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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 35 - 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
October 28, 2011

Introduction

The major highlight of this week’s sitting was the re-introduction of the Prime Minister’s Question Time in both Houses of Parliament. The House of Assembly adopted a motion to introduce a private member’s Bill to amend the Urban Councils Act.

House of Assembly Plenary Proceedings:

Prime Minister’s Question Time

Parliament has reintroduced Prime Minister’s Question Time, a platform where backbenchers seek updates and clarity on national government policies and programmes. In terms of the Constitution, the Prime Minister is the Leader of Government Business in Parliament and is also responsible for the formulation and implementation of government policies. Parliament of Zimbabwe had a slot for Prime Minister’s Question Time from 1980 up until 1989 when the post of the Prime Minister was abolished in preference of the executive presidency.

On Wednesday 26 October 2011, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai took questions from the backbenchers for the inaugural Prime Minister’s Time. Backbenchers asked the Prime Minister wide-ranging policy issues; indigenization regulations, gay rights, unfinished capital projects, lack of corporate governance in state enterprises and parastatals, agricultural support, constitutional process, media reforms, conditions of service for civil servants among other issues.

Government Position on the Indigenization Policy

Hon Paul Mazikana (ZANU PF Mbire) enquired from the Prime Minister whether there was division in government on the indigenization policy. The Prime Minister informed the House that government was not divided on the issue but pointed out that the implementation of the policy was bogged down by political rhetoric. He also informed the House that there was a need to balance the objectives of the indigenization and empowerment policy with investment promotion. He argued that it was better to grow the economic cake rather than to attempt to share a small cake. He also said that government needed to come up with alternatives, “wealth creation fund”, that would ensure that the policy also benefited the poor.

Gay Rights

Hon. Dorcas Sibanda (MDC-T Bulawayo Central) asked the Prime Minister to clarify his position on the issue of gay rights in the light of recent media reports. The Prime Minister indicated that he was just echoing what Zimbabweans expressed during the COPAC outreach programme. He said his personal view did not matter and government position would be guided by the outcome of the constitution.

Unfinished Capital Projects

Hon. Abraham Sithole (ZANU PF Chiredzi East) asked the Prime Minister to explain government policy regarding unfinished capital projects dotted around the country, some over 10 years. The Prime Minister informed the House that government would want to see all unfinished capital projects prioritized before government embarked on new projects. He said the main challenge government was facing regarding capital projects was funding. He informed the House that 70% of the national budget went towards employment costs leaving 30% for operational costs as well as capital projects.

Lack of Corporate Governance in State Enterprises and Parastatals

Hon. Simbaneuta Mudarikwa (ZANU PF Uzumba) asked the Prime Minister why some boards of parastatals and state enterprises did not have boards and why some individuals were serving in too many boards. He also questioned the rationale of retaining boards and chief executives for parastatals that were making losses. In response, the Prime Minister informed the House that it was unfortunate that this was the situation but government was actively working towards rectifying the issue. He said the Minister of Parastatals and State Enterprises had already come up with a standard corporate governance policy for parastatals.

Plight of Civil Servants

Hon. Eliah Jembere (MDC-T Epworth) asked the Prime Minister if he had reneged on his promise to address the plight of civil servants. The Prime Minister said that government had not reneged on its undertaking as evidenced by the July salary increment for civil servants. However, he emphasized that though government was committed in addressing the plight of civil servants, it was faced by resource constraints.

Agricultural Support to Commercial Farmers

Hon Paul Mangwana (ZANU PF Chivi Central) asked the Prime Minister to explain if government had a policy to support commercial farmers with subsidized inputs. The Prime Minister informed the House that government’s agricultural support was biased towards supporting small scale farmers as they were the most disadvantaged group and hence $45million had been set aside for this category of farmers. He said commercial farmers were in a position to approach financial institutions for loans to finance their farming operations.

Build Operate and Transfer Policy

Hon. William Mutomba (ZANU PF Buhera North) asked the Prime Minister to explain government policy regarding the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) concept with regards to road construction. The Prime Minister informed the House that government had embraced the Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) with regards to infrastructural development. He gave the example of the BeitBridge- Chirundu and the Plumtree-Bulawayo-Mutare highways as some of the projects where government was engaged in discussions with investors to explore the BOT concept.

Negative Impact of Re-introducing duty on basic commodities

Hon. Prosper Mutseyami sought clarity on government’s policy with regards to the re-introduction of duty on basic commodities vis-a-vis affordability of such products especially by the rural poor. The Prime Minister informed the House that the mischief behind the re-introduction of duty was to allow the local industry to recuperate by cutting competition from outside. He went on to say that this issue was more of cash flow problems in the rural areas than unaffordability.

