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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 9 – 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
March 19, 2012


On Thursday 15 March 2012, the House of Assembly debated a report on the enquiry of the Phase Two Willowvale Flats Housing Project, which was tabled by Hon. Lovemore Mupukuta, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public works and National Housing. For the first time since the 1st Session of the current parliament, the Senate had the occasion to field questions to a Minister.

Plenary Proceedings in the House of Assembly

Debate on the Public Works and Housing Committee Report

The Chairperson of the portfolio Committee on Public Works and National Housing, Hon. Lovemore Mupukuta presented a report on the Committee’s enquiry on the Phase Two Willowvale Flats Housing Project. The Committee compiled its report after conducting thorough investigations which involved on-spot inspections to verify the occupants of the flats. The report revealed that there were irregularities bordering on corruption in the manner the Willovale Fats were allocated to the occupants. The House heard that the Flats were meant for civil servants and the vulnerable members of society who were in need of housing. One of the conditions was that the beneficiaries of these Flats should have been people on the housing waiting list who did not own other properties. In addition, civil servants were supposed to deposit $3 500 and other applicants $10 000. However, the Committee established that the majority of people who got these flats owned other houses around Harare. Most of the civil servants that applied for the scheme did not benefit since most of the flats were allocated to those who had paid $10 000 deposits. The House was shocked to hear that one beneficiary was allocated three flats which she then registered under her children’s names. Some of the beneficiaries refused to be interviewed by the committee when it was carrying out its investigation.

The report attracted heated debate in the House and there was unanimity across the political divide that the manner in which the flats were distributed deliberately breached laid down procedures and thus defeated government’s efforts to provide affordable housing to civil servants and the vulnerable members of society. Hence the House called for further investigations on all government housing projects as the case of the Willowvale Flats could just be a tip of the iceberg. The majority of members called for the establishment of an independent body to carry out such investigations. Some Members questioned why the Anti-Corruption Commission had not taken an interest in this matter.

Members also called on the Ministry of National Housing to explain to the House why laid down procedures were not followed in the allocation of these flats.

Some Members questioned the source of funding for those civil servants who were able to raise the $10 000 deposit, given their current salary levels. They argued that those civil servants should also be investigated to ascertain how they managed to raise such an amount which is far beyond their salaries.

The House was unanimously agreed that those beneficiaries who refused to talk to the Committee were guilty of contempt of Parliament and therefore appropriate measures should be taken against them.

Update on Committees Activities

Agriculture Water Lands and Resettlement Committee

The Finance Minister, Hon. Tendai Biti, appeared before the Agriculture, Water, Lands and Resettlement Portfolio Committee to update the Committee on government’s funding efforts to agriculture.

The Minister testified that government’s support to the agricultural sector was in the form of grain procurement from farmers, inputs support, capitalization of Agribank, extension and other support services, irrigation development and mechanization, among other things. However, the Minister testified that the agriculture sector now contributed just 15% to Zimbabwe’s GDP from the previous levels of 34% (direct contribution) and 45% (both direct and indirect contribution). The Minister attributed the change to economic diversification that has taken place in the country, e.g. Communications now contributed 20% to the GDP while Tourism’s contribution has grown tremendously to threaten agriculture’s position in terms of contribution to the GDP. In addition, the Minister pointed to the effects of the 1997-2008 crisis that was neither occasioned by the lack of money nor shortage of land, which resulted in reduced production despite the vast amount of funds that were invested into agriculture.

Hon. Biti also gave an example of the abuse of the agricultural input scheme by high ranking government officials. He said this was counterproductive to government’s efforts to boost agricultural activity. The Minister also informed the Committee that the problem bedeviling agriculture and the country at large was that politicians were not putting the country and the people first. He indicated that more time was spent on politicking rather than on developmental projects, which explained why he was being blamed in some quarters of sabotaging agriculture.

The Committee also heard that one of the challenges in financing agriculture was that the farming season was not in sync with the constitutionally determined financial year. To remedy that, The Minister indicated that he was working with the Minister of Agriculture to come up with a three-year financial roll-out plan to finance agriculture. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture was working on a holistic agricultural policy.

Hon. Biti identified the following as major challenges facing the agricultural sector and what needed to be tackled by government in order to improve the fortunes of this once vibrant sector;

  • The false belief that the State can finance agriculture when in fact the private sector has to do the financing: the State should only come in to assist the poor and a few other sectors.
  • The general lack of appreciation that agriculture and farming are a business and need to be run as such. Farmers need to come up with a business model and have a business mindset when they venture into agriculture.
  • There is no title to land. The Minister stated that land needed to be securitized and be capable of hypothecation. Without this, the finance sector will not be able to finance agriculture as the finance sector did before. The Minister added that land should have exchange value otherwise the land would be dead capital. As such the country needs to have private property rights that can be transferred. With title deed, the former white commercial farmers owned live capital (as opposed to dead capital in the form of communal areas). Because of the land reform and lack of title in land, four fifths of the country¡¦s land is now dead capital.
  • The lack of appreciation that the economy of the country was run by finance to the agriculture sector. The Minister indicated that the land reform destroyed the financial services sector and, in the process, shrunk the economy as a whole because of the multiplier effect that came with it.

Plenary Proceedings in the Senate

As indicated above, the Senate had the occasion to pose questions to a Minister during the Question and Answer time. Question and Answer session is held on Wednesdays in the House of Assembly and Thursdays in the Senate.

Last week Thursday, only Hon. Eric Matinenga, the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs was in the Senate during Question and Answer session. Senators were very grateful to the Minister for being the first Minister to avail himself to the Senate for such a session.

Senators fielded only one question to the Minister regarding the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for the entire segment of policy questions. They queried why they were not allocated CDF like their counterparts in the House of Assembly. Minister Matinenga explained to the Senators that the concept of CDF was first enunciated by the Minister of Finance in his 2009 Budget Statement, in which he outlined the objectives of the programme as well as its parameters.

Minister Matinenga said when his Ministry crafted the CDF Constitution and the Accounting Manual, they were guided by that policy statement enunciated by the Minister of Finance in his 2009 Budget Statement. The policy as announced in 2009, envisaged a situation whereby the CDF would be administered at the constituency level by all elected representative; that is, the Member of the House of Assembly, the Senator and the Councilors in each respective constituency. However, due to lack of communication, other stakeholders have been excluded in the CDF decision-making process. Hon. Matinenga informed the Senate that he and his Senator and Councilors were working well together and this was what should happen in all the other constituencies.

Hon. Matinenga said CDF belonged to the constituency not the MPs and as such the money should be used on projects meant to uplift the community not for political gain to the incumbent MP. He said going forward the parameters of CDF should be fine-tuned so that the responsibilities of people administering the Fund were very clear to everybody.

Parliament Sittings

Both House are sitting this week, Tuesday march 2012.

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