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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 3- 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
February 17, 2012

Introduction

A number of Portfolio Committees received oral evidence on various policy issues from the ministries and government departments they shadow. Below is a summary of their proceedings.]

Highlights of Committees Activities

Agriculture Water Lands and Resettlement

The Committee received oral evidence from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Mrs. Tsvakwi on the Land Reform Policy.

Mrs. Tsvakwi informed the Committee that her ministry was still working on bankable 99-year leases. The Ministry is working with the Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Environment, the Attorney General’s office and the Banker’s Association to come up with leases that are acceptable to banks and can be used by farmers as collateral. The leases will take into account the developments that the resettled farmers would have found on the land: the resettled farmers will have to pay for the improvements they found on the land to assist government to compensate the former owners of the properties. The amounts charged depend on whether the allocated land was virgin land or whether the farmer found structure or equipment on the farm they were allocated. The Committee heard that to date only 1300 farmers had been recommended across the country for the 99 year leases, but to date only 127 leases had been issued countrywide. The process has been hampered by the under-staffing levels at the Surveyor-General’s Office.

When asked about reports of land invasions that were taking place in some parts of the country, the Permanent Secretary said it was case of farmers with valid offer letters who were now taking up farms allocated to them having failed to do so earlier However, the Committee was informed that in situations where invasions had taken place by people who did not have offer letters, such invasions were considered illegal under the country’s land reform policy.

When asked if there any plans to resettle people who had invaded plantations and conservancies, the Ministry officials indicated that the favoured approach was to accommodate those people on the farms they occupied to allow them to take up the land use options they found in the farms they occupied. Possible solutions include adopting the Community Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources Association (CAMPFIRE) approach that has been a success in some areas in the country; having an out-grower arrangement between the resettled farmers and the owners of the plantations or creating cooperatives amongst the resettled farmers for them to get a meaningful return on their investments.

Regarding the land audit, the Committee was informed that farm registers had been prepared and preliminary work had been done to prepare for the audit, but the programme had not been funded by the Finance Ministry for the past two to three years.

The Ministry officials also informed the Committee that they were looking into partnerships that were being formed by resettled farmers and investors. The Committee heard that partnerships were tolerated as long as the resettled farmers retained overall control of the farms. Any partnership agreement entered into between resettled farmers and investors would have to be submitted to the Ministry for verification.

The Committee called for a holistic approach to the land reform exercise and agriculture as a sector. The Committee argued that the 99-year leases alone would not solve the problems farmers were facing as there were more problems that go beyond the issue of collateral.

Budget Finance and Investment Promotion

The Committee received oral evidence from the Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Mr. Gershom Pasi on ZIMRA’s operational challenges at the ports of entry, which the Committee visited recently, namely; BeitBridge Border Post, Forbes Border Post and Chirundu Border Post.

In his submissions to the Committee, Mr. Pasi acknowledged that there was high staff turn-over at border posts due to a range of reasons, chief among these were lack of staff houses and other social amenities. MR. Pasi informed the Committee that at the height of the economic meltdown, ZIMRA lost 650 officers due to resignation and most of these were experienced officers. The current establishment at ZIMRA stands at 2500 employees and most of these were trainees.

Regarding the One-Stop Border Post at Chirundu, Mr. Pasi told the Committee that there were some teething problems which impacted on the efficient movement of goods and clearance of human traffic. The Committee was further informed that some companies which were contracted to provide some services at this border post did a shoddy job. He cited the company that installed air-conditioning equipment. He said the air-conditioners only functioned for a week before they broke down.

Construction works at Beitbridge Border Post have stalled due to the cancellation by government of the Public Private Partnership Deal worth $97 million arguing that the contractor had failed to meet the targets. However, Mr. Pasi was of the view that government did not proffer adequate reasons pertaining to cancellation of the deal.

He also stated ZIMRA had a zero tolerance policy for corruption. Hence officers found on the wrong side of the law were rooted out of the system. Mr. Pasi reported that in 2011 a total of 17 ZIMRA officers and supervisors were dismissed for corrupt activities.

Justice Legal Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs

The Committee was briefed by Acting Permanent Secretary Mr. Ranga and the Zimbabwe Prisons Services (ZPS) Deputy Commissioner Machingauta on the challenges the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs was facing in discharging its mandate and the situation regarding conditions of prison inmates. The ministry officials highlighted the following;

  • Most activities in the ministry were being hampered by lack of financial resources.
  • There was need for timeous release of funds by treasury.
  • Resuscitation of the Judicial College was being hampered by non-availability of funding.
  • There was need for the computerization of the deeds office; currently a manual system was being used.
  • Treasury should prioritize prisons when making financial allocations in order to cater for the welfare of inmates. The International Committee of the Red Cross pulled out of subsidizing food rations for prisoners hence the need for treasury to cover the gap.
  • The committee was informed that efforts were being made to reform prisons in a bid to eradicate incidents of human rights abuses.

