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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 29 November 2016 Vol 43 no 17

PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Tuesday, 29th November, 2016

The National Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two O’clock p.m.

PRAYERS

(THE ACTING SPEAKER in the Chair)

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE ACTING SPEAKER

ERROR ON THE ORDER PAPER

THE ACTING SPEAKER (HON. MUTOMBA): I have

to draw the attention of the House to an error on the Order Paper where the first item should be Committee instead of Second Reading of the Land Commission Bill (H. B. 2, 2016).

FIRST READING

RESERVE BANK OF ZIMBABWE AMENDMENT BILL [H.B. 12, 2016.]

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. CHINAMASA) presented the Reserve Bank

of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill (H.B.12, 2016).

          Bill read the first time.

          Bill referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

          THE MINISTER OF LANDS AND RURAL RESETTLEMENT (HON. DR. MOMBESHORA):  Mr. Speaker, I move that Order of the Day, Number 1 be stood over, until the rest of the Orders of the Day have been disposed of.

          Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

          THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. CHINAMASA):  Mr. Speaker, I move that Order of the Day, Number 2 be stood over, until the rest of the Orders of the Day have been disposed of.

          Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

PRESIDENTIAL SPEECH: DEBATE ON ADDRESS

          Third Order Read:  Adjourned debate on motion in reply to the Presidential Speech.

          Question again proposed.

          HON. SHAMU:  Thank you Mr. Speaker.  Mr. Speaker Sir, in my contribution to this very important motion on His Excellency, the President’s address to the Fourth Session of the 8th Parliament of Zimbabwe, which was ably moved by Hon. Nyamupinga and very well seconded by Hon. Mandipaka; I wish to bring to the attention of this august House a single moment of penetrating insight that I believe is an instructive moment with transformative impact on the philosophical attitude that should guide our present and future debates in this National Assembly.  I am in particular drawing inspiration from one of the hard to come by rare moments of oneness that punctuated His Excellency’s address. 

I am sure that Hon. Members will recall that special moment when His Excellency attracted the House’s sense of humour by double-checking his speech to make sure it was the correct one, this time around.  That short moment accosted all members from the political divide to chuckle – we all laughed.  We chuckled instinctively and collectively in the manner of siblings deriving stubborn pleasure from their father’s comic error of omission.

Mr. Speaker Sir, I am drawing attention to this august House’s attention to is not so much about the humour but what that collective sense of family instructs on the sense of nationalism that is often missing in most or our deliberations in this House.

          I wish to emphasise that, that rare moment called for political maturity that realises that His Excellency, the President is a father to all and that matters of national importance should unite us and cement our relations as one nation.

The African American renowned poet, author and teacher, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, wrote in one of her poems, Paul Robeson that and I quote, “We are each other’s harvest, we are each other’s business, each other’s magnitude and bond.” This implies that we are the fruits of each other’s labour.  The contributions we make to ourselves, our families and our community will either help or hinder those around us.  That is how we are interconnected and interdependent as a people.  We are part of each other’s lives.  We need each other as a nation.

Having said that Mr. Speaker Sir, I will now delve into the areas that His Excellency touched upon.  His Excellency the President brought to our attention the issue of corporate governance in relation to the Public Entities Corporate Governance Bill, which will be tabled in this august House during this session.  Good economic and good corporate governance are fundamental preconditions for Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.  Good economic and good corporate governance contribute towards macro-economic stability.  They enhance the Government’s ability to implement developmental and poverty reduction policies with scarce resources – a situation we all know we are in today in Zimbabwe.  They enable public management functions to be executed in an accountable manner.

*HON. CHINOTIMBA:  On a point of order Mr. Speaker; I am sorry to disturb the Hon. Member who is debating. 

It is being published in newspapers that we as Hon. Members are going to universities and copying during examinations so that we obtain degrees – that information is coming from amongst us.

The word honourable is difficult – [HON. MEMBERS:  Inaudible interjections.]- Who is that person?  He or she should come out openly.

*THE ACTING SPEAKER:  Order Hon. Chinotimba, you are out of order – [HON. MEMBERS:  Inaudible interjections.]- Order, order Hon. Members.  Can you resume your debate Hon. Shamu? – [HON. CHINOTIMBA: Inaudible interjections.]-  Order in this House Hon. Members. Hon. Chinotimba!

HON. SHAMU: Domestic and international institutions confidence will be boosted especially with an open flow of information that becomes available to all stakeholders, signaling our Governments adherence to standards of institutional functioning, free of corruption.

Hon. Maridadi having shouted and pointing fingers to Hon. Chinotimba.

THE ACTING SPEAKER:  Order Hon. Maridadi! Hon. Maridadi! Hon. Maridadi! Order please!  You can resume your debate Hon. Shamu.

HON. SHAMU:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. His Excellency informed us of the approval of a turn-around strategy for the Cold Storage Company as part of the programme to revive the country’s beef industry.  This will enable the beef industry to contribute to creation of the much needed employment in the country, resuscitate export of beef products, thus increasing our foreign currency earnings and providing raw materials for other allied industries such as shoe manufacturing companies. Zimbabwe should draw lessons from the Botswana Meat Commission whose turn-around strategy was successful and that can be repeated in Zimbabwe on condition that we learn from our neighbours.   

His Excellency the President Cde R.G Mugabe’s address to the 8th Parliament of Zimbabwe encompassed all aspects of the nation’s challenges which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.  It is therefore incorrect for any Member of this House to insinuate that His Excellency’s speech lacked content.  It had a lot of content that we can debate based on what he delivered.  I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.

          THE MINISTER OF LANDS AND RURAL RESETTLEMENT (HON. DR. MOMBESHORA):  Mr. Speaker Sir, I move that the debate do now adjourn.

          Motion put and agreed to.

          Debate to resume: Wednesday, 30th November, 2016.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

          THE MINISTER OF LANDS AND RURAL RESETTLEMENT (HON. DR. MOMBESHORA): Mr. Speaker Sir, I move that Orders of Day, Numbers 4 and 5 be stood over until all the other Orders of the Day have been disposed of.

          Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

SADC MODEL LAW ON ERADICATING CHILD MARRIAGES

          HON. GONESE: I move the motion standing in my name:

          That this House:

          NOTING the unanimous adoption of the SADC Model Law on eradicating Child Marriage and protecting those already in marriage at the SADC PF in Ezulwini, Swaziland on the 3rd of June, 2016;

ACKNOWLEDGING that the Model Law addresses all the issues and matters related to and incidental to rights and concepts relating to the Child Prohibition of Child Betrothal and Marriage, as well as measures and interventions to mitigating the effects of child marriages, offences and enforcement;

          RECOGNISING that the Draft Model Law can be adopted with minimal changes to constitute a holistic, comprehensive and all – embracing legislation dealing with the subject matter;

          DESIROUS that child marriages must be ended as a matter of urgency;

          NOW THEREFORE, calls upon the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to forthwith introduce this Model Law to Parliament so that it becomes part of Zimbabwean law with suitable changes.

          HON. MPARIWA:  I second.

