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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 19 – 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
June 15, 2011


Being a Wednesday yesterday, the business of the House of Assembly was preceded by question and answer session where backbenchers quizzed Ministers about policies and programmes under their purview. Sadly, there were only three Ministers in the House during the session, namely; Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara, the Minister of Finance Hon. Tendai Biti and the Minister of Public Works Hon. Joel Gabbuza. As a result, all questions with written notice were deferred. The House also debated a condolence motion on the death of Edgar Tekere.

Plenary Business in the House of Assembly

Questions Without Notice

This segment of question and answer is confined to policy related questions. As indicated above the majority of Ministers were absent, and hence all the questions were directed to the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Professor Mutambara.

Outcome of the Sandton Extra-Ordinary SADC Summit

Hon. Mathias Mlambo (MDC-T Chipinge East Constituency) asked Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara to brief the House on the outcome of the Extra-ordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government. In response, Professor Mutambara said the summit was a “victory for the people of Zimbabwe and democracy as there were no losers or winners”. Thus he implored political parties to desist from misleading people by trying to score political points regarding the outcome of the summit. He also took the opportunity to explain why he did not attend the summit. He said the commencement of the summit was delayed by the burial of Albertina Sisulu and hence by the time it eventually kicked off, he had to come back to Zimbabwe to attend the burial of Edgar Tekere. DPM Mutambara said he felt that the burial of Tekere was more important than the SADC Summit, not what was reported by “busy bodies in the media” concerning his hasty return to the country. The media had reported that Prof. Mutambara was snubbed by SADC in his attempt to have Prof. Welshman Ncube and his negotiators replaced by his preferred appointees.

Policy on Contracting External Debt

Hon. Webber Chinyadza (MDC-T Makoni West Constituency) asked the Minister of Finance if there was policy in place to deal with the contraction of external debt. The Minister of Finance, Hon. Biti informed the House that the framework governing external debts was defined in Section 111A of the Constitution and in the Public Finance Management Act. He revealed to the House that Zimbabwe’s unvalidated external debt currently stood at US$7.1 billion whereas domestic debt was US$1.5, and most of the domestic debt was incurred by the central bank through quasi-fiscal activities. His ministry was in the process of reconciling debt interests so as to come up with a clearer picture of the quantum of the country’s external debt.

He further informed the House that in November of 2010, pursuant to a subcommittee that was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara, government adopted a high breed method of dealing with debt called Zimbabwe Accelerated Debt and Development Strategy (ZADDS). He said ZADDS consisted of three instruments of trying to settle our debt; chief among those was Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and the attempt to use our own mining resources. As part of implementing this strategy, the ministry of Finance had set up a Debt Management Office in the Ministry of Finance which has started the process of doing the reconciliation. The Minister also informed the House that one of the things that government needed to do was to have an accelerated engagement with the IMF with regards to traditional methods of dealing with this debt. On Hon. Chinyadza’s supplementary question if it was prudent for the country to borrow for non-productive sectors, the Minister said it was “criminal” for the country to do that at the expense of productive sectors. He made reference to the Chinese Loan Agreement that Parliament ratified recently, which is earmarked for the construction of the National Defence College. Hon. Biti said given the current economic situation, the country did not have capacity to repay the loans even at such concessionary interests of 2% or 5%.

Company Closures and Imports of Cheap Goods

Hon. Paddy Zhanda (ZANU PF Goromonzi North Constituency) asked the Minister of Finance as to whether government was doing anything regarding company closures triggered by cheap imports. In response, the Minister said the Zimbabwean economy was suffocated by four structural problems, namely; politics, external debt, land question and capital. He said as long as those factors were not dealt with in a holistic manner, the local industry would continue to suffer. Hon. Biti informed the House that the economy had the potential to grow by a double digit of 14% and reach a capital base of US$30 billion in the next three years if the above- mentioned factors were addressed.

Regarding banning of the dumping of cheap imports in the country, he said government’s hands were tied as Zimbabwe was member- state of such economic blocs as SADC, COMESA etc which stipulate free trade rules.

