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SENATE HANSARD 25 MARCH 2021 VOL 30 NO 29
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Thursday, 25th March, 2021
The Senate met at Half-past Two o’clock p.m.
(THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE in the Chair)
ANNOUNCEMENTS BY THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE
CHANGES TO THE OPENING PRAYER
THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: I have to inform the Senate that the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders has approved changes to the prayer wherein the word “man” has been replaced by a gender sensitive word “humankind.”
APOLOGIES RECEIVED FROM MINISTERS
THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Today is Thursday and we have the opportunity to pose questions to Hon. Ministers. I do have a list here of Ministers who have tendered their apologies. The following Ministers have sent in apologies:
The Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Hon. Mavima; The Hon. Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Hon. Dr. Chiwenga; The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Hon. Mathema; The Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Hon. M. Ndlovu; The Minister of Industry and Commerce, Hon. Dr. Kanhutu-Nzenza; The Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Hon. J. Moyo; The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Hon. Shava; The Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Hon. Kazembe; The Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Hon. Chitando; and The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Hon. Maboyi – Ncube.
Present here, we have Hon. Sen. Mutsvangwa, the Leader of the Senate and Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services; The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Hon. Mhona; The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Hon. Kambamura; The Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, Hon. Machingura; The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Ziyambi; and The Minister of State for Mashonaland East Province, Hon. Sen. Munzverengwi.
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
*HON. SEN. DR. MAVETERA: Thank you Mr. President Sir. My question goes to the Leader of Government Business. I think in December, we had a spate of movement of people during the festive season, which actually was one of the reasons why we had an upsurge of COVID in the country. What is the Government policy with regards to the oncoming Easter Holidays in order to curtail the movement of the population and ensure that citizens abide by the COVID regulations to avoid a repeat of what befell the nation over the Christmas Holidays? Thank you Mr. President.
THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you Mr. President. I would want to thank Hon. Sen. Dr. Mavetera for that question which concerns the health of the nation. I think this is very close to the heart of Government and what has been done in terms of protocols put together for the prevention and precautionary measures to avoid virus. It shows that as Government, we would not leave any stone unturned, in terms of making sure that our people adhere to those measures.
THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Hon. Minister, you are not connected.
HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: Thank you Mr. President. The Hon. Member mentioned that there was an upsurge in December – January and we know as a nation that we had a tragedy in January and certainly, the Government is doing all it can to make sure that we avoid a recurrence of December upsurge, if ever there is another third wave. A lot of efforts have been put in terms of making sure that people adhere to the precautionary and preventative measures which have been put in place by Government and also by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Our security agencies are on it to make sure that there will not be any gatherings bigger than the 50 which is allowed according to the review which was done by the President. If it is a church gathering, they should not be more than 50. There will be security agencies to make sure that people actually comply. The issue of compliance has been a serious problem.
As the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, we have also upped our game. We have got outdoor vans moving around in all the high density areas and provinces to make sure that our people comply to the protocols of COVID-19. The borders, as you are aware are still not open to everybody, except for Zimbabwe returnees because we cannot really say to a Zimbabwean that you cannot come back to your country. Certainly, all the security agents will be out on full force to make sure that people are adhering to the precautionary and preventative measures which have been put in place by Government and World Health Organisation. The police and our security agencies are on it to make sure that therey will not be any gatherings bigger than the 50 which is allowed, according to the relaxation which was the review which was done by the President.
There are no gatherings, and if it is church gatherings, they should not be more than 50 and there will be security agencies to make sure that people comply. The issue of compliance has been a serious problem and as you can see as Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services. We have also upped our game; we have got even outdoor vehicles moving around in all the high density areas even in the provinces to make sure that our people comply to the protocol of COVID-19.
The borders as you are aware, they are still not open to everyone, except you know that even during the lockdown the borders were always open for Zimbabwe returnees because you cannot really say no that a Zimbabwean cannot come back to their country. Certainly there will be all the security agencies in full force to make sure that people are adhering to the protocol, especially social distancing. In churches we are allowing gatherings of up to 50; it calls for social distances, washing hands and sanitisation even at funerals. So we are saying to the people of Zimbabwe let us continue to adhere to these COVID-19 protocols, this will save our lives and our loved ones lives and we will be able to contain this pandemic especially with the roll out of vaccines that could actually give this country a plus in terms of containing COVID-19. So a lot of work through the inter-ministerial task force on COVID-19 is being done and to make sure that our security forces the police and everyone else will be actually out there to make sure that people comply. I thank you.
HON. SEN. DR. MAVETERA: My supplementary is we all know as a nation that one of the problems which caused all this was the Beitbridge border post. In December, there were rumours that there were fake COVID-19 certificates which were being used by our local Zimbabweans when coming back. So, what mechanisms has the Government put in place to ensure that we are not going to have the same problem which was actually the trigger of the upsurge of COVID-19 during the last festive season. I thank you.
HON. SEN. MUTSVANGA: Thank you Mr. President. I want to thank the Hon. Senator for that question. Yes, in terms of Beitbridge problems, we are all aware of what happened and certainly you are right it was part of the triggers of the upsurge of what we saw in January and December. When I answered, I said there is a lot of work which is being done by our security agencies to make sure that the problem will not recur. The Ministry of Health is involved in making sure that the COVID-19 negative certificate which will be presented are not fake but real, they have put everything in order. I thank you.