Mines, Energy and Power Development

The Committee received oral evidence from the Minister of Mines and Power Development Hon. Elton Mangoma on the challenges being faced by the country regarding electricity generation.

The Minister revealed to the Committee that Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) was sitting on a debt of $800 million which it was failing to service. Part of this debt had to do with power imports from Mozambique and Zambia.

Hon. Mangoma informed the Committee that ZESA was owed over $400 million by defaulting customers. He said the defaulting consumers included some Ministers, Members of Parliament and senior government employees who have ignored calls for them to pay thereby prejudicing the power utility company.

The Committee questioned the rationale by Ministers and senior government officials to give ZESA a directive to disconnect customers owing as low as $30 and $40 in high density suburbs and low density suburbs, respectively, whilst they themselves owed ZESA excessively huge amounts, some more than $100 000. He said ZESA, with his blessings, had resolved to switch off power to all defaulting consumers regardless of their station in society as way to compel them to pay up their outstanding bills. He assured the Committee that there would be no sacred cows.

The Minister also informed the Committee that there was an investor who had expressed interest in constructing a thermal power plant of about 600MW generation capacity. The authorities were still evaluating the proposals and a decision will be taken soon.

Regarding the expansion of Hwange and Kariba Power stations, the Minister indicated that government received a positive response as 11 companies submitted their bids. The adjudication process was currently underway and the process would be complete by June this year. All these efforts were meant to ease pressure on the national power grade.

The Minister also revealed to the Committee that efforts on the extraction of the Methane gas in Lupane were at an advanced stage.

Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land s and Resettlement, Mrs. Tsvakwi, testified before the Committee on the resettlement of farmers in conservancies.

The Committee heard that the Wildlife based land reform policy was approved in the year 2007. Before the approval of the policy, all gazetted land was aimed at agriculture (crop production and/or animal husbandry). The Committee heard that the land classification at the Deeds Registry did not classify land according to viable land options, hence the gazetting of land for agricultural purposes. The officials admitted that prior to the approval of the policy the Ministry was resettling people in conservancies for agricultural purposes.

Following discussions with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management, the Lands and Rural Resettlement Ministry handed over farms in conservancies to the Environment and Natural Resources Management. Seven conservancies were covered by the policy: Chiredzi River, Bubiyana, Gwai, Malilangwe, Save, Midlands Black Rhino and Bubi conservancies which cover 152 farms. Following the approval of the policy the responsibility for the activities in the conservancies now belonged to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management.

Regarding those who were resettled before 2007 for agricultural purposes in conservancies, the Committee heard that the Land and Resettlement Ministry asked the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management to accommodate them and assist them to adapt to the new land use.

The Ministry officials also informed the Committee that discussions on the Forestry based land reform policy were underway.

The Committee was informed that the authority to resettle farmers was a shared responsibility of three ministries, namely; Ministry of Local Government (responsible for A1 farmers) Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement (responsible for A2 farmers) while conservancies are handled by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management.

Women Youth Gender and Community Development

The committee received presentations from youth organizations, namely; Young Voices Network, SAYWHAT and YETT. The objective of the committee was to understand the activities of these organizations and their mandates.

Young Voices Network indicated to the Committee that the organization was established in order to involve young people in governance issues with the aim to empower them economically. Currently the organization was operating in areas that were affected by political violence in 2008 in Mutoko, Epworth, Hatcliff Extension, Macheke and Masvingo. The organization was currently running a peace-building project in Mutoko, a housing project in Hatcliff Extension and a gardening project in Macheke.

YETT representative, Ms. Katsande informed the Committee that her organization was a network-based youth organization committed to the participation of young people in development. In this regard, YETT is involved in the following activities;

  • The organization is currently working with thirty three youth organizations which are in most provinces.
  • The organization provides financial support for education, health, environment, advocacy, governance, peace building and entrepreneurship projects.
  • The organization is also involved in exchange programs and sharing of best practices.
  • YETT is also involved in the training of young people in leadership skills.
  • The organization, through its peace building initiative organizes unifying activities like sport for youths from different political dispensations so that they come together and desist from violence towards each other.
  • The organization also runs programs specifically for young women in a bid to encourage them to participate in national issues.
  • The challenges being faced by the organization include funding, young women participation in its initiatives and high levels of unemployment amongst the youth.
  • There is need for the development of a holistic approach towards youth empowerment.

SAYWHAT informed the committee that their organization was a student-based movement aimed at addressing challenges faced by students pertaining to their sexual reproductive health. The organization targets students in tertiary institutions and is currently active in 27 such institutions in the country. SAYWHAT representative, Mr. Wilford told the Committee that lack of student support by government was contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS in tertiary institutions as students engaged in sexual relationships for money usually with older men or women. He therefore appealed to the committee to assist them to lobby for the reintroduction of student loans and grants, resuscitation of dilapidated college infrastructure and to address the issue of abortion in a holistic approach.

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