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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 10 – 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
March 21, 2012


On Tuesday 20 March 2012, the House of Assembly debated the Public Accounts Report on the management of government vehicles by CMED (Private) Limited and a report by the Portfolio Committee on the schools textbooks tender. The Senate debated two reports yesterday; a report by the MDGs Thematic Committee on the Millennium Development Goal 2 (MDG 2); regarding the achievement of universal primary education by 2015 and a report of the HIV and AIDS Thematic Committee on the Anti-Retroviral Treatment Roll-Out Programme. The Acting Minister of Justice reinstated the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill to the Order Paper.

Plenary Proceedings in the House of Assembly

Debate on the Public Accounts Committee Report on the Management of Government Vehicles by CMED

The Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee Hon. Webber Chinyadza presented the committee’s findings on the management of government vehicles by the Central Mechanical Equipment Department (CMED). The committee investigations into this issue were prompted by the damning audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

The Committee’s report revealed glaring irregularities at CMED, ranging from lack of corporate governance, mismanagement, lack of recapitalization, corruption etc. The Committee noted that despite its commercialization in 2000, CMED has failed to transform itself from being a government department to a commercial entity. The House was told that for the past three years, CMED has been operating without a board, a situation which left it at the mercy of government. Further, the Committee noted that the previous CMED board was made up of mainly government officials, a situation which the committee felt was not healthy for the proper running of the organization. The Committee said good corporate principles required an independent board to ensure that sound decisions were made.

As a consequence of its failure to transform itself into a commercial entity, CMED’s profit margins have dwindled from $6 million in 2009 to $200 000. As a result, the organization has not been able to recapitalize.

The House was also shocked to hear that CMED could not account for a stock worth $50 million. More than 1200 vehicles disappeared without trace. The Committee attributed this to corruption. Debate on the Report of the Education, Arts, Sport and Culture committee on the tendering of primary and secondary textbooks.

Hon. Dorothy Mangami, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Education, Arts, Sport and Culture presented a report on primary and secondary schools textbooks tender and distribution process. The textbooks were acquired under the Education Transition Fund coordinated by UNICEF.

The report alleges that there were anomalies in the manner the tender process was done. The argued that the process was not transparent from the beginning as the advertisement in the newspaper was misleading. The advertisement gave the impression that it was only printers who were invited to bid for this project therefore the publishers did not apply. However after enquiry the publishers were given only thirteen days to bid for the tender. Furthermore the contract was given to the publishers and not the printers. The Committee queried why the tender was awarded to Longman Zimbabwe at the expense of other bidders such as Zimbabwe Publishing House, College Press etc. The insinuation was that the UNICEF and the Minister of Education, Senator David Coltart conspired to award the tender to an international company, Longman, which is a British company by using Longman Zimbabwe as a front. Some Members even alleged corruption on the part of the Minister of Education whom they accused of single-handedly awarding the tender to Longman Zimbabwe in flagrant violation of tender procedures.

Some Members also argued that the books were of poor quality and therefore would not last their expected 5-year life span.

However, some Members felt that the Minister of Education and his officials should be commended for providing textbooks to all schools in the country thereby improving the pupil-textbook ratio to 1:1 as compared to the previous situation where 45 pupils were sharing one textbook.

Debate on the motion continues today after the question and answer session.

Plenary Proceedings in the Senate

First Report of the Thematic Committee on Millennium Development Goals on the Provision of Education in Resettled Areas (S.C. 4, 2012).

Senator Patrick Chitaka presented a report of the MDGs Thematic Committee on the progress regarding the implementation of the MDG 2, regarding the achievement of universal primary education for boys and girls by 2015. The Committee conducted fact-finding visits and public hearings in newly resettled areas to assess the provision of education services. The Senate heard that most of the people affected by lack of proper education facilities and services in the resettled areas were farm workers since the farm owners were able to send their own children to better schools.

The Committee noted that all the schools it visited in the resettled areas were characterized by make-shift structures made up of grass-thatched pole and dagga classrooms and at some of these schools, lessons were conducted in dilapidated tobacco barns or under trees. The report also highlighted the challenge of acquiring birth certificates as another issue that government needed to address urgently. The House was informed that given the fact that most of the farm workers or their parents were immigrants from neighboring countries such as Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, they were treated as aliens in this country and therefore could not apply for birth certificates and let alone national identity documents. As a result, most of the children only go as far as Grade 5 or 6 as they could not write Grade 7 exams without birth certificates. This has in turn resulted in a cycle of illiteracy and poverty in the resettled areas.

The Committee also noted that water and sanitation were a big challenge that these schools were facing; thus exposing school children to diseases.

Senators were also concerned about the long distances that children in resettled areas had to travel to and from school daily; in some cases children had to travel 26 km daily. This has resulted in high rates of absenteeism and school drop-outs. The Senate also heard that there have been cases of young girls being raped and that some children have been kidnapped without trace. Compounding the situation was that other crucial services such as clinics, police posts etc were either non-existant in the resettled areas or were very far away from the communities.

Debate on the report continues today.

First Report of the Thematic Committee on HIV and AIDS on the Anti-Retroviral Treatment Roll Out Programme (S.C.1, 2012).

Senator Dalumuzi Khumalo presented his Committee’s report on the Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) roll-out programme in the country.

Update on Legislation.

The Acting Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Emmerson Mnangagwa reinstated the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill to the Order Paper. The Bills lapsed in September 2011 due to the prorogation of the 3rd Session of the 7th Parliament. Parliamentary procedures allow for the restoration of lapsed motions in the new session at the stage at which they had reached when they lapsed. Hence, debate on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill will resume at the second reading. The Electoral Amendment Bill is under consideration by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC).

Today’s Sitting

Private Members’ business will take precedence today over government business. Wednesdays are generally reserved for backbenchers motions, questions and reports in the House of Assembly and the same for the Senate on Thursdays.

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