On government’s efforts to keep the local industry afloat, the Minister said government had mobilized lines of credit under ZETREF with AFREXIM Bank to the tune of US$70 million which local companies can access at concessionary rates. He noted however, that there was a low uptake rate of this facility as so far only $10 million has been drawn down.

Hon. Biti also informed the House that there was another facility for the local companies to the tune of $350 million which government negotiated with the PTA.

The Minister further revealed to the House that a facility of $15 million was set aside for the SMEs. Modalities of disbursing this fund were currently being discussed.

Role of Clerk of Parliament in the Administration of CDF

Hon. Collen Gwiyo (MDC-T Zengeza West Constituency) wanted to understand from the Deputy Prime Minister the role of the Clerk of Parliament in the administration of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). The Clerk of Parliament was quoted in the press recently accusing the Minister of Finance of usurping powers of parliament by putting the administration of CDF under the ambit of the executive. In response, DPM Mutambara said the administration of CDF should be coordinated by the Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs together with Parliament. However, he said the specifics of the Fund were better explained by Hon. Eric Matinenga the minister responsible for the programme.

Unfair Labour Practices by Chinese Companies

Hon. Festus Dumbu (MDC-T Zaka West Constituency) asked DPM Mutambara what government was doing regarding ill-treatment of black employees by Chinese companies that have set up shop in Zimbabwe. Prof. Mutambara said the Chinese companies should operate within the framework of the country’s labour laws. He informed the House that it was up to Zimbabwe to enforce its laws to ensure conformity by Chinese companies. In a rider to his response, Prof. Mutambara informed the House that China was one of the biggest economies in the world that Zimbabwe could not afford to ignore.

Anglican Church Saga

Hon. Willard Chimbetete (MDC-T Nyanga South Constituency) asked the DPM Mutambara regarding government’s position on the Anglican Church saga where two factions have been at each other’s throat over the ownership of the Church’s property. Prof. Mutambara informed the House that government was seized with the matter, and had assigned Vice President John Nkomo to mediate between the two feuding factions. The Co-Ministers of Home Affairs were also looking into the issue.

Fugitives from International Justice

Hon. Piniel Denga (MDC-T Mbare Constituency) asked the Deputy Prime Minister to explain to the House the country’s policy regarding fugitives of international justice such as the former President of Ethiopia and Mpiranya of Rwanda who are wanted in their countries for crimes against humanity. Professor Mutambara said Zimbabwe’s position was governed by the international law and conventions which it has signed. He further indicated that it was not easy to deal with this issue given that some of those people were once friends of Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle for independence.

Condolence Motion on the Death of Edgar Tekere

ZANU PF Chief Whip, Hon. Jorum Gumbo introduced a condolence motion in the House on the death of Edgar Tekere who died on 2 June 2011. He narrated the life history from his childhood, his involvement in politics and up to the time of his death. He said Tekere was one of the founding members of ZANU PF when the former split from PF ZAPU. Hon. Gumbo described Edgar Tekere as a fearless cadre and because of his active role in nationalist politics, he was detained in places such as Gonakudzingwa and Sikombela.

Members across the political divide were agreed that Edgar Tekere’s contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe was unquestionable. Members, thus, argued that Tekere epitomized the liberation of this country. Members also paid tribute to Tekere’s resolute stance in opposing the one-party state ideology that ZANU PF wanted to implement soon after independence. They described him as the “father” of opposition parties in Zimbabwe as he resigned from ZANU PF in 1988 and successfully formed his own party, Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) which opposed ZANU PF’s one-party state ideology.

Members also remembered Tekere for his anti-corruption stance in government, which was vindicated by the Willowvale vehicle scandal, which saw Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials being hauled before a commission of enquiry regarding abuse of public resources.

Adjournment of the House

The House of Assembly adjourned yesterday until 12 July 2011. The Senate will resume business on 5 July 2011. However, portfolio committees and thematic committees will continue with their business during the time parliament is adjourned.

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