HON. SEN. KOMICHI: Thank you very much Mr. President, with the threat of the third wave of COVID-19, looking at our current policy which says vaccination is not compulsory, with such a vicious anti-vaccination campaign in the world, what is the Government’s plans to ensure that everyone gets vaccinated. Chances are that we are likely to have more people who will remain unvaccinated because of the anti-vaccination campaign.
HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: Thank you Mr. President, I am not sure if that is a supplementary but I am very happy to answer. I want to thank the Hon. Senator for that question, I must say as leaders of this Government, it is our job to make sure we continue to make our people understand the benefits of being vaccinated. Vaccination so far since the roll out in February is ongoing very well and just yesterday, our head of State and President of this country actually launched the second phase of vaccination in Victoria Falls and this was obviously done for the fact that we want to open up Victoria Falls to tourism, considering how much we have been losing in that industry for a long time now.
I want to say we will be vaccinating not the whole population, I think we are about between 15 to 17 million but we are looking at vaccinating 60% of the population which is about 10 million people. Yes, you are right that is a lot and that will give us what is called herd immunity. We are making sure that the message that should go out there is for the benefits of vaccination. We should be as leaders together with Government work towards making people understand the importance of being vaccinated. We are happy and proud to have a President like Cde. E. D. Mnangagwa who has actually gone very quickly in terms of making sure that the Government procure those vaccinations. They are here now, they are free of charge, you do not pay anything and that vaccination will protect you. So, we continue to move around with this message and we upped our game even as the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Service, you can see each time when you open your television, all we are talking about is pushing on the issue of vaccination.
It will obviously come to a point where you will not be able to enter certain places if you are not vaccinated. So, it is very critical for all Zimbabweans to take an opportunity to get vaccinated, some countries up to date they have not received vaccination. As a country, we are actually top of the five in the whole of Africa who have vaccinations and the roll-out have been done. So we should be proud of what our Government is doing for us. We have already started hearing stories like certain airlines will not allow you to get on the plane without a vaccination certificate. Soon you may hear that you cannot get into the bus because you will be a danger to those who are next to you. You cannot get into ZUPCO. We have tried, our President is the face of the campaign of vaccination, he has been vaccinated and as Ministry of Publicity we made sure that he talks to the people of this country. I myself as Minister when I got vaccinated I did not do it secretly I did it publicity and I made it a point that people must actually see the needle going through and see that I stand up and continue to do my work and up to today I am still doing my work, there are no reactions. These vaccines are safe and we continue to tell the people of this country, let us go and get vaccinated. I thank you.
HON. SEN. TONGOGARA: Thank you Mr. President I will direct my question to the Leader of the Government Business because the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement is not in. The agriculture recovery plan looks at programmes such as Intwasa and Pfumvudza. The programme has three mandates; ending hunger, income generation programmes and value addition at household level. Could the Hon. Minister inform us how far they have gone with the value addition and household level and how much do people know about it and their participation?
THE MINISTER OF THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you Mr. President. I want to thank Hon. Sen. Tongogara for that very important question. Government has found it important because they value the welfare of our people in this country. When we are looking at the welfare of our people, we look at food security and I think the Pfumvudza is one of those very intelligent smart ways of dealing with climate proof agriculture. We know that for the last five years, the rainfall pattern in this country has not been good. By coming up with that climate proof programme, it will certainly take us far in terms of food security.
We know that if there is food security in a country there is stability and economic growth. We certainly want value addition because there are certain crops which you can only get once a year and we need to value add on those ones so that we can keep some. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Entreprises Development are already on it teaching women to be able to make sure that they dry their fruits and vegetables so that families can continue to have vegetables even well after the rains are gone.
There is a lot of investment which is being done especially with horticulture promotion which is happening in every community and the irrigation which is being put in every community to make sure that community gardens are there so that we can avert hunger and food security will never be a problem in our country. There are a lot programmes which are on board and the Ministry of Agriculture is working with other ministries to make sure that families can have enough food even when rains are gone. A lot more needs to be done at community level such as extraction of juice from fruits. We cannot continue to import mango juice when we do have those fruits in our country. There is a lot of effort which is being done and that brings together the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Industry and Ministry of SMEs because that will take this country to another level once we concentrate on value addition.
HON SEN. KAMBIZI: The Government through previous sporting ministries identified sport centres of excellence at district, provincial and national levels. At the moment, that initiative has remained dormant and silent. Those sport centres have remained idle today despite having a fully staffed Ministry that is assisted by its implementing arm, the Sports and Recreation Commission. What is Government policy with regards to these sports centres of excellence with a view of bringing these sports centres to life? I thank you.
THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON SEN. MUTSVANGWA): I want to thank Hon. Sen. Kambizi for that question. The issue that I am going to deal with here is on Government’s policy when it comes to these sport centres of excellence. The policy of Government is to make sure that when it comes to sports in this country everyone is involved whether in rural or urban areas; they should all be involved in sports. We know the benefits of sports to our children. Government’s policy is to make sure that those sport centres of excellence are not left to be dormant but rather they should be working for the benefit of the community.
On the second part of your question, it is good to send a written question to the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation so that they can come with information on exactly how many of those are idle, how many are working and what challenges would there be.
*HON. SEN. SHUMBA: I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Health and in his absence I direct it to the Leader of the Senate. At Prince Edward School, there are ten students who tested positive to COVID-19. What plans does Government have to make sure that every student is tested particularly in boarding schools because these children come from different areas. Is there not a risk of children transmitting COVID-19 to other students?
THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Let me thank Hon. Sen. Shumba for the pertinent question which pertains to health issues. We know that schools are known for providing good education. Zimbabwe is rated and ranked highly, which means that our Government continues to put efforts in making sure that children go to school. We know that COVID-19 is with us and there are a lot of issues that are challenging our education sector but Government continues to review situations by looking at the way forward.
We are told that some girls did not go back to school because some were pregnant and others had given birth. We also experienced a lot of challenges when young children could not go back to school. There are challenges like e-learning which is done on phones and computers and even on radio stations. This might not be able to cover the whole country. However during such a difficult period, Government utilised the funds that were mobilised so that in every school there is standard operating procedures which apply when schools are opened to see whether there are sanitation facilities that are used by students, for example washing hands, masking up and maintaining social distancing in schools. All these things including temperature checks were done. It was not possible for every student to be tested but Government also made an effort that teachers get vaccination jabs. This is done to protect our children. So Government is doing a lot but at the moment, we are not able to provide PCR tests for every student. However, other health protocols are being implemented in all schools. Children are tested daily and temperatures taken and social distancing is being observed. This is what Government is doing to make sure teachers and students are protected.
*HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA: Mr. President, I would like to thank the Hon. Minister for the clarity. Minister, there are some groups in our society who are being left behind because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in the education sector, it is one thing to say that people should come and wash their hands and what have you. In other schools, it is not possible for students to get smart phones and computers. Is there no programme that would avail smart phones to students, so that all children are not left behind but move with trends.
*THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: I would allow the Hon. Minister to respond to that question but this is not a supplementary question. However, Hon. Minister, if you have a response, you can go ahead.
*HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: Thank you Mr. President Sir. Let me thank Sen. Chief Charumbira for such a pertinent question which is not a supplementary question but a new question. However, it is an important question. Government is facing a lot of challenges as a result of COVID-19. The biggest challenge that our Government is facing is that we are supposed to be providing e-learning, online lessons and radio lessons to our children. This is a situation that comes after Government suffered Cyclone Idai. After that pandemic, Government decided to work on a number of projects including the refurbishment of bridges and other infrastructure. Government, at the moment is seized with the challenges that are found in schools. We have over nine thousand schools throughout Zimbabwe. These schools do not have adequate power. There are a few schools that have electricity. We hope that REA should expedite the electrification programme through the Ministry of Energy. However, as a nation, we have eight hours of sunlight and some countries have few hours but they generate a lot of electricity from solar energy. It is important that our schools get electricity as a result of the COVID-19 challenge. If all schools are electrified, there would be need for necessary gadgets. So ICT and transmitter facilities should be installed so that our children benefit from modern day technology. These are issues that were discussed in Cabinet and the Ministry of Energy, Hon. Soda was tasked to look into generating investment towards solar energy so that Zimbabwean schools are electrified. Solar energy plays a critical role and this is an issue that Government is seized with. I would request Minister Soda to clarify and emphasises on the same point. I thank you.
*THE MINISTER OF ENERGY AND POWER DEVELOPMENT (HON. SODA): Thank you Mr. President Sir. I would like to thank the Hon. Member for asking the question which pertains to the electrification of rural areas, particularly the education sector so that students benefit from technology as a result of COVID-19 which has culminated in people looking at alternative forms of education. The provision of education is done under the auspices or different programmes that are found in my Ministry. We take electricity from Hwange Thermal Power Station and other power stations to rural areas. However, we discovered that it is not possible to connect every area to the national grid because we do not have adequate electricity to cover the whole country.
Secondly, it is expensive. You will discover that in other areas, electricity poles are installed and they are 30km made of electricity pylons and cables. However, it might not be possible to connect all schools even those that are peripheral. Government is also targeting different corners of the country so that Hwange and Kariba Power Stations can reach out to these areas. Alternative forms of energy like solar power should also be utilised like the Hon. Minister alluded to that we have a lot of sunlight which can generate power. We know that it is important that we have investors or people who will invest in the generation of solar power. Government is going to give incentives to investors who want to participate in the generation of solar. This can be done by local people or other businesses which might decide to import gadgets used for generating solar duty free. Government is also determined that those who are going to come to do different activities in Zimbabwe can be given five years of tax holiday. Whatever they are going to generate during those five years, they are not obligated to pay tax to Government. This is done to motivate those who want to invest in the generation of solar energy so that the solar grids can be linked to the national grid.
The other point is, the Rural Electrification Agency has started several projects in different provinces targeting rural provinces in Zimbabwe. As I am talking, there are a number of projects being done by REA to install new solar systems or to better those that were installed from 2005 to 2015. We have 400 solar units that have deteriorated in terms of electricity generation and REA was tasked to make sure that such stations begin to generate power. This is what Government is doing to ensure that every area has access to electricity. I thank you Mr. President.
(v)HON. SEN. B. MPOFU: Thank you Mr. President. My question is directed to the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. What is going to happen to provisional licences which expired during COVID-19 lockdown?
THE MINISTER OF TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT (HON. MHONA): Thank you Mr. President. Let me also thank the Hon. Senator for that very important question. Surely that is a pertinent question that he has raised. However, if you can recall, the driving schools were the most hit in terms of operations during the lockdown since last year. Recently, they have been allowed to commence their operations this coming Saturday on the 27th of March 2021. They have been allowed to resume their business operations during this recent Cabinet meeting.