          HON. GONESE:  Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir.  I think that the motion is very straightforward and I would like to say that Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for this opportunity to move this very important motion.  Mr. Speaker Sir, before I go into the substance of the motion, I want to start by referring to a newspaper article which really illustrates the extent of the problem.  We have been talking about the issue of eradicating child marriages for a long time and I think that the time has now come for action.  It is not sufficient to merely go on and on saying that we want to bring this scourge to an end.  We now want to get to a stage where we can actually have the actual implementation. 

As I have just indicated, before I go into the substance of the model law, I just want to make reference to a recent article in the Herald which brings home the extent of the problem.  The article was just last week on the 22nd of November, 2016, where it was revealed by the Hon. Minister of Primary and Secondary Education that 4 500 pupils had dropped from school in just one year alone Mr. Speaker.  What is really alarming is that out of that number, 3 650 are females and only 251 are males.  It illustrates that the problem is more pronounced and affects the girl child more than it does the boy child.

          What we now need to do, particularly the men in this House is to be at the forefront of fighting this scourge.  As you know Mr. Speaker, if we go back in history, we know the evils of the slave trade.  At the time, the perpetrators were the whites who were taking people from Africa to the Americas as part of that slave trade.  But for that slave trade to be abolished, the person who was at the forefront of the abolition was William Wilberforce who was not a slave himself and who was not directly a victim but who realised that this was an evil practice.  He was at the forefront for the abolition of the slave trade.  By the same token, it is my respectful submission that the majority of the perpetrators are us men.  We have to acknowledge and accept the fact because the facts speak for themselves even from the statistics which I have given.  Apart from those statistics, it is very clear that most of the victims of child marriage are girls.  I believe that it is incumbent upon us the male folk to be champions in leading this crusade for the eradication of child marriage and we have to do that both in this House and in our constituencies.  So that is the first point I would like to make Mr. Speaker, that we must be at the forefront so that we protect the major victims who as I have already indicated are the girl children.

          The second point that I would like to make Mr. Speaker Sir, is that we all celebrated when the Constitutional Court in the celebrated case of Mudzuru and another versus the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and another, when the highest court in the land made a pronouncement that child marriage was unconstitutional.  We all ululated and we all clapped our hands but at the end of the day, that judgement is simply a declaratory.  It simply restates what is in the Constitution but it does not deal with the real issue, which is the criminalisation of child marriage.  Without that criminalisation and without criminal penalties, the challenge that remains with us is that it simply becomes a judgement which is not being enforced.  Because, at the end of the day, nothing is happening to those people who are abusing the young girls and the young boys.

          I want to say Mr. Speaker, that when you are dealing with the issue of child marriage, it is not just abuse; it is actually a violation of human rights.  It is a violation of the fundamental rights of those children.  I think we are all in agreement, at least everyone who is rationale agrees that when you have got somebody who is below the age of 18, that person is a child. 

          Our Constitution is very clear; anyone below the age of 18 is still a child.  You know all the debates that have taken place; it is quite clear that those people are not yet mature enough to found a family.  We all agree that when we are dealing with children of that tender age, their place is in the classroom.  They must be at school, not in marriage because they are not able to make the fundamental decisions to run a family. 

          Going to the issue of the SADC Model Law, I would like to advise all Hon. Members that on 20th October, 2016, e-mails were send to all Hon. Members of Parliament.  For those who may not be aware, Parliament administration has opened e-mails for all of us and I think that all Hon. Members were advised. They used your surname and the initial to open those e-mails. The SADC Model Law was forwarded to all our e-mails on 20th October, 2016.  Therefore, I would like to urge all Hon. Members to check their e-mails.  Unfortunately, Parliament administration was not able to make copies for all of us.  I have brought my own copy. 

Hon. Gonese showed Hon. Members his copy. 

This is the SADC Model Law, not just on eradicating child marriages but also on protecting children already in marriage because we have victims, people who have married at a tender age. What the SADC Model Law seeks to do is also to protect those already in marriage.  I will explain how the Model Law endeavours to do that. 

          Mr. Speaker Sir, this model law on eradicating child marriage was adopted in Ezulwini, Swaziland on 3rd June, 2016 at the 39th Plenary Assembly of the SADC Parliamentary Forum.  What I want to highlight is that, this was a unanimous adoption.  All the members of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, men and women alike supported the adoption of this motion.  Another thing which I want to advise Hon. Members is that we, in the SADC region are the pioneers.   This is the first time that a law of this nature has ever been passed, not just in Africa but in the whole world.  I believe that we must congratulate ourselves as a region for being the pioneers on adopting such a model law.

          Mr. Speaker Sir, we do not want those efforts to go to waste because this piece of legislation is actually a master-piece for those who are going to read the document and understand what it entails.  I want to commend it and say that this is a brilliant piece of legislation.  What we would like to happen is to have that model to be domesticated so that it becomes part of the legislation in our respective countries.  As of now, the Parliamentary Forum does not have legislative powers.  What it can simply do is to recommend and I believe we have got members of the Executive and members who sit in Cabinet and I notice that some of them are not paying attention.  Dr. Mombeshora, I know that he is a medical doctor; he knows very much some of the harmful effects on girls who get married at an early age.  He knows that they have medical complications because they are not ready at that point in time to give birth.

          I know that our Ministers generally are in support of this piece of legislation.  What we would like is for them to put it in practice and have Cabinet adopt it with minor amendments so that it becomes part of our law.  This model law was the product of a highly interactive, iterative – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MARUMAHOKO): Order!  Can we have less noise in the House Hon. Members?

          HON. GONESE: It was a product of a very comprehensive, exhaustive and inclusive process.  I would like to say, Hon. Vice President who is also responsible for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs who is just walking in as I am making this presentation, has been highly supportive and as a matter of fact, he was instrumental on 12th November, 2016 to launch the SADC Model Law at the 40th Plenary Assembly of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, which was held in Harare at the Rainbow Towers. 

          The Hon. Vice President gave his undertaking that the Government of Zimbabwe is fully supportive of this model law.  What we simply want now is to have a scenario or a situation where with utmost speed, the Government of Zimbabwe proceeds to introduce this model law to Parliament.  As I have already pointed out, the process was very long.  It started in 2014 and the 35th Plenary Assembly in Mauritius where all the Parliamentarians who sit in the SADC Parliamentary Forum agreed that we must embark on a process to develop such a model law.

          I would like to acknowledge the sterling role played by several supporting partners.  We have got the Human and Social Development and Special Programme in the SADC Parliamentary Forum, which jointly with the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA), Plan Netherlands, 18 Plus Programme as well as Girls not Brides, UNFPA, Embassy of Sweden, Plan International and Global Partnership all came together with the SADC Litigation Centre and all those institutions played a role in ensuring that this model law sees the light of the day.

