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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 02 - 8th Parliament - 2013
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
September 27, 2013

Introduction

Debate on the Presidential speech dominated proceedings in the National Assembly and the Senate this week. Parliament relaxed its procedures to allow aides of disabled Members to enter the National Assembly and Senate chambers during the sittings of the Houses. Members raised pertinent policy issues to the Cabinet Ministers on Wednesday during the Question and Answer session. The deplorable state of the health sector also came under the spotlight in the National Assembly.

Motion to allow aides of disabled members in the House

The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs moved a motion to suspend Standing Order No. 170, which barred members of the public to enter the chamber while Parliament was in session. This was done to enable aides of disabled Members to enter House and render whatever assistance the disabled members required. Parliament passed the motion. However, all the rules that apply to the Mmmbers regarding discipline and decorum in the House would apply to the aides.

Debate on the Presidential Speech

As indicated above, the major debate in both Houses of Parliament was on the Presidential speech motion. As per parliamentary tradition, this is always the first motion to be debated by Parliament at the beginning of a new session. This motion focuses on issues raised by the President in his speech marking the official opening of a session. The Presidential speech sets the agenda for Parliament as well as outlining key government policies to be pursued by the Executive during the course of the parliamentary session in question. In the National Assembly the motion was introduced by Hon. Edgar Mbwembwe (Zanu-PF Chikomba East) and Hon. Annastancia Ndhlovu (Zanu-PF) whereas in the Senate, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa (Zanu-PF Manicaland) and Senator Damian Mumvuri (Zanu-PF Mashonaland Central) took charge of the motion. MDC-T members boycotted debate on the motion and filed out of the House as soon as the motion was set down for debate.

Zanu-PF members who had the opportunity to debate the motion in both Houses commended President Mugabe for what they considered key policy issues affecting the nation, which needed to be urgently attended to. Hon. Mbwembwe said the President’s speech was “a call to dedication for Mps to commit themselves to the duty of serving the people of Zimbabwe”. He emphasized the need for government to prioritize agricultural support to farmers in order to achieve food security in the country. Seconding the motion, Hon. Ndhlovu raised quite a number of policy issues which she felt the new government should prioritize. She called upon the government to come up with a sound climate change policy which should see the use of ICTs in mitigating effects of climate change in order to guarantee food security in the country. She also encouraged government to come up with a climate change fund as it has a huge impact on the nation’s development goals. She noted that women and young girls were the worst affected by the effects of climate change and therefore government should pay attention to the peculiar needs of women and girls in this regard.

Hon. Ndhlovu also urged government to prioritize the teaching of the new Constitution in schools as part of the process of promoting constitutionalism.

Other members also emphasized the issue of adequate agricultural support to farmers. Members also mentioned the issue of infrastructural development in all sectors of the economy, especially; health, education, transport, commerce and industry.

Members also mentioned the issue of corruption, which has reached unprecedented levels in the country. They called upon government to introduce stringent measures to effectively deal with this scourge.

Motion on the state of the health sector

Hon. Ruth Labode-Mafoko (MDC-T) and Hon. Peter Mataruse (MDC-T Chinhoyi) introduced a motion in the National Assembly highlighting the deplorable state of the health care sector in the country. The motion lamented the dilapidated health care infrastructure and poor services. The motion also lamented the widening gap between the private and public health care systems in the country. In their motion, Hon. Labode-Mafoko and Hon. Mataruse sought the resolution of the House to task the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care to conduct an inquiry into the health sector in Zimbabwe. Although the motion received intense debate across the political divide, some members dwelled on the political blame game. However, most members across the political divide were in agreement that the health sector needed urgent attention in order to avert a potential crisis.

Question and answer session

Some key policy questions asked by backbenchers and the responses by Ministers are given below.

Plight of civil servants
Hon. Amos Chibaya (MDC-T Mkoba) asked the Minister of State of Presidential Affairs, Hon. Didymus Mutasa if government was considering any plans to address the plight of civil servants. Hon. Mutasa said government was currently engaged in dialogue with civil service unions with a view to reviewing salaries of civil servants.

ZISCO Steel- ESSAR deal
Hon. Willias Madzimure (Kambuzuma) sought an update from the Minister of Industry and Commerce regarding the take-over deal between the government of Zimbabwe the Indian Company, ESSAR, of ZISCO Steel. The Minister said the agreement was still in place and would be implemented soon; after all procedural matters have been attended to.

Issuance of condoms and contraceptives to children
Hon. Porusingazi (Zanu-PF Chipinge South) asked the Minister of Health and Child Care, Hon. Dr. David Parirenyatwa to elaborate government’s position regarding the issuance of condoms and contraceptives to teenagers. The Minister noted that the ministry had a clear policy on sexual and reproductive health that was enacted in 2012, which did not encourage the issuing of contraceptives to children. Together with the Ministry of Education, his ministry has put up a programme or a syllabus which takes into account the normal growth of children. Hence, sex education starts right in primary school but the issuance of such materials as contraceptives was targeted at 16 year-olds not 10 year-olds as alleged in the press.

Regarding the provision of health care facilities in rural areas, the Minister said the long standing policy regarding the distances between clinics was that a person should not walk more than ten kilometers before they get to the next clinic. He said government was going to build up to 100 clinics to fill the gap and thus address long distances traveled by patients in rural areas.

Revival of industries
Hon. Tapiwa Mashakada (MDC-T Hatfield) asked the Minister of Industry and Commerce to explain to the House government plans to reverse de-industrialization process particularly in Bulawayo. In his response, Minister Bimha noted that the problem of de-industrialization was a national challenge. He said in order to address this challenge; his Ministry has come up with two policy documents, namely, the Industrial Development Policy and National Trade Policy after extensive consultations with the business community.

Regarding the issue of cheap imports and the effects they have had on the local economy, the Minister pointed out that there was a need to strike a balance between the need to protect industry as well as the need to honour agreements that the country has entered into in such regional groupings as SADC and COMESA.

Adjournment of Parliament

Both Houses adjourned to Tuesday 2 October 2013.

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