I think my Ministry is seized with the issue and it also came through the Association of Driving Schools, to say yes, this is a pandemic and it is not according to our own making that we could not go for the lessons, testing and so forth. So, we are seized with that matter of which we will then bring the finer details to this august House. I thank you
*HON. SEN. CHIEF MAKUMBE: Thank you Mr. President. My question is directed to the Minister of Health and Child Care. In his absence, I am going to direct the question to the Leader of the House. When Zimbabwe together with other nations experienced COVID-19, the President saw it fit to look at the situation in such a way that Zimbabwe will brainstorm and look at how the issue can be addressed.
Looking at the vaccination issue, I do not know what the Government’s position is regarding the vaccination of Chiefs and Traditional Leaders who are found in the front line working with people every day? The other point is that we have lost a number of our traditional leaders who succumbed to COVID-19.
THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT: The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Hon. Prof. M. Ncube is in the House and the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Hon. Kazembe is also in the House ready for questions. I thank you.
THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Thank you Mr. President. Our Head of State and Government respects our traditional leaders in Zimbabwe. Hence, it was mentioned that in every situation, chiefs are invited. Chiefs have a very huge responsibility in different communities as custodians of culture and people take heed of traditional leader’s advice.
My Ministry and the Inter-ministerial Task force for COVID-19 has structures from the grassroots, wards to the executive. We work with all levels so that everyone understands the importance of hygiene particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that chiefs have a big responsibility, looking at the vaccination aspect.
I believe that it is important that you write a letter requesting that traditional leaders be vaccinated. We have seen the Ministry of Health vaccinating journalists and other frontline workers during the first phase. We also give priority to the elderly, the 60 years and above, no one asks questions, you are just vaccinated. I thank you.
*HON. SEN. ENG. MUDZURI: Hon. Leader of the House, you mentioned that you honour our traditional leaders. So what was Government’s policy regarding the vaccination of chiefs? When looking at other countries like Nigeria, you will discover that they honour and respect their traditional leaders. So, I think it is important that before any programme is rolled out, it should cascade to traditional leaders and chiefs.
When you see chiefs asking such questions in this august House, it means that they are wondering how things are happening. We know that in our culture, it is important that traditional leaders are allowed to lead in programmes such as these. Did you ever consult our traditional leaders when you were rolling out the vaccination programme? So, it is important to talk to our traditional leaders.
HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: I mentioned that chiefs are important when looking at the critical role that is played by traditional leaders. I said that those who are in this communication are working with chiefs. When you look at social media platforms, you discover that chiefs are in the forefront, speaking about the importance of vaccination programme. When the vaccination programme was rolled out on 18th February, 2021, the Ministry considered the health care workers and these were prioritised as the first group. The Ministry of Health and Child Care is looking into the issue that from one stage to another, how are they going to roll out this programme. They are also going to target traditional leaders, our chiefs. I thank you.
THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE (HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA): Hon. Minister, I think the essence of the question is that, in the priority list, where do the traditional leaders fit? Do they fall under the first, the second or the third category? I think maybe you can pass that message to the relevant Ministry. I thank you.
HON. SEN. CHIEF CHUNDU: Thank you Mr. President Sir. My question is directed to the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage. We have seen people being terrorized by touts at different bus stations. You will discover that most of these touts do not put on face masks and there is no social distance. Sometimes, they rob travelers. What are Government plans in order to address such a situation so that travelers travel in peace. How is Government planning to deal with such errant behavior?
THE MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS AND CULTURAL HERITAGE (HON. KAZEMBE): Thank you Mr. President Sir. I would also like to thank the Hon. Senator who asked such an important question. I believe that so many people ask such a question after seeing a video which was circulated on social media where a certain woman was being terrorized by touts. This video really touched us a lot. Even the Police were concerned by such a situation. When I saw this video, I forwarded it to the Commissioner General of the Police and he expressed concern over it. So I would like to promise you that this issue is being investigated. We are planning to deploy Police to different bust stations so that such situations are addressed.
The other issue is that the department of Police might be experiencing logistical challenges because they do not have enough vehicles. However, I believe that the Ministry of Finance is working on that. He has been channeling some resources to our police force. If enough resources are availed, I believe the Police will be found in every station. Very soon we are going to see a difference regarding that situation. I thank you.
HON. SEN. MOHADI: Thank you Mr. President. My supplementary question is; really, we are with you Minister and we can understand the department’s challenges of getting transport. However, your workforce is all over along the roads. We have plenty plus roadblocks. What are they doing in order to minimize this problem? I thank you.
*HON. KAZEMBE: Thank you Mr. President Sir. Let me thank Hon. Sen. Mohadi for her supplementary question. The issue she has mentioned is the number of police officers at road blocks. Their task on the roadblocks is different from the issue which has been raised here. These are issues that happen at the bus termini, not at the roadblocks. We put more police officers on the roads so that they can be able to control the movement of people and monitoring overloading cars. The issue that was mentioned in this Senate is the issue which is happening at bus termini. We are going to deploy police officers who are going to patrol to oversee if people are following the regulations which have been put forth by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Even the passengers who are travelling need to be supervised. Thank you.
THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: To avoid Hon. Senators rising several times expecting to take the floor, let me read the list. We have Hon. Sen. Chinake , Hon. Sen. Denga, Hon. Sen. Gumpo, Hon. Sen. Mpofu and Hon. Sen. Chifamba. That is the order. So be comfortable until we get to your name on the list.
*HON. SEN. CHINAKE: Thank you Hon. President Sir. My question is directed to the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. We were told in this House that number plates were being manufactured in Germany, but the country has plans to manufacture the number plates in the country. To date, there is a backlog on the number of people who are requesting number plates. How far have you gone on the issue of the manufacturing of number plates? Thank you.
*THE MINISTER OF TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT (HON. MHONA): I want to thank you Hon. President. I want to thank Hon. Sen. Chinake for raising that pertinent question. It also helps us to notify the whole country of Zimbabwe that the issue of number plates that we put on the cars has become an issue to many people. Firstly, they are not accessible to many people and they are paid for in foreign currency, which becomes a difficult thing for many Zimbabweans.
I want to inform this august Senate that there are plans to ensure that number plates are accessible in the country. The Hon. Senator mentioned that it is taking a long time before they are delivered. Security measures should be put in place so that some people will not have the number plates using corrupt ways. Therefore, we are trying to ensure that the number plates that are manufactured have security features. So, all these issues are being looked into.
We also thank our university students who are working with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development to see if they can make the number plates which can raise our flag so that we stop to import and they will be accessible in this country. Therefore, they are working towards that issue. I believe that we are going to announce the stage we have reached with tertiary institution on the issue of making number plates. The police officers and all the law enforcement agencies are going to be included so that they can be able to see if the number plates can be put on the cars.
*THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE (HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA): I want to say that birth certificates and national identity cards are done in this country and it is necessary that we have number plates done in this country as well.
*HON. SEN. DENGA: Thank you Mr. President, my question is directed to the Minister of Agriculture. My question is in regards to payment of farmers. We have contract farmers who were contracted to farm tobacco under Command Agriculture. Their bills are now coming in foreign currency. What is Government’s plan for tobacco and maize farmers under Command Agriculture - are they going to be paid in foreign currency or local currency?
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Thank you very much Hon. Senator for that question. Certainly the tobacco farmers are going to receive half of their money in hard US dollars and the other half will be converted to domestic currency at the going auction rate. This 50:50 split is an improvement from the previous 2 years where they were only getting 40% in foreign currency and the other bit was in domestic currency. So, this is an improvement and I think that we are in a better position this year, compared to the last two years.
The good thing is that the currency is also stable, prices are coming down and everything looks better. I think that going forward, it is important to also increase domestic funding of tobacco and domestic funding of all exportable agricultural commodities. Why, because this way, we can then maximise on the foreign currency that we earned last year to overall revenues for tobacco, for example we have the order half a billion US dollars. From the figures from our Central Bank, we as a country in terms of foreign currency net earnings, we only earned about 10% of that, which is just below $50 million.
Clearly increasing domestic financing and domestic currency is the way to go over time, but at the same time still accommodating foreign funding. I thank you.
*HON. SEN. ENG. MUDZURI: Thank you Mr. President, Hon. Minister you said you are going to give farmers 50% of the money in foreign currency and the other in local currency. Did you take into consideration small scale farmers in rural areas like Malipati and Chiendambuya? Yes, they are going to get 50% in US dollars for them to be able to access their money in ecocash or banks because they will not get the local money in cash. Considering that banks only offer 2000RTGS per week, the elderly in the rural areas want their cash. How are these people in rural areas going to access their money if they are given 50 000 and they are only allowed to withdraw 2 000 per week? What is Government’s plan to alleviate this problem, especially those in the rural areas who will have also to travel long distances to withdraw money?
HON. PROF. M. NCUBE: Thank you very much. The issue about regulating access to cash was triggered by the abuse that we had seen taking place from the use of the mobile banking platform in terms of electronic money. We realise that it is necessary to restrict the cash withdrawals, the amounts that can be used at any point in time and be transferred at any point in time. This is necessary for us to keep those restrictions in place as a general policy. If we loosen up on that, it will cause us a lot of difficulties and basically we will go back to where we were before, where individuals will access larger amounts of cash and then want to trade in the parallel market and just make our currency more unstable.
I think you will agree with me Hon. Senator that at the moment, the most valuable thing from an micro-economic sense is stability of our currency which is spreading stability and creditability everywhere and that is a fact we must all work to protect. For farmers specifically, we are also of the view that they should always be assisted, especially the tobacco farmers that we are talking about. They work so hard to earn us this hard earned foreign currency - so again, we can look at making special arrangements for them. Some of them have come a long way to the city to sell their tobacco. So perhaps I will see what we can do to support them better. That will not be a generally policy, it will be something specifically for them, but I am not promising anything, it is only because we realise the value that they create for this country and perhaps they should be supported. I thank you.
*HON. SEN. DENGA: Thank you Mr. President, I am saying that the Minister did not address my question fully regarding maize farmers. Fertilisers are bought using foreign currency and other inputs like herbicides, so the question is how is GMB going to pay? Are they going to pay in foreign currency or not?
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON PROF. M. NCUBE): Thank you for coming back and seeking further clarification on his question. We have done some analysis which shows that the cost of these inputs that he has listed has remained relatively stable and so has the currency. The whole item that has increased somewhat and is quite variable is labour cost – when we consider the price model for maize, that is what we are finding out. Everything else is stable except labour costs.
