environmental Management Agency and Forestry Commission conduct vigorous awareness campaigns on the need to curb veld fires starting February of each year.

5 The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Resettlement should re-visit the allocation of A1 and A2 farms in areas that are not occupied and make sure these farms are settled by year 2021.

6 The Committee recommended that the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works in consultation with the Treasury should provide funding to rural local authorities for the purchase of tractors to facilitate the construction of fireguards that separates rural wards in their areas of jurisdiction by year 2021.

7 Lastly, the Committee also recommended that the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works should award traditional leaders with more power to control the A1 and A2 farmers through declaring these areas under the jurisdiction of traditional leaders by December 2020.

4.5 Conclusion

Veld fires are posing serious challenges to environmental sustainability in the country as they destroy crops, soil fertility, vegetation and animal species indiscriminately. As observed by the Committee in areas visited, most veld fires are a result of careless human activities. The veld fire prevention and mitigation strategies that are being employed by the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry and its parastatals are proportionately minimising the occurrences of veld fire in the country. The establishment of fire fighting and bee-keeping teams had an important role in fire management. The teams effectiveness was however affected by lack of adequate equipment. Grass cutting for thatching by farmers and hay baling played an effective role in reducing the spread of fire. Although hay baling was not directly done to control fire, it contributed to improved fire control. Thus, it can play an important role in fire management. Much still needs to be done in the fight against veld fires.

Thank you very much Mr. President.

+HON. SEN. S. MPOFU: Thank you Mr. President Sir. Thank you for according me the opportunity to contribute to the motion on veld fires that are a menace in the countryside. I would like to thank the Chairperson of the SDGs Committee, Hon. Senator Mtshane Khumalo for bringing up this report on how we can eliminate veld fires in the rural areas.

I was part of the team that went for these visits, whose task was to see what measures can be done so that people do not start fires. The tour started in Mashonaland West at Hunyani Farm where we saw the Shanduko Bee Keeping Project. What excited me is that this project is made up of women only. There are 32 women who have a bee keeping project.

How do bees help prevent veld fires? Bee hives are placed in gum tree plantations and because there will be bees, they would make sure that they safeguard their bees from uncontrolled fires.   These bees help them get money during harvesting. This project comprises of Agritex officials, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Forestry Commission and Zvimba Rural District Council (RDC) to see that they help these ladies. EMA and Zvimba RDC gave them 64 bee hives to start up this project. They said they have managed to harvest and they are selling the honey to the local community, especially the apostolic sect in the area who are the ones who help them to see that their bees are safeguarded from uncontrolled fire. However, there are challenges that they encounter in their task. There are artisanal miners who will be looking for gold. They are the ones who start up fires and leave these fires uncontrolled.

We also went to Ward 24 in Lupane. Here they were saying they have been taught the process of fire fighting in 2016. This project comprises of both women and men and have been given equipment to use in fire fighting like shovels, rakes, containers to carry water for fire fighting. They are saying fires are started by people within the community. Most of the fire emanates from A1 and A2 farms. The challenge is that owners of these farms do not stay there. They have left workers and these workers and abandon the farmers and the workers will go to nearby farms to look for employment and if fires start, there is no one to attend to the fires. In Umguza they also complain of the same challenge of veld fires. The area is surrounded by the Forestry Commission and once fire is started in this forest without anyone monitoring, the fire may go for a week without anyone fighting it until it gets to the nearest communities. For people to get to where it is emanating from, it is a bit far and becomes a challenge for them to go and fight the fire. In the same area, veld fires are also created by people who are doing bee keeping who normally use fire to harvest and in most cases leave that fire unattended to and then it spreads to the rest of the forest.

Our plea is that Government or EMA provides scotch-carts to help them ferry water that they use to fight such fires because even if they are to fight the fires without enough water, it becomes a challenge because with the distances that they walk and with the small water containers that they will be carrying, they are unable to fulfil their mission of fighting the veld fires. They also need appropriate clothing for fire fighting because most of them will be wearing shoes that are not appropriate for that task.

THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Order, I am informed by Hansard that there is a technical fault and interpretation is not coming out but you can continue.

HON. SEN. S. MPOFU: Thank you Mr. President, I was almost about to end my debate. Villagers were appealing for protective clothing for people to wear when they fight the fire. As such, they will be forced to walk long distances to go to where the fires are and by the time they go there they will be tired. They are appealing for transport like tractors, scorch-carts to take them to where the fires would have started. They are also appealing that the court deals with those that start veld fires.

The punishment that is given now is not deterrent enough because a person who starts a fire will be seen roaming around the village yet he would have caused so much damage to the area. They appealed that traditional leaders be given powers to deal with those who start fires. With these few words Mr. President, I thank you.

*HON. SEN. KOMICHI: Thank you Mr. President for affording me this opportunity to debate on this important motion. Mr. President, I am worried about the people who cause veld fires especially in rural areas. Fire is causing more damage by destroying the climate, grass and even the leaves which must act as fertilizer. The destruction of these things by fire can be prevented by us human beings. We can prevent that. Chief Mtshane said that if people erect fireguards on their farms, we can drastically reduce veld fires. It does not cause more destruction like when there are no fireguards. People in these areas are encouraged to follow the procedures or the law to erect fireguards on their farms.