          Without going through all the processes, I just want to point out the key steps that were taken to show that this model law was a product of extensive consultations.  First and foremost, was a presentation of the Model Law to a training programme hosted by the African Union in Abuja, Nigeria between 5th and 10th October, 2015.  There was also a presentation to the media fraternity on Legislative and Policy Interventions on SR/HR as they pertain to the model law and child marriages on 27th and 28th October, 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Then followed the presentation on the model law to the legal fraternity and other expert meetings held from 8th to 11th December, 2015.  This model law was further presented to the International Family Planning Conference in Indonesia between 25th and 28th December, 2015. There was also a presentation of the Model Law at the YWCA Girls Summit hosted by the Government of Zambia on the 26th – 27th November, 2015 and also its presentation for adoption to the 38th Plenary Assembly which was held in Namibia, Swakopmund. Lastly but equally important, its presentation at the ICASA hosted by the Government of Zimbabwe between the 29th November and 1st December, 2015. I am just outlining all these steps to show how extensive the consultations have been.

          Mr. Speaker Sir, I would now like to go to the substance of the Model Law. This document has got something like 79 pages. I am not going to –

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Let us not make noise Hon. Members.

          HON. GONESE: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. I think we have to remind each other of the importance of this motion because we have been talking about it and I would like to submit that it would be good for Zimbabwe to also be the pioneer in formally adopting this Model Law in our Parliament as opposed to a situation where we just have the launch. In that regard Mr. Speaker Sir, I will just indicate the highlights of the Model law. As already indicated, it has something like 79 pages which shows that it is very detailed. It covers almost everything.

          The first part deals with the rationale and objectives of the model law. I have already alluded to some of these aspects in my preamble. What I would like to do at this point in time Mr. Speaker, is to highlight some of the challenges which make it necessary for us to take the further step which I am pointing out, that we now want to have a situation where we have got proper legislation enacted which will have penal provisions. At the present moment, what the Constitutional Court judgment has simply done is to ensure that there is no doubt in the law. Everyone is clear that child marriages are not permissible. What we would now like to have is a situation where those who transgress, who take children and make them wives or husbands face the full wrath of the law.

Some of the challenges Mr. Speaker Sir, are clearly set out in the first part which I have already alluded to, namely that the lack of effective and well-streamlined birth registration systems which make age determination difficult for purposes of enforcing a law on child marriages. Again, obviously what I have already been highlighting that there are no provisions in the law criminalising those who contravene the minimum age of marriage requirement. Also Mr. Speaker Sir, the slow reforms on laws on marriage.

The second aspect which is critical in this Model Law is that it also makes reference to the international and regional human rights instruments which we have already acceded to. I will just highlight some of these. The Model Law Mr. Speaker Sir is structured using the General Conventional Practices, which are reflected in the SADC Model Law on HIV/AIDS. These are as follows; you have got your Table of Contents, Preamble, headings and so on. In the preliminary provisions, you now have a restatement of the rights, concepts which relate to the child and the policy initiatives, measures and interventions, which I think are important so that whoever has got sight of this Model Law has a clear understanding of where one is coming from.

When you go to the third part of the Model Law Mr. Speaker, it specifically speaks to the issue of child betrothal, because some of the challenges that we have arise because of poverty where we have got parents betrothing their children and those children have no option or choice and end up being married at an early age. What this Model Law seem to be doing is to criminalise that.

The fourth part Mr. Speaker Sir deals with the measures and interventions to prevent child marriages. The fifth part deals with the measures and interventions to mitigate the effects of child marriages.

In the preamble Mr. Speaker Sir, the Model Law will go back to the critical issues about some of our customs and practices which are prejudicial to the health and life of children. It makes it abundantly clear that child marriages and the betrothal of boys and girls shall be prohibited and effective action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify the minimum age of marriage which has already been done. It also refers to other instruments Mr. Speaker, which we have already acceded to but which we are not implementing.

For example, in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which is commonly known as the Maputo Protocol, we have a situation Mr. Speaker where most governments have already acceded to this important instrument. One of the provisions is that every marriage shall be recorded in writing and registered in accordance to the national laws in order to be legally recognised, and that monogamy is encouraged as the preferred form of marriage.

Mr. Speaker, in this august House, I would like to implore Hon. Members of Parliament to lead by example. As I have already highlighted, the Maputo Protocol makes it very clear that monogamy must be the preferred form of marriage. That if you are already married, we are all being encouraged to stick to that one wife. I hope that we, Members of Parliament are not at the forefront of violating that principle. You find that some of the challenges that we have is that some of these children are going into marriage at a tender age, marrying older men - I would like to challenge all of us to lead by example.

Secondly Mr. Speaker Sir, the Maputo Protocol is very clear that in order to be able to deal with some of these issues, we must have every marriage recorded. The reason is simple Mr. Speaker Sir, where marriages are not recorded, that enables situations where one cannot keep track of who is in this institution and who is not. Some of these instruments again, like CEDAW, are very clear. We have acceded to it but we are not implementing it, it simply states that the betrothal and marriage of a child shall have no legal effect and all necessary action shall be taken. We simply now need to have a piece of legislation which is very comprehensive. Mr. Speaker Sir, the model law goes further to make any child marriage which is existing at the commencement of a member state’s law on eradicating child marriage voidable at the option of a party to the proceedings. The challenge we have as I have already pointed out is that the Constitutional Court judgment has simply stated that child marriage is unconstitutional but it does not say what is going to happen to all those situations where people have entered into marriage at an early age.

          This model law gives the answer and the answer is that where any child was forced by whatever circumstances to enter into a marriage before the age of 18, then they can now go to court and void that marriage. Obviously, it will not cover all the situations but we now have specific legal provisions that child marriage can then be voided at the instance of a party. It also defines what harmful practices are.

          I have already mentioned about the reinstatement of the rights and so on. I would now like to go to other aspects which are very important. At the beginning of my presentation or submission, I indicated the challenge that we have of children who have had to leave school because they have been forced by circumstances to enter into marriage. That number is frightening as I have already pointed out. We are talking of over 4 000 just in one year alone.

The model law does not just confine itself to issues relating to child marriage or to marriage only, it also deals with issues of the right to education. It makes a provision that every child has got a right to free and compulsory primary education and to have access to secondary education. It also provides that all those children who have been victims of child marriage can go back to school, which I think is very critical because one of the issues which confront us is the situation where they drop from school and they are not able to continue with their education. This piece of legislation is very comprehensive. It does not just confine itself to the criminalisation of the child marriage but it goes further.

          Then it also talks about the right to health and it enjoins the Minister of Health and Child Care to put in place the necessary mechanisms and have health policies which enable all those children to have access to health and medical services and so on. However, the model law is alive to the fact that even if you do legislate that children must not be married at a tender age, you still have got the problem of adolescents who are still in school who have reached the age of puberty. What the model law does is to encourage reproductive health to have that kind of education so that the young boys and girls become aware of the dangers of indulging in premarital sexual intercourse.

          The other critical point which is already covered in other pieces of legislation but what the model law seeks to do is to bring all this under one roof – is to provide for the right to registration of birth. We have got challenges in Zimbabwe where a lot of children, even now, do not have their births registered but if you make it peremptory that all births must be registered, it makes it easier to tell the age of a person so that any marriage officer simply has to have recourse to the birth certificate in order to establish whether someone has attained the age of marriage or not.