In terms of the items he has listed, the prices have not moved much. We are confident that the price that we are offering, that is the selling price for maize in Z$ terms would be able to cover the farmer sufficiently recognising that the prices of these inputs have not moved much. Farmers are paying for these inputs in US$. In Z$ terms, the farmer is fetching a good price because the exchange rate has not moved much. That stability is what gives us the confidence that paying in Z$ is the right thing to do. After all, it is our domestic currency.
HON. SEN. GUMPO: My question is directed to the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. It is on a specific tollgate situated between Karoi and Chinhoyi. This tollgate has two lanes while the tollgate at Inkomo Barracks has four lanes. The Lion’s Den facility has created a bottleneck that creates complications in terms of passage of transport. When is Government going to widen the road?
THE MINISTER OF TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT (HON. MHONA): Let me thank Hon. Sen. Gumpo for that very important question and surely, he has got a particular tollgate which I will humbly ask him in future to put it in writing so that he can get a detailed explanation if he has got a particular case.
I am going to answer his question relating to other tollgates as well. Yes, there is an outcry especially in a number of our tollgates where the service is not up to scratch and truly, the one that he has cited, given the business that we get as a country it must be attended to urgently. Let me hasten to say the Ministry is seized as we speak, in terms of the priority list where we had to target Harare-Beitbridge and as we know this is our gateway route. The trunk road that we are talking of if we talk of Zimbabwe, the connectivity is on Beitbridge to Chirundu.
As a nation, our focus is on Beitbridge, not to say we are not going to develop Chirundu but once we are done with Beitbridge, our focus is going to be enlargement of Harare Chirundu trunk road so that we cater and accommodate for the vast business that will then come due to that expansion. We are seized and with the advent of the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme as declared by His Excellency, we have got phases of road construction and rehabilitation and I can safely say to Senator Gumpo that this is one of our priorities as a nation to make sure that we enlarge our tollgates country-wide, widen our roads so that we cater for the increase in number of traffic plying our roads. I thank you.
Questions without Notice were interrupted by THE HON. DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SENATE in terms of Standing Order No. 64.
HON. SEN. S. MPOFU: I move that Questions without Notice be extended by 10 minutes.
HON SEN. DENGA: I second.
HON. SEN. S. MPOFU: I will direct my question to the Leader of the Senate. There are students in primary and secondary schools who did not go back for third term classes in 2020. They last attended classes in March 2020 and these students want to go back for classes. What is Government’s policy on such students and do schools ask for fees for the year 2020?
THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): I want to thank Hon. Sen. Mpofu for that very important question and I hope I got the question right. The policy is that they do not pay school fees when they are not attending school but we also have to understand that certain schools were actually having online and e-learning and that required schools to charge so that they can at least continue carrying out those lessons with their children.
HON SEN. S. MPOFU: Since some of these children did not write end of year examinations for that year, are they supposed to proceed to the next level? What is supposed to be done?
HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: Thank you Mr. President and I want to thank Hon. Mpofu for the supplementary question. I think Government, under very difficult circumstances during COVID-19, they managed to open for exam class children so that they can write exams. For those who were not able to write for one reason or the other, I do not see how they can go forward before they write the exams. I do not know whether we are talking about exam classes or other classes.
HON. SEN. S. MPOFU: The Hon. Minister had said, she was not sure what I was really asking about concerning exams. I mean the ordinary end of year exams for all other classes excluding the Grade7, Form 4 and ‘A’ level.
HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA: Thank you very much. I want to thank Hon. Senator for that clarity. I want to say these are extra ordinary times and very difficult times where decisions have got to be taken according to the challenges which we are faced with. COVID closes schools and we still tried to open schools and make sure that the exam classes write examinations. We are aware that children have to continue moving because there are other children who are born and young ones who want to get into school. I think they obviously would move to the next class. This is why the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education came up with compressed curriculum vitae to make sure they cover up for what they did not do in the last semester. I thank you Mr. President.
THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: I think it is fair to say we have concluded the Questions Without Notice.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, PUBLICITY AND BROADCASTING SERVICES (HON. SEN. MUTSVANGWA): Mr. President, I move that Orders of the Day Nos. 1 to 10 be stood over until Order of the Day No. 11 has been disposed of.
Motion put and agreed to.
RATIFICATION OF THE LOAN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF ZIMBABWE AND THE ARAB BANK FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA (BADEA) RELATING TO URGENT RESPONSE OPERATION TO FIGHT COVID-19
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Mr. President, I have the pleasure to present the following:
THAT WHEREAS, Subsection (3) of Section 327 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that an Agreement which is not an international treaty but which has been concluded or executed by the President or under the President’s authority with one or more foreign organizations or entities and imposes fiscal obligations on Zimbabwe does not bind Zimbabwe until it has been approved by Parliament;
AND WHEREAS, the Loan Agreement between Government of Zimbabwe and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) relating to Urgent Response Operation to Fight COVID 19 concluded 28 August 2020 to be implemented through the Ministry of Health and Child Care; and
NOW THEREFORE, in terms of Section 327(3) of the Constitution, this House resolves that the aforesaid Agreement be and is hereby approved.
