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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 20 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
May 24, 2012


Below is a summary of proceedings of Portfolio Committees that received oral evidence from their stakeholders on policy issues under their purview.

Portfolio Committee on Industry and Commerce

The Committee received oral evidence from the workers representatives of New Zimbabwe Steel Company on their plight as a result of the stalemate between government and ESSAR, the company that took over from ZISCO STEEL. The Zimbabwe government now wants to renegotiate the terms of the agreement after having signed the agreement and officially handed over the company to ESSAR a couple of months ago. As part of the agreement, ESSAR Holdings injected a capital of $750 million, giving it a 60% stake in NewZim Steel and also inherited ZISCO STEEL’s debt of $340 million in foreign and domestic liabilities.

The head of the worker’s delegation, Mr. Benedict Moyo, informed the Committee that 4 May 2012, the ESSAR Human Resources Manager, Mr. Chikukwa announced the cessation of salaries until ESSAR and the Government of Zimbabwe had finalized the deal, despite prior assurances given by ESSAR that they would pay salaries regardless of the progress on the deal.

Mr. Moyo also highlighted that their welfare has been adversely affected by this abrupt change in agreement. Most of the worker’s children have been sent back home from boarding schools for failure to pay school fees, while some were unable to pay for their Ordinary and Advanced level Examination fees. Some of the workers are failing to pay back their loans. He informed the Committee that during the ZISCOSTEEL era, the workers would receive assistance during bereavement and sickness from the sale of sundries. However, the sale of sundries has since been stopped resulting in the terminally ill and pensioners not receiving any benefits from the NewZim Steel Company leaving most workers destitute and some left to die with no medical assistance.

The workers representatives informed the Committee that they raised their issue with the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Prof. Welshman Ncube and gathered that the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Industry and Commerce had done their part and the only snag was Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. Although the workers representatives did not explain exactly the nature of the snag with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, information at hand reveals that the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development was still to finalize the handover of Buchwa and Chiredzi iron ore mining concessions to ESSAR as part of the agreement.

The worker’s plea to the Portfolio Committee of Industry and Commerce was that they required a briefing on the progress of the Government of Zimbabwe and ESSAR deal, as they were never involved in the negotiations of the deal in the first place. They recommended that an interim relief in salaries be considered by the employers for at least 5 months, to enable them to plan as well as improve their welfare. The workers representatives also urged the government to conclude the deal as a matter of urgency not only for the sake of the plight of the New Zimbabwe Steel workers but also for the whole economy as the iron ore industry had a great effect on other downstream industries.

Portfolio Committee on Agriculture

The ARDA Acting General Manager and Head of Planning, Mr. Mbona, testified before the Committee on the operations of ARDA at its estates and the status of Chisumbanje Ethanol Project. Mr. Mbona outlined the following challenges that ARDA was facing in the discharge of its mandate and activities;

  • Inadequate equipment or equipment that needs rehabilitation
  • Absence of long term financing in the local money market: ARDA has resorted to partnerships and joint ventures to alleviate challenges with funding
  • Delays in being paid by GMB for maize delivered
  • Lack of experienced personnel in management: some managers left ARDA during the hyperinflation period. ARDA is now retraining or replacing inexperienced managers.
  • High utility bills from ZESA and ZINWA

He also informed the Committee that ARDA was scouting for partners to revive its beef and dairy cattle herd. The Committee heard that ARDA currently had a herd of 1062 beef and 218 dairy cattle. When queried about what happened to a herd that once stood at 36 000, the Acting General Manager indicated that sometime in 1998/99, ARDA embarked on a destocking exercise and sold most of its cattle to A2 farmers. In addition, he told the Committee that ARDA lost some of its estates that held the bulk of its herd to the land reform programme.

On the Chisumbanje Ethanol Project, the Committee heard that the plant started producing ethanol in September 2011, but shut down in February 2012 because the ethanol stock pile had reached the holding capacity of 10 million liters. The production levels have been rising steadily from 200 000 litres per month in September 2012 to 500 000 liters as of end of March this year. He noted that there was mismatch between production and the uptake of the product by the energy sector. However, he did not explain the reasons behind this state of affairs. Information from the media indicates that slow uptake of the ethanol was due mainly to the absence of mandatory blending legislation or policy. Mr. Mbona indicated to the committee that a Cabinet Inter-Ministerial Taskforce was currently seized with the matter. He also hinted to the Committee that government preferred a joint venture arrangement rather than a Build-Operate-Transfer agreement that ARDA entered into with Ratings, the company behind the ethanol project.

Mr. Mbona was non-committal to the Committee on the actual details of the agreement between ARDA and Ratings, saying he was not in a position to discuss the matter and thus referred the Committee to the ARDA Board. The Committee resolved to invite the ARDA Board in its next meeting to discuss the details of the Agreement between ARDA and Ratings, which the Committee suspected was not done above board. Regarding the families who were displaced to pave way for the project, Mr. Mbona told the Committee some of the affected families had been allocated 0.5 hectares each.

Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare

The Director of Director Social Amenities, Mr. Chibanda, in the City of Harare appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare to brief the Committee on City’s waste management challenges. He informed the Committee that the Department of Waste Management was mandated with the collection and disposal of waste, emptying of septic tanks among other things.

Mr. Chibanda highlighted that the Department was failing to discharge its mandate effectively due to lack of adequate refuse collection trucks, skip bins and pole litter bins among other necessary equipment. The Committee was shocked to hear that the City of Harare currently has a fleet of 24 refuse collection trucks, the smallest fleet since 1967. He also raised concern with rampant vandalism of council property especially public toilets.

Mr. Chibanda informed the Committee that as much as the City Council could alleviate the shortage of essential equipment by acquiring bank loans, current regulations stipulate that the City Council has to apply for borrowing powers from central government. He said this process was very cumbersome as it took too long for government approve applications for borrowing powers, resulting in the adverse impact on service delivery.

The Committee also heard that the City’s municipal police did not have arresting powers something which he said made it very difficult for the municipal police to maintain order in the City and to keep the City clean in the absence of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), given the influx of street vendors.

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