Subsidies on Agricultural inputs

Hon. Edward Raradza (ZANU PF Muzarabani South) asked the Prime Minister why the price of agricultural inputs were still high despite government’s pronounced policy on subsidies. The Prime Minister said the government policy on agricultural subsidies was meant to assist small-scale farmers in rural areas and the modalities of the policy were the responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture.

Food Deficit in Some Rural Areas

Hon. Transo Huruva (ZANU PF Chivi North) wanted to know from the Prime Minister measures government was taking to avert starvation in rural areas which were affected by drought. In response, the Prime Minister said that government was aware of food deficit problems in provinces such as Masvingo, Matabeleland South and North, some parts of Manicaland and Midlands provinces. He said there was sufficient food in the country and therefore the responsibility for moving maize from surplus provinces to deficit provinces lay with the Ministry of Labour and Welfare.

Measures to Deal with Political Violence

Hon. Marvelous Kumalo (MDC-T St. Mary’s) asked the Prime Minister if government had any policy measures in place to deal with political violence. The Prime Minister said government did not condone violence. He noted that there had been reduction in cases of violence in the country. He pointed out that it was the responsibility of the police to curb violence in the country. He said government principals had tasked the co-Ministers of Home Affairs to ensure that police carried out their duties professionally. He also appealed to national leaders to ensure that the message on peace should cascade down to lower structures of society.

Measures to Restrain Political Parties from Causing Violence

Hon. Makhosini Hlongwane asked the Prime Minister if there were any measures to restrain political parties from engaging in violent activities given that elections were around the corner. The Prime Minister said government would convene a meeting of central committees of all parties and develop a code of conduct that would guide structures of political parties right down to the lowest structure.

Government Position on Libya

Hon. Thamsanqa Mahlangu (MDC-T Nkulumane) asked the Prime Minister to explain government latest position on Libya following the assassination of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi given that when the Libyan revolution started government was divided on the issue. The Prime Minister said Zimbabwe position would be guide by the African Union (AU).

Government Funding to the New Constitution

Hon. Kudakwashe Bhasikiti asked the Prime Minister why government was not providing adequate funding the COPAC to ensure that the process is expeditiously completed without financial hitches. The Prime Minister acknowledged the constitution-making process was one of the key priorities of government. As such, he said government disbursed $2 million dollars to COPAC. He refuted the insinuation that the process had stalled because of lack of funding. He said this had to do with other problems not funding. He appealed to the COPAC co-chairpersons to expedite the process because it was a key component of the election roadmap that the political parties were working on.

Liberalization of the Airwaves

Hon. Innocent Gonese (MDC-T Mutare Central) asked the Prime Minister what government was doing to liberalize the electronic media in fulfillment of Article 19 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The Prime Minister said government leader had assigned the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity to reconstitute the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) board and to expedite the liberalization of the airwaves. He said that government was also concerned with hate speech and vilification of other government members by the state controlled media.

Private Members Motions:

Private Member’s Bill to Amend Urban Councils Act

Hon. Tangwara Matimba (MDC-T Buhera Central) introduced a motion seeking leave of the House to bring in a Bill to amend the Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15]. The Bill seeks to reduce the powers of central government over municipal and town councils, thereby encouraging democracy at local levels. He said the Bill would also correct anomalies arising from previous amendments made to the Act. This motion seems to have been motivated by the alleged undue interference by the Minister of Local Government and Urban Development, Hon. Ignatius Chombo in the administration of local authorities. The House adopted the motion paving the way for the introduction of the Bill.

Nationalization of Marange Diamonds

Hon. Edward Cross (MDC-T Bulawayo South) introduced a motion in the House calling for the nationalization of the Marange diamonds. He urged government to take steps to remove all unauthorized personnel from the fields and secure the boundary to prevent unauthorized entries. He said government, through the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development should invite offers and enter into an agreement with reputable companies to mine the mineral on behalf of Government of Zimbabwe in compliance with the Kimberly process. Further, government should establish a Compensation Court for claims arising from the mining exercise and a Community Trust to represent the people of Marange in the mining venture.

Condolence Motion on the Death of Hon. Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro

Hon Dumbu, seconded by Hon. F.M. Sibanda moved a condolence motion on the death of Hon. Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro, Honourable Minister of Public Service and Member of Parliament for Gutu South. Hon. Mukonoweshuro died on 5 August 2011.

Adjournment of Parliament

Both Houses adjourned until Tuesday 15 November 2011.

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