          The model law goes on to provide legal aid and services to victims of child marriage because as of now, one of the problems that we have is that some of these victims may not have access to legal representation and the model law has provided answers that you must have legal aid which is availed to those victims.      The fourth part will deal with preventive measures and the necessary interventions and the establishment of any anti-child marriage fund whose main role will be to enable such victims to access the necessary assistance.

          The model law also has provisions for restraining orders to be issued and for programmes but what is very important from the model law is that you are going to have training programmes for public officials to ensure that awareness is spread throughout the country through the establishment of community networks and so on and so forth. At the end of the day, this is just a first step and what I would like to do at this point in time is to point out that it is now our responsibility as the legislators to ensure that we implore the Executive to take on board this model law.

          This model law has made the job of our Hon Vice President and his Ministry much easier. They have got a ready-made draft which they can just apply mutatis mutandis, with suitable changes to suit the requirements of our country. I would therefore say that, we would like to have the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to move with haste and introduce this model law to this Parliament so that we can then implement some of the important provisions, particularly the criminilisation of all those who think that girls are wives when in fact they are children who should remain in class until they have completed their education.

          With these words, I therefore seek the support of all Hon. Members and particularly the Vice President who has already indicated and shown his support by bringing to this august House early next year this model law so that it becomes part of our law and it enables us to eradicate and deal once and for all with the scourge of child marriage.

          *HON. MPARIWA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I want to thank Hon. Gonese who is a member of the SADC Parliamentary Forum and I want to thank the Zimbabwean delegation for agreeing with all members at the SADC Parliamentary Forum that we also need that law. I think it is a very good thing that as Zimbabwe we should be the first country to have a law that touches on children to incorporate the law that came from SADC.  I know that we are a champion in all these laws, so I am appealing to Hon. Vice President and Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, on the plea that was given by Hon. Gonese, that we should fast track the law so that those who marry young children should be prosecuted under the law.

          Hon. Speaker, you are aware that in our Constitution, we have human rights and child rights, but if we do not include this, children are no longer going to school.  Children are not able to do what they want in life.  When children are married when they are under age, they do not have any rights because they would have been forced into marriage.  This is coming in after we have talked about the 16 days of activism against gender violence.  This is one of the violence which is fatal because if a child gets married at a young age, she is not aware of what she is supposed to do.

          When Hon. Gonese touched on the issue that every woman should have a marriage solemnised under Chapter 5:11 of the Marriages Act – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – There is a lot of noise Hon. Speaker, can you protect me.

          THE ACTING SPEAKER: Hon. Members, can the Member be heard in silence.

          HON. MPARIWA: Thank you Mr. Speaker.  I was thinking that we should have one marriage law so that we get rid of polygamous marriages – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – one Hon. Member talked about it, that we should have one man-one wife marriages, it is very good – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

          THE ACTING SPEAKER: Hon. Members, let us have less noise.

          HON. MPARIWA: I think male Hon. Members who were making noise are now paying attention.  I agree with Hon. Gonese where he said that if a couple has Chapter 5:11 of the Marriages Act, they will have rights.  If we have under-aged children getting married, they cannot stand up for themselves and demand for a Chapter 5:11 marriages because they do not know what that means.  They do not know the different types of marriages that are there –

          Hon. Maridadi having been speaking to another Hon. Member.

          THE ACTING SPEAKER: Hon. Maridadi, that is the second time now.

          HON. MPARIWA: Hon. Speaker, the issue here is that, if we have laws that prohibit children from getting married, it will help them to go back to school and be taken care of as children.  We have Chapter 5.06 of the Children’s Act, which provides for the issues to do with children.  However, without the provisions of under-aged children, I think there is a gap there.  If there is no law, we will not complete anything and everyone will do whatever they want because there is nothing stopping people from doing what they want. 

I want to say to Hon. Members, just imagine if it is your child who is 12 or 14 years of age and gets married to someone who is 60 years old or even 49 years.  If a child is growing up in our homes, we look forward to something good coming out of her.  It is very frightening to note that you are not sure of what will happen to your child and you might wake up one morning and find out that she is getting married.  I have heard that children are visiting brothels and are being abused there.  These children are not yet physically fit to get pregnant because they are still very young.

Hon. Speaker, if you look at the age of majority, it is 18 years and if a child has not yet reached that age, parents are supposed to take care of those children.  The children whom we are referring to in this House are our children.  We will be very happy if we find ourselves on the right side with the SADC regulations concerning children.  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs once attended one of our seminars where he was talking about children who get married at a tender age.  As women’s caucus, we have talked about these issues for a number of times.  What is good about it is that there are some Members of Parliament in this House who agree with this and also support it.

If we want to move forward as a nation in terms of development - this motion is emanating from the SADC theme, which we once chaired and also has seats there.  I think we should be found to be on the right side all the time so that we enact laws that prohibit young children from getting married.  With these few words Mr. Speaker, I am appealing to this House, that we should embrace this motion because if we do not, we embarrass Hon. Members when they go back to SADC.  Thank you Hon. Speaker.

*HON. MUFUNGA: Thank you Mr. Speaker.  I want to thank you Hon. Speaker for this motion.  It is a very good motion from SADC.  I want to support it because it will put us on the map as a nation.  However, on that note, I want to say that we should also help our children as parents.  We should be custodians of our children and we should have power over them.  Many parents do not have power to control their children, they cannot reprimand them.  There are a lot of things that are being done by children personally and there are also things being done by parents who push their children into marriages whilst they are still under age.  I think we should also look at the fact that parents should have power over their children.  If parents have power over their children, it means that a child cannot just go on their own to report to the police after being abused. 

I come from Muzarabani, if you observe very well, you will realise that in Mashonaland Central, that is the province where a lot of child abuse is taking place.  I have about two or three incidences where children who were in Form One were taken from school and when parents complained, the children were the ones who vindicated their husbands.  Looking at that, a parent cannot take it further because the law will protect the child because of their rights.  I think parents should be given more powers over their children.  When we were growing up, our parents had power over us.  I think parents should be given powers.  Mr. Speaker, I do not have much to say.  What I want to say is that all of us should support this motion so that it is implemented as it is.

HON. TOFFA: Thank you Mr. Speaker for affording me this opportunity to contribute to this very important motion.  Mr. Speaker Sir, it is very important that this model law, the SADC PF model law, is domesticated.  I cannot find words to actually emphasise the importance because if we do not take this model law seriously, we are actually contributing to the detriment of our economy.  The girl child is very important and the girl child, if educated and given the opportunity to go through her schooling, to go and get to the age of majority, that is 18 and even further and further her education and become that which she desires to be, our country, our nation and the world over will benefit a lot.

This issue of child marriage does not only affect Zimbabwe, it affects Africa, it affects the whole world, but the extent to which it affects the different countries is how the particular governments are handling the issue.  So, if we domesticate this model law and align the laws so that anyone found marrying a girl under the age of 18 is reprimanded in a very severe manner, that will deter anybody else from marrying a girl child.  I also find the term of marrying a child not the right term.  This child is not being married, this child is actually being raped because she does not know and does not understand what is going on.

