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

Introduction

The ESSAR Deal, the Ethanol Project and Elections were some of the topical issues that the House of Assembly dealt with during the Question and Answer Session yesterday, where backbenchers sought answers from Cabinet Ministers on these important policy issues. The Chairperson of the Local Government and Urban Development Portfolio Committee, Hon. Lynette Karenyi, presented a report on the service delivery by Gutu and Chiredzi local authorities. Hon. Lovemore Mupukuta, the Chairperson of the Public Works and National Housing wound up debate on the Committee’s report on the Willovale Flats scandal. The Senate continued with debate on the motion on perennial drought in ecological Region IV.

Question and Answer Session on Policy Issues

Government Position on the Ethanol Fuel

Backbenchers asked Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara to explain to the House the position of government on the ethanol fuel project in Chisumbanje in the light of conflicting press statements. In his response, Professor Mutambara informed the House that the Cabinet was seized with the matter and to that end, a ministerial Committee has been set up to look into the issue in a holistic manner so as to addresses issues of investment into the project, marketing of the product, displaced families etc.

The Minister of Energy and Power Development, Hon. Elton Mangoma shed more light on the controversy. He informed the House that the Chisumbanje Ethanol Project was embarked upon without adhering to government regulations and the company running this project, Green Fuels, now wanted to arm-twist government into formalizing the project in retrospect. Minister Mangoma said nobody in Cabinet knew the background to this project. He said it was strange that the company embarked on such a huge project without first obtaining the necessary licence and approval from government as required by the law.

Hon. Mangoma said it would be very unfair for his ministry to issue Green Fuel with a licence when nobody in government has all the details how the project was given the nod of approval. He further argued that it would be unfair to legislate for mandatory blending and thus forcing all motorists to use the green fuel before all the critical questions on the quality of the fuel have been answered. He also indicated that the price of the Green Fuel currently pegged at $1 per litre was very expensive as compared to world market prices which average $0.72.

Progress on the ESSAR Deal

Government of Zimbabwe entered into a deal last year with ESSAR to revive the fortunes of former ZISCO STEEL, now called New ZimSteel. The hand-over ceremony was officiated by President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai recently. However, backbenchers raised concern yesterday regarding slow progress on the implementation of the deal, which threatens the livelihood of thousands of New Zimsteel employees. Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara informed the House that the deal has stalled because government wanted to renegotiate some terms of the deal. He acknowledged that government had entered into a weak deal that stood to prejudice the country. He said the government later realized that it had given away all iron ore mining rights to ESSAR in exchange for a mere $700 million investment, without leveraging the value of the ore to its advantage, which is estimated at $30 billion. Professor Mutambara noted that the country’s mining investment model was weak and as a result the country has not been benefiting much from the mining sector since independence.

Energy Generation Policy

The Minister of Energy and Power Development, Hon. Elton Mangoma informed the House that since 1984, there has never been any investment in energy generation. As a result, demand has outstripped supply leading to the current load-shedding policy. He said in the medium term, government has embarked on the expansion of Kariba Power Station and Hwange Thermal Power Station to boost domestic generation capacity. He also revealed to the House that government has opened negotiations with Zambia on the construction of Batoka Power Station in a joint venture arrangement.

In the short term, government has decided to install pre-paid meters in all the households that use electricity in the country to ensure that consumers pay for the electricity they use. He said this will enable government to import adequate power and be able to pay for it.

Election Road-Map

Professor Mutambara told the House that the forth-coming elections would be process-driven as envisaged in the Global Political Agreement (GPA). He said all the reforms agreed upon by the party principals in the GPA have to be implemented in order to create sufficient conditions for free and fair elections. He said all those reforms required time and hence talk of elections before the implementation of the agreed reforms was misplaced. He could not be drawn to give a specific time-frame only to say that, whatever happens to the current constitutional process, the life of the current parliament expires on March 2013 which therefore stipulates the outer limit for the holding of elections.

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government on the Service Delivery by Gutu and Chiredzi Local Authorities.

The Chairperson of the Local Government and Urban Development Portfolio Committee, Hon. Lynette Karenyi, presented a report on the service delivery by Gutu and Chiredzi local authorities. The report noted some irregularities in the manner the two local authorities executed their responsibilities to residents. Water service delivery was priced out of the reach of the majority residents. The report also noted that council officials often flouted tender procedures. For instance, in Gutu Rural District Council, the Committee established that council officials awarded themselves tenders to supply goods to the council.

Adoption of the First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and National Housing.

The Chairperson of the Public Works and National Housing Portfolio Committee, Hon. Lovemore Mupukuta, wound up debate on the Committee’s report on the allocation of Willowvale Flats. While the Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities, Hon. Giles Mustekwa, adopted some recommendations of the Committee, he refuted the Committee’s findings regarding aspects of corruption in the ministry. Hon. Mupukuta lambasted the Minister for dismissing corruption allegations and argued that the Committee’s findings were based on the information supplied by ministry officials.

Senate Plenary Proceedings

Debating the motion on perennial drought in ecological Region 5, Senators noted that even some areas that usually get good rains were facing drought this year due to the mid dry spell that affected their crops. Senators painted a gloomy picture of impending starvation in most parts of the country. They urged government to immediately take action by moving grain from surplus areas to deficit areas.

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