The issue of erecting fireguards must not be optional, but must be law. There is need for a command for it to be successful. Fireguards are not a new thing, they were there a long time ago. Why can we not erect fireguards on our farms as we have the same competence and skill like those which were used in the past? Therefore, if we are doing our things, we must employ the better way compared to what was done in the past. We are now a modern people, which means we have better understanding compared to the past. Long ago, there was little technology but right now we are being seen as failures compared to the past. People who cause fires or those who do not erect fireguards must be given stiffer penalties so that they act swiftly when there is fire.

Burning of the environment, including cutting down of tree causes more destruction to our way of life. Right now we are receiving erratic rainfall and the rivers and dams are being silted, dams are quickly filling up with soil because this is caused by the cutting of trees and burning of grass. Trees and grasses act as a barrier in terms of avoiding the washing away of soil. As human beings, we also need oxygen and if we cut down trees that leads to desertification which causes more troubles in our livelihoods.

In many areas where the issue of deforestation is being done there are no leaders. Why is it that we are not giving our chiefs the power to preside over A1 or A2 farms? When you look at most farming areas, there are no recogniszed chiefs but when you move away from these farms we see that there are chiefs. Why is it that the chiefs are not given the power to preside over farming areas? Chiefs must be given more power and authority to preside over those issues. We must give chiefs more power to look after our environment so that we can hold them accountable for whatever is happening in their area of jurisdiction. There must rules and regulations that govern the young people so that they are guided in terms of doing everything they can in the protection of the environment. Sometimes it is impossible for police officers to travel from their respective camps and go to where there is burning fire, it takes a long time. Therefore, I am in support that the chiefs must be given more powers. If we do this, we will be able to conserve our environment. The Ministry of Lands must be able to supervise and monitor where there are no fireguards and advise the traditional leaders accordingly. I thank you.

*HON. SEN. GUMPO: I would like to thank the Chairperson of the Committee for bringing this report to this House. I am very much concerned about veld fires. There were colonial masters in this country, but growing up, I used to see one thing which was done by colonial masters - it was the issue of fireguards. Those who are of my generation can give a testimony on this issue that during that time in the 1950s, you could not see any veld fire in any place.

We know that there were a few people in the country around that time. At independence, this country had a population of 5 million, but right now we are around 15 million, which means the issue of fire also rose in numbers in tandem with the population. The penalty which was there during the colonial days – I am not saying we must use the colonial rules which were used by colonialist, but they said if you caused a veld fire today, you liable for a stiffer penalty of one year; when that grass you burned had grown to be at the stage which you have burned it. The issue of veld fire was a very scary thing in the country.

Mr. President, personally I have been trying to solve the issue of fire for a year. I went to the Legal department and asked for the Fire Act in 1995. I read the Act. I have all the details and the fines which are there for the person who starts veld fires, how much he or she is going to pay. All the details are there but on those fines, most of the time if you commit a crime; you see it on the headlines in the Press, on the social media, that this person has done this and has been given such penalty. On the issue of fire there is nothing. The Press is not covering. Fire causes more destruction. I heard the Senator saying it causes degradation. If there is veld fire, there is no grass, there are no trees and when rain season comes, there is a lot of erosion. All the mud and soils go into our dams and rivers. Right now, we have inappropriate percentage. Our dams right now are being said to be at 75% to 95% full but we do not know the amount of sand which has gotten into those dams and rivers. For how many years have the erosion been taking place and the soil filling up those rivers? As the House of law, we must enact laws and those records and reports – yes EMA gives us yearly reports but they did not give us the amount of sand which is being eroded into the rivers and dams.

During the weekend, I was in Kariba doing follow up on the issue of degradation and siltation which affects even big rivers like Nyathi River that cuts across the country. The river starts at higher places cutting across the whole country. When it gets into Zambezi, the sands are very thick, which means there is sand and stones being eroded into that river. There is mining which is happening in the upstream of Sanyati River. When there is no running water all the soils are loosened and are going to be eroded into the river. Right now we have an exercise at Kariba Dam to look at the impact of sand towards the power station. Is it going to reach the power station? How many years does it take? Is it 50 years? Is it 100 years before it totally seals the dam? I went to ZRAA to Kariba to request the information. They are going to make that information available so that we study and know the amount of sand which is being eroded into the dam. It is not Sanyati only, we also have Gwayi and other rivers that all flow into Zambezi. Across the Zambezi, there are also rivers which come from Zambia and there is also sand which is being eroded into Zambezi. Therefore, the damages being done by fire is big compared to the damage which is done by the sanctions into our country.

We are trying and Government must help us with information so that we can be able to measure the damage which is called by veld fires in terms of degradation, siltation and burning down of trees. How many trees are being burnt down every year? We hear that about one million hectares every year is burned in this country. This is just an estimate. I think it is not a proper measurement. Therefore, what can we do to control these fires? I thank you Chairperson for this report which has provided all the details and observations. It has zeroed-in a lot of problems which are caused by veld fires. I thank you.

HON SEN. CHIEF MTSHANE: Mr. President, I move that the debate do now adjourn.

HON. SEN. CHIMBUDZI: I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume: Thursday, 25th March, 2021.

On the motion of HON SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA, seconded by HON. SEN. CHIMBUDZI, the House adjourned at Twelve Minutes to Five o’clock p.m.

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