Mr. Speaker Sir, I would like to give an example of what I am talking about when I say a girl child is being raped.  In Bulawayo, there is a safe house where girl children are taken and being mothered.  Their ages range from between 9 to 11 years.  There are places here in Harare too that are doing this, but anyway, I will go back to the safe house in Bulawayo.  It is called the Margaret Jones House.

In this home there are these little girls that are being looked after and there are two women that are employed as mothers that were looking after these children.  It was found that these mothers were abusing these children.  They could not understand why these children were behaving in the manner they were behaving.  They felt that they were spoilt because they had been taken into this home.  So the proprietor of this home decided to have a team building workshop so that these women could understand the plight that these children were in. 

When they held this workshop, on the second day when presentations were being given of similar situations, these two mothers broke down in tears – Hon. Members, I think this is important.  Can you please listen?  Mr. Speaker Sir, when the proprietor asked…

THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  Order Hon. Members.  Let us have less noise in the House.

HON. TOFFA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for your protection.  When these women were asked why they were crying, one of the women stood up and said as a girl she was raped at the age of 11 years old and she knew who had actually raped her.  When she reported the matter to her parents, they called the man that had raped her and asked him what had happened.  When they took him to task about what he had done, the family then said, now that you have deflowered this girl, you may now take her, she is your wife.

This girl was taken at the age of 11 as a wife and as a grown woman she says this man actually raped me every day of my life.  I have three children and these children, I am sorry to say, I do not love them and I do not love this man.  My friends that I was in school with have become doctors, others are engineers, others are nurses and I used to take number one in my class in school.  So you can see, Mr. Speaker Sir, when I say it is important to protect the girl child, at least give her the opportunity to reach her potential. 

In other countries such as Malawi and Ghana, they have started activating and actioning this model law.  For example, Malawi annulled 300 marriages in February last year and they did not only just annul the marriages, they made sure that they had a support programme where these girls were taken back to school by Government.  The children that they had mothered and their mothers; the families that they come from were given support to look after these children. 

So, I think that it is important too that when we domesticate this model law we look and make sure that we are not just going to arrest and put the perpetrators into prisons, but we also make sure that the girl child is catered for.  I think it is important too, that we make sure that every single girl is afforded the opportunity to go to school right up to university level, because what is actually taking place right now in the country, in the different constituencies in Zimbabwe, you will find that the girl child will sometimes go up to Grade 7 and there is no money for her to complete her schooling.  The girl child will go up to high school – will go up to Form 4 and Form 5 and want to go to university and the girl child cannot go to university.

So, I think those are the areas that we need to look at.  That is what I would urge the Hon. Vice President Mnangagwa to please look into when we are domesticating this law.  We need to make sure that all our children, all the girls, are made to go to school because they will contribute enormously to the economy.  You can tell from even just the few girls that have gone to school that have managed to escape the scourge of being abused, becoming a wife or being a victim, that girls actually contribute a lot to their families and I think this is important and should be looked at.

Mr. Speaker Sir, when you look at the statistics of the child marriages in Zimbabwe, it is one in every three.  It is about 32%, if I am not mistaken and of course it will vary from province to province, but even one girl is one girl too many.  I was also a part of the construction of this model law.  I am a member of the SADC Parliamentary Forum in the Human Social Development and Special Needs Committee.

Another area, Mr. Speaker Sir, that needs to be seriously looked into is the sexual reproductive rights for children and the youth.  It is important that education and sensitisation is done throughout the country so that children understand.  People or the nation at large need to appreciate the importance of sexual reproductive health.  Also, when we come to aligning this law for domestication of the eradication of girl child marriages, we must be very careful that we also look at the issue of the young people that they have the right to go into clinics and hospitals to access services. For example, if they are not feeling well, if they have engaged or indulged in any sexual activity, if they feel that they want to be tested for HIV/AIDS or whatever sickness they may be feeling that they do not necessarily have to go out. This is because what happens is that when a child goes to a clinic under the age of 18, they are told to go back and get their parents.

          That is another area we need to look at because if a child is forced to go back and go to her mother and father to get permission or to be escorted to the clinic, that child will never get the attention that they need or the medication and the treatment they need. That means we will be accelerating the scourge of HIV and AIDs and all the different diseases. So, I think it is one very important area. When I speak this way Mr. Speaker, I am not saying that we should encourage children under the age of 18 to indulge in sex, but it is something that actually takes place. It happens in our society and we need to look at it. We also need to make sure that this law of an adult having sex with a minor is seriously looked into. I cannot emphasise it much more because what is happening is, you find that a lot of people are getting away with indulging in sexual activities with younger children.

Another area that Hon. Paurina touched is the issue of brothels and night clubs that are mushrooming up around the country, that are strip clubs. I would urge the Hon. Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to please mann these night clubs and night spots. I would like to urge the Hon. Vice President Mnangagwa through the Speaker, that these brothels and night spots need to be looked at. You will find that there are children as young as 13-14 years that are being engaged in these night clubs as strippers because of the economical situation that we are in. These are the things that are forcing the girl children to eventually find themselves as child brides. So, it is important that we look most importantly at making sure that they are catered for in their education and make sure that their parents are also catered for.

As a country, we need to make sure that we are industrialised so that people may have jobs. For example right now, it is good to see that maize seed and implements are being parceled out. I heard Hon. Mapiki speaking about the power of parents. The parents do not have power. In most cases, what is causing parents not to have power is the fact that the parents are no longer economically empowered. They cannot provide food, shelter and clothing for their children.

So, these girls now find the sugar daddies and other people to cater for their needs. As a country, it is of paramount importance that we look at ways of making sure that we correct the current situation that we are in because if we do not do that, we will never be able to achieve the goal that we want, to make sure that all our girl children reach and achieve the goals that they want to achieve. With those words Mr. Speaker Sir, I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to contribute. 

          HON. NDUNA: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I want to add my voice to the motion by Hon. Gonese which was also supported by Hon. Mpariwa and other Hon. Members. I will try by all means not to repeat what has been said, but I will touch on a few salient points which are key and which I believe can help us unpack and also stop the scourge of child marriages. Recent Constitutional Court ruling that outlawed child marriages for children below the age of 18 needs to be aligned with our Constitution which still allows our children to be married at 16. Mr. Speaker Sir, we need to harmonise our laws together with our Constitution because a nation is as good as it upholds its Constitution.   

          So, if the Constitution is ultra vires our laws, then we leave a lot to be desired in that aspect. I want to first of all touch on internally displaced persons. The IDPs of our nation because we cannot completely eradicate the issue of child marriages if we still have a tag that speaks to and about alienship. We have a lot of people out there in particular in Chegutu West, Kadoma Central and Mutorashanga where people are disenfranchised and sidelined because they have got a tag on them that calls them aliens.

These people have never seen Malawi, Mozambique or any other place besides Zimbabwe. We should remove that tag, register these people Mr. Speaker Sir, and give them birth certificates. We should also give them registration certificates when they reach the age of 16. This is because as long as these people are deregistered, not registered and not accounted for, we cannot know their age and nationality because we would have thrown them out of the only Zimbabwe that they know. We cannot optimally and efficiently support the eradication of child marriages. We also need to call the tradition of umholo wewizana that obtained and may be still obtains in parts of Plumtree and also kuzvarira which still obtains in Mashonaland.