Mr. President Sir, we were offered this nicely priced and affordable credit or loan from BADEA. It is US$10 million and the interest rate is 2% per annum. It is a concessionary loan and there is a grace period of five years. On the first five years, we do not pay and we will only start paying in sixth year. The tenure of the loan is 25 years. In the Agreement, the Government will repay the principal in 40 semi-annual instalments, so we pay every six months. Where repayments are paid within 30 days of the day that they are due, the interest rate is reduced. We get a discount of 0.75%. If we pay on time, every six months, the effective interest rate is 1. 75%. This loan will go a long way towards bolstering our resources to fight COVID-19 and also to supplement our resources for the acquisition of the vaccine, critical medicines and critical PPEs. Thank you Mr. President.
*HON. SEN. KOMICHI: Thank you Mr. President for according me this opportunity. I also thank the Minister of Finance for the words he has brought about of US$10 million which is going to be returned with good conditions. I would like to talk about the purpose of the use of money. COVID-19 is causing havoc not only in this country but in the whole world. Many people fear COVID-19. If a person gets sick due to COVID-19, there is no joy in the family. There are people who are de-campaigning vaccination on the social media. They are adding more fear into the people. People in the whole world are in between the hard rock and the service. There is fear of being attacked and there is also fear on vaccination, what should we do? We know that money is needed for acquiring the vaccines but we want to appreciate the little that we have. We accept what we have and add into the vaccines which we already acquired. We have managed to acquire few vaccines compared to the number of the people who must be vaccinated. The percentage which must be vaccinated compared to the amount of vaccines which we have in the country is very little. There is a big gap. We are like people in a war. We must be united and help each other to remove fear in people for vaccination so that they can fear to get sick rather than fearing to get vaccinated. When we move around in the villages and in locations, people do not accept that there is COVID-19.
I am happy, when I went to Wilkins today to get my second jab there were a lot of people. It showed that people now understand that vaccination is very crucial. We must not follow what people are saying on the social media, who are instilling fear in people on the issue of vaccine and discouraging people to be vaccinated. I want to say this loan is very important and is being taken for a good purpose. If we die, our country is not going to develop. For example, our Minister died because of COVID-19. Where are we going to get another Minister who is like him? Let us take this loan freely and buy our vaccines. Thank you very much.
THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENTOF SENATE: I think that summarises all possible debate on this subject.
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Hon. Komichi spoke very well. If I say anything I will spoil it. Maybe all I can say is that all Senators should get vaccinated because COVID is worse than the vaccine. I have been vaccinated once, Hon. Komichi has been vaccinated twice already and he still looks fit. So, let us all get vaccinated, it is the only silver bullet available for us to survive this pandemic and to keep growing our economy. I thank you.
Motion put and agreed.
RATIFICATION OF THE LOAN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF ZIMBABWE AND THE EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF INDIA RELATING TO HWANGE UNITS THERMAL POWER STATION LIFE EXTENSION PROJECT
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): I rise to present a motion that;
WHEREAS, Section 327 (3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that an Agreement which is not an international treaty but which has been concluded or executed by the President or under the President’s authority with one or more foreign organisations or entities and imposes fiscal obligations on Zimbabwe does not bind Zimbabwe until it has been approved by Parliament;
AND WHEREAS, the Loan Agreement between Government of Zimbabwe and the Export - Import Bank of India relating to Hwange Units Thermal Power Station Life Extension Project being implemented by Zimbabwe Power Company concluded on 24 February 2020; and
NOW THEREFORE, in terms of Section 327(3) of the Constitution, this House resolves that the aforesaid Agreement be and is hereby approved.
Mr. President, the Hwange Thermal Power Station has an installed capacity of 920 MW comprising of 6 units which were commissioned in two phases as follows:-
Stage 1 – 4x120 MW units were commission in the year 1983 to 1986
Stage 11 – 2x220 MW units -1986 to 1987.
The units have operated beyond their life expectation of 30 years. Hwange Thermal Power Stations currently generating an average of 300 MW which is less than 50% availability. Reduction in the plant output is mainly attributed to the age of the plant and lack of regular scheduled maintenance due to lack of resources. Plant rehabilitation initiatives have taken place since 2009. However, due to its age, the plant now has high and frequent emergency shut-downs for unplanned repair works
Cognizant of the above, Zimbabwe Power Company approached Treasury to secure resources to undertake life extension with the purpose of restoring the power station capacity to 880 MW and to further extend the life of the power station by a further 20years.
The total cost of the rehabilitation programme is estimated to be US$440 million. US$125 million has so far been secured from Standard Bank (US$50 million) and Afreximbank (US$75 million). An additional US$310 million has since been secured with the India Exim Bank.
Basically, the loan will be utilised for the procurement of a project management consultant and rehabilitation of Hwange 1-6 thermal power station. The rehabilitation project entails upgrade and general overhaul of turbines and boilers as well as the auxiliaries of boilers and turbines.
This line of Credit from the Export and Import Bank of India has the following terms and conditions
The loan amount: USD310 million
Interest rate:- 1,75% p. a
Commitment fees 0.5% on the undrawn balance
Management fees 0.5% one off
Default rate 2%
The facility will be on lent to the Zimbabwe Power Company at the same terms and conditions of the facility from India Exim Bank. So, Central Government will pass on the loan to Zimbabwe Power Company basically as is.
Expected benefits of the project – Zimbabwe’s current generation capacity varies greatly at less than 1 000 MW per day against a current projected power demand of 1 700 MW. However, this represents suppressed demand considering that the industry is operating at below full capacity, putting real demand at around 2 200MW.
