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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 18 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
May 18, 2012

Introduction

The House of Assembly debated the First Report of the Budget Portfolio Committee on the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s (ZIMRA) operations at border posts. Both Houses ratified two conventions, namely; the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the Convention for the Establishment of the African Centre for Fertilizer Development. The Senate quizzed deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara during Question and Answer session on topical policy issues as elaborated below.

Debate on the First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Budget Finance and Investment Promotion on ZIMRA’s Operation at Border Posts

The Committee compiled its report after conducting fact-finding visits to major border posts in the country as well as public hearings in order to hear the views of the public regarding the challenges they faced at border posts.

In his presentation of the Committee’s report, the Acting Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Eddie Cross pointed out that the Committee established that it took ordinary travelers 3 to 8 hours to be cleared at the border posts, especially busy border posts such as BeitBridge. Haulage trucks have to spend 2 to 5 days to be cleared. He said the ZIMRA officials informed the Committee that delays were mainly ceased by clearing agents who took time to process the necessary documents. This has given rise to the emergence of corruption as touts and unregistered clearing agents collude with ZIMRA officials to demand bribes from the travelers, truck and bus drivers to expedite the clearing process.

The Committee also observed lack of stringent security measures at the border posts as unauthorized persons roam about and thus interfere with the clearing process. The other observation by the Committee was that most of the border posts were originally designed to handle low volumes of traffic. However, despite the huge increase in volumes of traffic, there has not been any commensurate expansion of facilities and human resources at most of these border posts.

The Committee’s report was extensively debated by the House and there was unanimity across the political divide that challenges highlighted by the Committee in its report should be attended to by the Executive as a matter of urgency.

Question and Answer Session in the Senate

Electricity Load-shedding

Professor Arthur Mutambara informed the Senators that government was doing all it can to address the power deficit in the country. As a short-term measure, the priority is to install pre-paid meters to ensure that all power consumed is fully paid for. In the medium term, he said government was working on the expansion of the existing power stations as well as resuscitating the defunct thermal power stations. As a long term strategy, Professor Mutambara informed the Senate that government will collaborate with the region on such regional power projects as Batoka, on the Zambezi River, and the Inga Project in DRC.

Grain Loan Scheme

While Senators appreciated government’s intervention measures on the food deficit in some areas in the country through the introduction of the Grain Loan Scheme, they expressed concern regarding the slow progress on the scheme. Professor Mutambara assured the Senators that government was working on modalities to expedite the movement of grain from surplus areas to deficit areas. However, he said as a long term measure, government should come up with a Three-Year Rolling Agricultural Policy that will address food requirements of the nation in a holistic manner.

Government Position on Homosexuality

On government’s position on homosexuality, Professor Mutambara was noncommittal in his response except to say that he did not want to pre-empt the views of the people on the new constitution. He said he would only comment after the draft of the new constitution has been made public.

Carnage on the Roads

In response to Senators concern on the increasing carnage on the roads, the Deputy Prime Minister said government was working on the Accident Mitigation Policy to address the issue.

Distressed Industries and Marginalized Areas Fund (DiMAF)

Professor Mutambara informed the Senators that government divided the country into different economic clusters depending on the major economic activity in each geographic location. Thus Bulawayo was identified as the Heavy Industries Cluster and government made a decision to set aside $40 million to resuscitate the closed industries in Bulawayo as well as those that were operating below capacity due to financial constraints. However, he informed the Senators that there has been slow draw-down on the fund owing mainly to slow processing of applications by banks. He said banks had come up with stringent terms and conditions which many of the deserving applicants could not meet.

Ratification of Conventions

The ratification of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the Convention for the Establishment of the African Centre for Fertilizer Development was fast-tracked in both Houses yesterday. Section 111B of the Constitution of Zimbabwe requires that all conventions signed by government have to be approved by parliament.

In presenting the International Plant Protection Convention in parliament, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Seiso Moyo said the IPPC places more emphasis in three main areas of work which include international standard setting, information exchange and capacity development for the implementation of the IPPC and associated international Phytosanitary standards.

The Senate heard that the Convention for the establishment of the African Centre for Fertilizer Development (ACFD) was approved by the OAU Council of Ministers during their first Ordinary Session held in Addis Ababa in March 1985. It was also decided at that conference that the headquarters of the Centre would be located in Zimbabwe. Among the priorities of ACFD are the improvement of fertilizer supply, distribution and use.

Adjournment of Parliament

The House of Assembly and the Senate adjourned yesterday until 5 June and 12 June 2012, respectively. However, Committees of both Houses will continue meeting during the adjournment period of parliament.

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