          We need to call for the eradication of such a tradition and such a norm where a father before they give their hand in marriage for their daughter, they indulge in copulation which results in pro-creation with their daughter before they give them off for marriage. I speak about those that are above 16 and 18 but still we should, in the same vein, call for the eradication of such norms, values and traditions because I know there are a lot of people out there that are waiting to hear this. This is because there are moribund, archaic, antiquated, historic and very old traditions which should be eradicated.

          Mr. Speaker Sir, as we talk of hunger, we need to know that our children are being sold off for subsistence in the households. We need to embrace command agriculture, support the Presidential input support scheme, the agrarian reform programme and also support the drought mitigation programme by His Excellency, the President through the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Dr. Made, so that we eradicate in total the issue of child marriages.  A lot of our girl children are being sold off to mitigate and to inculcate issues to do with subsistence in the households.

          Mr. Speaker Sir, I have got before me here an eight point plan which if adhered to, will also lead to eradication of child marriages in total.  The first one is the health issue.  As long as we embrace issues to do with health, we will optimally adhere to the concerns of the girl child.  As long as they can go to health institutions where they can be attended to efficiently and optimally, we will be able to reduce and eradicate the issues of child marriages.  So, right to health should also be coupled with both health of the girl child and eradication of child marriages.

The second one will be -   as we embrace the Agrarian Reform Programme of 2000, we also need to make sure that those that were in the compounds are not left out in terms of land re-distribution because they are also the formally marginalised black majority.  Those that were in the compounds live in one room or in a two roomed house where the mother, father, grandfather and everybody else including the girl child is embedded.  We need to make sure that as they also benefit from the Agrarian Reform Programme, they spread their wings wide and get to find time to get into houses and buildings that are extended to an extent that they do not live in a one room together with their parents where they then get sight of what adults indulge in form of pro-creation – [Laughter.] - which is going to lead them on a path in quest to get married quickly.

Mr. Speaker Sir, thirdly, the issue to do with support systems of our SME’s - it is the girl child and it is the woman who bears the brand of fending for the family.  When thick comes to shove, when the sheet hits the fan, it is the girl child who bears the biggest brunt of the economic hardships.  We need to inculcate the value and tradition of support of Small to Medium Enterprises in the urban councils and in all Rural District Councils when it comes to supporting the systems and values of the Small to Medium Enterprises.   This is done to avoid the issue of early child marriages because of the economic hardships that would have bedeviled our communities, aware that 80% of our economy is now skewed towards the informal sector and in that sector, it is 80% of our women that are embedded.  So, aware that 60% of these women are youths, it is only prudent to support the SMEs sector in order to avert, avoid, reduce and eradicate child marriages.

Fourthly, like you would have known, it is the support of the artisanal miners.  Artisanal miners are not only formed by men who are youths but by 60% girl children.  We need to support that sector so that they can get what they want utilizing what we have.  Mr. Speaker Sir, as long as we do not empower the girl child in the form of mining, gold is the only tradable commodity.  We need to make sure that our artisanal miners are empowered to eradicate child marriages in particular, disenfranchising the girl child. I am aware that there is 5% which is going to be paid in form of export incentive to the gold sector; it should also accrue to the girl child in form of artisanal mining. 

The issue to do with agricultural support systems cannot be overemphasized. When we talk of agricultural support systems, I am aware that there is the Presidential support systems that speak to one bag of AN, one bag of Compound D and one by 10kg seed.  I will repeat this – this only speaks to and can only optimally cultivate and, plough and plant on a point four of a hectare land. These people that till these gardens are our girl children for subsistence purposes.  This should accrue also to our girl child in the urban set up, in particular Chegutu West and Zimbabwe in general.

Mr. Speaker Sir, the rehabilitation, revamping and resuscitation of our industry should also come on board when we talk of empowering our girl child.  David Whitehead immediately comes to mind – [Laughter.] - Government has taken over the Cottco debt of US$68 million.  As we sit here and debate, we know that the equipment that is housed at David Whitehead is becoming historic.  The sooner we revamp, rehabilitate and resuscitate David Whitehead, the sooner we eradicate child marriages.    As we go back as fathers to our households…

THE ACTING SPEAKER: Order, order! Let us lower our voices Hon. Members.

HON. NDUNA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for your protection. We do not want fathers to think that their girl children are a past time or are a mode of getting economic emancipation.  Girl children are as good as the boy children.  They are not supposed to be sold in times of economic hardships but as long as we do not resuscitate David Whitehead, they are prone to being sold to self-servitude and to all other ills that are encompassed with economic hardships.   We should immediately take away this company from the Judiciary Manager, Mr. Hofisi and turn the credit into equity and give it back to the former employees so that those employees do not sell off their children or do not marry off their children.

HON. MURAI: On a point of order! How do we identify when a Member goes mad in Parliament?

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  Hon. Member do not sit down, can you explain yourself.  What do you mean?

          HON. MURAI:  I am saying how do we identify when one Member of Parliament goes mad in this House?

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Are you referring to the Hon. Member speaking?

          HON. MURAI:  It is just a question Mr. Speaker Sir.

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  No, withdraw that statement.

          HON. MURAI:  I withdraw Mr. Speaker Sir.

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  There is no point of order. Hon. Member who is debating now, if you so feel about David Whitehead, why do you not move a motion in Parliament and debate about it?

          HON. NDUNA: Thank you Mr. Speaker for bringing the issue of David Whitehead.  In particular where they are more than 657 children at David Whitehead Primary School..

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  Order, Hon. Member, I am saying let us desist from referring to David Whitehead all the time you debate. 

          HON. NDUNA: Thank you Mr. Speaker, but half of those children are girl children.  So, as the issue of judicial management subsists, we want to make sure that David Whitehead Primary Schools is not also attached in the same vain.  Lastly, the issue to do with education and feeding; I want to say 9/10 times, our children at primary and secondary school level are with the teachers.  They spend more than 8 hours with the teachers, we also need to educate our teachers in order to make sure that they educate the parents to avoid and avert child marriages.  Mr. Speaker Sir..

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  You are left with five minutes Hon. Member. 

HON. NDUNA: Mr. Speaker Sir.

THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: You are left with two minutes, wind up your debate.

          HON. NDUNA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  As I wind up, I want to support the school feeding programme because it is going to keep our children at school.  As long as they are not fed at school, they will think of the family set up where they can get fed and they are convinced that – vanotiza mukumbo.  They will elope because there is no food at home and they will get married at a very tender age.  I ask that this school feeding programme continues unabated and I want to congratulate the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education for bringing this to the fore.  I want to take this opportunity to thank you and to thank Hon. Members and to ask them to debate vociferously and efficiently and also taking to heart that as long as they have taken on board the issues to do with women’s rights and girl children’s rights, they are building a nation second to none. I thank you.

          *HON. MANDIPAKA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for giving me the opportunity to make my contribution which I am going to make in Shona.  This was raised by Hon. Gonese, seconded by Hon. Mpariwa. We thank Hon. Gonese and Hon. Toffa as members of SADC PF, because they went and shared some ideas with other countries regarding this important issue on early marriages of our youngsters, I believe in that.  In this august House we just have to state our facts point blank without dilly dallying because children are the future of our country. 