Implementation of the project will result in the following benefits:-
- Reduction of the supply-demand gap especially experienced during peak hours;
- Increase Zimbabwe’s power generation, reliability and efficiency;
- Improve the plant efficiency and reduce main fuel and secondary fuel consumption;
- Reduced cost of energy production
- Reduced consumption of chemicals and consumables from existing generating facilities;
- Increased power supply will ensure sustained economic growth and development as energy is a key enabler;
- The creation of jobs for skilled and unskilled Zimbabwean personnel; and
- Down streams benefits for local industry and related value chains.
So, Mr. President, these are the details of the loan. I so submit.
*HON. SEN. SIPANI-HUNGWE: There is not much that I can say on this issue regarding electricity which is quite a critical issue which has been a challenge for a number of years. So, if there are partners who are willing to assist us, I do not see any challenge regarding that. I am sure my colleagues in this august House also agree that this is a good initiative, We should go ahead. As Hon. Senators, we agree because we have been facing a challenge of power shortages.
If there is a way of making sure that the Hwange Thermal Power Station is refurbished, then so be it. I thank you.
*HON. SEN. CHINAKE: Thank you Mr. President Sir. This is a very critical issue. Everyone is concerned about the availability of electricity, so when the Hon. Minister comes to this august Senate, we are really glad because he is armed with responses. We know that in every programme, there should be a specific timeframe, so the Minister should stipulate the timeframe when electricity should be availed and how much. Hon. Minister, if you are receiving funding, then it is good but it is important that there is clarity on when electricity will be availed. The nation will take us to task. They will ask us on how far we have gone. So, it is important Hon. Minister that there is clarity on that aspect. I thank you.
*HON. SEN. KOMICHI: I would like to thank you Mr. President. I also want to thank the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. I concur with the Minister. In 1984, I joined ZESA and on 4th February, I was transferred to Hwange Power Station. So, what you are talking about Hon. Minister is something that I identify with and understand. It is true that units 1 to 4 were completed when I was an apprentice. For the 24 years that I worked at Hwange, I saw the machines performing different duties until they depreciated. At one point, they were generating 120 megawatts. In 2006/7 the machines which were producing the highest output were producing around 90 megawatts and now they have gone down to 60 or 40 megawatts. These machines are now obsolete and most of them are old now. They were supposed to be replaced by new machines but looking at the number of years, these machines have been around for quite a long time. This is an issue that needs to be rectified.
The money that was mentioned by the Hon. Minister should be utilised so that these machines are refurbished. Most of these machines came from European countries like Germany, Italy and other countries. Engineers used to come to Zimbabwe to service these machines, bringing new spare parts. After every five years, machines were being serviced; new parts were being brought in and inspectors would inspect these machines to make sure that the machines were working. These are critical issues that should be looked into.
We need to build a relationship with the World Bank and international partners who can assist us so that our machines would be in existence for long so that we continue generating electricity. Mr. President Sir, I normally say that as Zimbabweans we need to be united so that our nation develops. This is our pride; it is a national pride. This is a nation which is endowed with different resources. Hon. President, if we unite, we are going to excel. Power shortages can be eradicated if we work together. I will continue emphasising and repeating these words.
I would also encourage leaders in this Senate, whether MDC or ZANU PF to unite because our unity is going to eradicate every challenge that we face as a nation. This is an issue which should culminate in Zimbabwe being the Switzerland of Africa. This can happen if we put our heads together. Our nation is endowed with geniuses. We have a lot of people who have specialised in different fields. If you go to any country, you will discover that we have specialists from this country. The challenges that we find in Zimbabwe are manmade challenges but I believe that we can have a solution. We can solve this issue if we work together. There is no need for people to be fighting. We need to unite and love each other. With these few words Mr. President, I would like to support the programme that is being done at Hwange Power Station. Let the funding come so that these machines are refurbished and that there is progress at Hwange Power Station. I thank you.
THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE): Let me start by responding to the comments by Hon. Sen. Chinake. I agree with you that certainly once the money has been drawn down, the implementers have to move with speed; whoever will be contracted needs to move with speed and deliver because resources would have ceased to be a constraint. I certainly will make sure that we crack the whip that the project be implemented because once you draw down, you start paying the interest. So, we will be paying the 1.75% and so forth per annum but we want to make sure the project is implemented so that we see the benefits of the cost of those funds.
I strongly agree with Hon. Sen. Komichi. He gave an apt and moving contribution about the need to be united and to work together. After all, we have everything in this country and we need more power to realise all our growth targets. We have a lot of talent from Zimbabweans around the world and internally. Surely, by being assisted by some of our friends, we should be grateful and strengthen our relationship with them and that can enable us to realise the full potential of this country and I agree with him. Thank you for the support.
Motion put and agreed to.
THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE (HON. SEN CHIEF CHARUMBIRA): I want to provide some information. The adjournment was supposed to be up to the 13th April. It has been brought to the 6th April for one purpose. We are only coming to consider the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 1 for voting and passing. “Saka ukauya musi wa7, isu tapedza musi wa6, unowana kusisina Senate.” We are only coming for that particular item, so be here on the 6th because you will miss. Because it is voting, all of you will have to come into the Chamber on 6th April. Thank you.
On the motion of THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. PROF. M. NCUBE), the Senate adjourned at Twenty Minutes past Four o’clock p.m. until Tuesday 6th April, 2021.