          This motion raised by Hon. Gonese is calling for an early promulgation of a law which will lead a very heavy sentence being imposed on perpetrators of such heinous acts.  As far as I am concerned, I am asking myself as to why people indulge in early marriages especially regarding young girls; there are many reasons.  One of these reasons is because of the patriarchal system which we practice here in Zimbabwe.  The way we are brought up in our families in Zimbabwe, the girl child is taken as an inferior being while the boy child is considered to a superior.  As a result if people are admonishing children they will tell a young man not to behave like a little girl and the girl is told not to be a tom boy, for that reason, I am thanking the Government of Zimbabwe because of the steps we have taken since 1980.  We have built so many schools to advance us in education which has made us to be very intelligent and make contributions in such debates.  I am saying so because we have some countries in Africa which lack such education as in our country.  In those countries because of their little education, they have little care and little protection for the girl-child. However, Zimbabwe is lucky, we have a Government which has a productive orientation.  I am saying may the Government live long in giving guidance to Zimbabwe.

          Another pain in this issue is that we have some countries overseas which talk of democracy and when they look at countries like Zimbabwe which will be protecting the rights of the children, these Western countries impose sanctions. The sanctions lead to poverty in the country.  Consequently, when there is poverty, it leads to early marriages of these youngsters, as a way of running away from poverty and secondly, as a way of protecting their families from poverty.  These early marriages lead to the decline in the development of our country and our finances. 

          Mr. Speaker Sir, I am calling for child activists, groups or individuals that are given monies.  What I am calling for is that when these workshops are taken we should avoid them as much as possible.  I think they merely waste money where people will be drinking tea and sleeping in hotels.   I think we should use these monies for supporting the youngsters so that they grow up as people who have a future instead of holding workshops and spending money in hotels.  I think these funds are being misdirected; they should be used for direct assistance to the children.

          The other problem that leads to early marriages is the kind of houses which we construct, they are so small and families are crowded in those houses and are also in clusters.  As a result when parents are in their bedrooms the children will be nearby and at times sharing a room with only a curtain in between.  The children will be listening when the adults are indulging in sexual activities.   I am saying we should stop this, let us build decent accommodation so that children do not copy or take attitude which are beyond their age.  We need to fight overcrowding and poverty.

          The other point I will raise is the mentality, especially traditional beliefs.  As the people of Zimbabwe, as people of a culture, we need to accept that culture is dynamic and we need to do away with some of our culture which is very derogatory and destructive and adopt modern methods of advancement.  We need to work with religious organisations and look at the ways which disturb our ways of living especially as it destroys the future of our children.  We need to update our culture; we need to change some of our customs.  Let me now turn to us people who are said to be educated, we also need to inculcate the values of equal rights because we believe in gender equality and whatever opportunities are there are for the young man should also be available for the young women.  Let us remove that culture of saying a woman is inferior as compared to the man, the man is superior.  We believe in the quality of both boys and girls.  They are both of value to us and they can lead to the development of our country.  They should be married off when they are grown up.  If we look at the fruits; if we were to pluck a fruit from a tree before it is ripe, you will feel that it is sour and bitter, you will not enjoy it but if the fruit is ripe when it is red or yellow, you will really enjoy the sweatiness of that fruit.  What we are saying is let our girls mature first before getting married.  Hence as men, we should remove the lust which is in us for these young girls.  Let them grow up because a Shona saying goes, let the eggs be chickens because you cannot have soup from eggs’, regai dzive shiri mazai haana muto. 

          Now that Hon. Gonese is talking about the model law in SADC, we are saying as Zimbabwe, we need to take some of the concepts from these laws so that Zimbabwe has laws which are up to date and protect the youngsters.  This is a very good motion.  This is a very productive and developmental motion which says the youths of Zimbabwe are the future and will be developed by these youngsters, let us not oppress them.  I thank you.

          *HON. MUDARIKWA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for giving me the opportunity to make my contribution on this motion raised by Hon. Gonese.  This is a very constructive motion because we believe when we talk of Zimbabwe; we are talking of the people of Zimbabwe, including women.  Women are very important in the development of Zimbabwe.  It is a shame if you have the young girls as mothers because they are not yet mature.  When you are developing your country, there are some steps which have to be taken towards inculcating the values of responsibility in young children.  What has been happening in other countries is that we need to develop vocational training centres.  These should be in every district, if not every province so that the youngsters can go and acquire some life skills such as construction, carpentry, farming, knitting, sewing, agriculture and so forth.  This means this youngster has benefitted through these trainings because we have a situation whereby these days, if you were to ask the boys and girls about their career development, they will say I will take any job which may come across my way because they lack guidance.  I am therefore pleading with the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment that is has to have some ideas to develop these youngsters. 

          Mr. Speaker Sir, I remember, when we were youngsters, there were clubs which were called the Young Farmers’ Clubs, which taught us about animal husbandry including castration of bulls.  We also have clubs at the churches.  These are responsible for bringing an upright youth, which I think we need to develop.  As a result, as Parliament, we need to work hard and ask the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to inject more money in the rural areas so that we fight poverty. 

Some of these cultural practices which we are still clinging on to are caused by poverty within families.  As a result, this leads to the early marriages of the young men and women.  We have people who will be moving around, seeking assistance, wherever they will be going and even taking off their clothes.  I am saying as Members let us persuade the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the Treasury to pour money into the development of rural areas.  One of the ways of doing it is creating a fund which will give loans to farmers with very low interest.  We know we are suffering from climate change, such as the effects of the El Nino; we need to have ways and means of fighting this climate change.  This will require us to utilise the little rains we have and we also need to work with other organisations which are coming to this country. 

Mr. Speaker Sir, we need to fight against some of these cultural practices which are being introduced into the country by these non-governmental organisations.  They are promoting lesbians and gays; they are promoting homosexuality.  If we have two people marrying, we are deviating from our culture because if you marry another man, can you really take that partner to your rural area and introduce to your parents and the aunts and say this is my boyfriend, referring to this a other man?  In our culture, we say this is taboo and this is destroying our youngsters because they are exposed to such cultures and sins, especially in the media and even from the videos which they watch, seeing a man kissing another man or a woman kissing another woman.  This is taboo, this should be stopped and we need to punish these people who indulge in such satanic activities. 

Mr. Speaker Sir, in the past, we used to have situations whereby the elders would sit around the fireplace with either the girls only or the boys to talk about the good culture of our country.  In Zimbabwe, we seem to be going astray at some other time and people are saying people should not marry early.  In the past, our culture was saying women would marry from the age of 25 years up 30.  What is happening now is that they are getting married at an early age.  A good example is a young girl who does not manage to go through her ‘O’ levels, as soon as she drops out of school, the aunts will then ask this young girl to be proactive and even marry a widower or a lame person because they feel she should be married to somebody.  They think that is the ultimate goal of a young girl. 

Long back there was a programme of teaching agriculture to young children from Grade 6 to Form 4; this has been very successful.  These youngsters are now successful farmers.  They are working hand in hand with their parents and there is production.  We are saying knowledge is power.  We need to gain knowledge.  There are also some religious organisations, when they are in that organisation, the elderly sit in front and young boys, girls and women at the back.  What they do these people - especially these religions which believe in spiritual direction, they say the Holy Spirit has directed that this young girl should be married to so and so.  We are saying this is misdirecting the function of the Holy Spirit. I think it should be working towards production such as farming or horticulture.  Consequently, if we have enough food, we then drive out poverty.  I am also saying that we need to open the Women’s Bank which will support women’s projects and this will support their families.  When we look at the current banks that we have and the stories that are published in our local newspapers, the current banks are so cruel.  What has been put across as collateral is sold if the farmers fail to pay up what has been borrowed.  We need to support this motion brought up by Hon. Gonese.  We need to support our people.  We need to give knowledge to our people.  We need to empower them in order to drive out diabolic cultures.

          Unfortunately, Hon. Gonese was sort of going astray because he was talking against polygamy.  According to our culture, at times you may have your wife but if your uncle or brother passes on, you are supposed to marry that widow.  At times the late brother or uncle will come as a vision in your sleep and advise you to marry that widow so that she is not married by a foreigner who will inherit your wealth.  We know that in our culture we have people who believe in polygamy.

          I was talking to one of my aunts and grandmothers here and they were saying that they do not like polygamy. I was telling the Hon. Member who is my aunt that if God wanted you to be in a single marriage, he should have created you with one eye so that you would see one person but what we know is that there are some people who are very progressive and successful.  These people came from polygamous families. 

          Even the people who were involved in the first Chimurenga, they were people who came from polygamous families.  These include Chingaira, Lobengula and Mzilikazi.  These were polygamous so that they could have many children who would fight wars of the day – and not only military war but fighting against poverty through family.

          Let me give you another example of China and India.  These people are so highly populated but these countries are highly developed.  We need to be involved in polygamous marriages because during the war of liberation, we lost many of our children and our population is very low.  We need to multiply like what the Bible says – multiply like the sands of the sea. 

          Let us not deviate from what Hon. Gonese has said. That is what the singer Paul Matavire said when he sang about the marriages of people who are in love.  Hon. Gonese is saying we need to protect our children.  They need to be happily married because they will be married at the right time because they will marry at the right time when they are mature.  Our biggest problem though is to fight poverty.

          In some areas, we have traditional healers (tsikamutandas) who go around assisting people who have problems.  They say the payment for the offence committed by the particular family is to marry off a young girl.  I am saying this is taboo and should be stopped.

          Hon. Gonese, you are a learned man and a lawyer.  Thank you for the enlightenment.  I urge you to be very prayerful.  You will also be given a vision which will tell you what will happen.  I am also urging you, since you have the spirit in you and the guidance; please go and found a church.  Your wife will be your deputy and I know you will be the light in darkness and there will be progress.

I would like to thank all the Hon. Members who supported this motion.  This is an essential and developmental motion.  I urge all Hon. Members that when you leave this place after adjournment, please do address people concerning the evil of early marriages whenever you get the opportunity.  Talk about the advantages of letting the children grow.  I thank you.

          HON. CHIRISA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker.  First of all, I want to thank our Parliament. Unfortunately, the Leader of Government in this House has gone.  I wanted to say this during his presence because our Portfolio Committee on Women’s Affairs – when it went out in Mashonaland Central for hearings on child marriages, it did a great job.  Our Portfolio Committees are very effective because even SADC picked it up from that trip by the Women’s Affairs Portfolio Committee to Mashonaland Central.  We should thank ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.]-

          Mr. Speaker, child marriages are a wide spread problem.  Child marriages are not only prevalent in Zimbabwe but everywhere.  This is a problem that needs to be sorted out by a coordinated group, nation, region, continent and world because every nation is being affected. 

          There are disadvantages in child marriages because the girl, in most cases is below fifteen and very young.  There are complications when this happens.  When they get pregnant at that age, their bones are not yet strong and when they give birth, they end up dying during labour.  They can give birth to disabled babies or they have still births. As a country, we do not want that kind of a record of having child marriages where children are giving birth and dying in the process.

          There are so many reasons why we have child marriages in this country and everywhere else. Some of the reasons have been given by my colleagues who have debated before me.  One major reason is poverty.  Poverty is the worst enemy when it comes to child marriages.  This involves even the parents who then make sure that their girl child is married to a rich community member or rich businessman so that the others could survive.  I am glad that eradicating poverty is one of the factors in the ZIM ASSET and I hope that things will happen to alleviate poverty.

          The other reason is the issue of tradition.  There are some areas in Zimbabwe where girl children are given to old men because of poverty or because the parents say so or because the aunt, tete or the brother’s sister died and you have to look after the children.  The young girl is inherited by the uncle or tete’s husband.

          The other issue is the distance that the children walk to secondary schools, especially in the rural areas.  What happens is, children look for accommodation near the school, away from their parents and they pay rent to villagers who give them accommodation.  But, sometimes they do not provide them with food and the children are then forced to go to the growth points and business centres where they do all sorts of things including indulging in unprotected sex with older men so that they get food to eat while they are attending school.  I think that this is also one of the major reasons. 

The other reason is the gender based violence in the home where parents are always fighting and the girl child will say the only option is to go and get married to the next person who approaches her and gender based violence must also be dealt with if we are to alleviate this problem. 

Mr. Speaker Sir, in addressing the child marriage problem as a country, we should look at the best solutions.  As much as we have our three pillars of the Government, we also have three pillars in the development arena where we have the political side, the development side and the traditional side.  If we are not careful, these three especially in the rural areas, each one will do his or her own thing because traditionally we do A, B and C.   Developmentally we do A, B, C and politically we do A, B, C.  They need to work together Mr. Speaker Sir, so that some of these problems that we are having today, especially in the rural areas are dealt with by the three pillars that I have talked about.  In the urban areas, there are school development committees and there are church committees which can also address the child marriages problem, especially during these 16 days of activism where we are talking about the effects of gender based violence on families and on children.  We are talking of peace in the home, peace in the nation and peace in the world but it starts with us.

 I just hope that our colleagues in this House, each one of us will do his or her own part.  When we go back to our constituencies, we should talk about the 16 days against gender based violence, especially the child marriages as it affects everybody if we are to maintain our good record as a nation.  At SADC level, I think that we have done very well.  The SADC introduced the ‘He for She’ and I think Zimbabwe was the first to launch the ‘He for She’.  This model law will have to be the first again.  I thank you Mr. Speaker.

THE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE, MECHANISATION AND IRRIGATION DEVELOPMENT (HON. DR. MADE):  Mr. Speaker, I move that the debate do now adjourn.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume: Wednesday, 30th November, 2016.

On the motion of THE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE, MECHANISATION AND IRRIGATION DEVELOPMENT (HON. DR. MADE), the House adjourned at Half-past Four o’clock p.m. 

 

National Assembly Hansard Vol. 43 NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 29 November 2016 Vol 43 no 17