A Member of Parliament has complained that it has become difficult to eradicate corruption because the moment you point out that something is wrong, this is politicised and you are deemed to belong to the wrong side.
Jennifer Mhlanga said corruption in government was so rampant that bribes had become the norm.
“It is a well known fact that our officers in government entities have become predatory as bribes are the norm, fraudulent activities, extortion, intimidation, high profile scandals, financial irregularities, misuse of capital, investment in poor unprofitable projects, accepting of gifts and abuse of public property especially in local authorities, all these things have become a scourge. They are eating on the very fabric of our society.
“Madam Speaker Ma’am, we look at the weakness of our culture in terms of refusing to go by this corruption norm. I speak of politicization of advice where when you proffer advice to say this is wrong, the advice is politicised. You are deemed to be on the wrong side if you want to put things right,” she said.
“We want to conduct business in a clear and widely understood philosophy so that we remove these bad elements and practices from our system. We need to enforce values and norms by putting penalties for those people who divert from the norm. We need to punish or remove those people from key positions if found guilty. We must also be exemplary and walk the talk.”
Mhlanga said this in her motion on the President’s State of the Nation Address.
She also called for investment in agriculture and welcomed the decision to bring Cottco back under the government as cotton production had plummeted from a peak of 353 000 tonnes to 88 000 tonnes.
She also said the country had a potential to irrigate two million hectares and thus become food self-sufficient but at the moment only 153 000 hectares were under irrigation.
STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, THE PRESIDENT
MRS. MHLANGA: I move the motion standing in my name:
That this House conveys its profound gratitude to His Excellency, the President Cde R.G. Mugabe for addressing a joint sitting of Parliament on the State of the Nation.
Expresses its commitment to and support for the views contained in his address; and that a respectful address be presented to His Excellency the President, informing him of the sentiments of the House.
MS. RUNGANI: I second.
MRS. MHLANGA: Thank you Madam Speaker for affording me this opportunity. I will begin by thanking His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, Cde R.G. Mugabe for presenting to the House and the nation at large the State of the Nation Address. My contribution touches on the 10-point plan as enumerated by the President. In the 10-point plan, Government’s objective deliverables are clearly pronounced giving the political direction, Executive action or programme of action that is intended at achieving socio-economic gains through a deliberate thrust of growing our economy, thereby consolidating the four pillars of ZIM ASSET.
Madam Speaker, I will begin by addressing the first point which is on agricultural revitalisation and value chain. Government’s efforts with regards to the COTCO deal are commendable as cotton is grown in the seven provinces of the country. The possibility of converting the COTCO debt which stands at $56 million to equity is also refreshing. There has been a decline of cotton production in the country whereby at one time we had 30 cotton companies in the country, which have now come down to eight.
Madam Speaker, our ginnery capacity as a country also stands at five times the current production levels given the fact that if this is revived, there could be huge potential for employment opportunities. Problems that need to be addressed in this sector include lack of inputs, side marketing, poor loan recovery, the meager price of 30c per kilogram that is being given to farmers which is not viable, the awareness of how to grow and control diseases on the plant. As we stand, at its peak production was at 353 000 metric tonnes in 2000. It has now declined to 145 000 and 136 000 metric tonnes respectively in the last few years. In this season, 88 000 tonnes are expected to be delivered against a target of 95 000 metric tonnes, against a target of 95 000 which is a continuous decline of the production of the crop.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND DAMS
Madam Speaker Ma’am, the irrigation realm as a strategy for drought proofing can come in handy in terms of the point/plan number one as presented by His Excellency the President. There is potential in our country to irrigate two million hectares but at the moment, we are only using 153 000 that is what is functional against a backdrop of 220 000 installed capacity.
To achieve food security and nutrition, the infrastructural necessity of irrigation in the provinces cannot be over emphasized, Harare and Bulawayo included for peri-urban agriculture. The low level usage of irrigation affects the farm irrigation output, year-in year-out. A good example is that of the last season in the 2014/2015 period where maize and small grain were expected to do well but ended up declining by 49% and 71% respectively. There is need for change of crop planting dates and crop planting techniques as a mechanisation. New seed varieties, drought resistant crops, a staple food shift from just wanting sadza but to other foods as well that are readily available and water harvesting. There is need for finance as well.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, by increasing agricultural output, a country can improve the lives of its citizens. It can enhance standards of living. We need therefore, to improve small scale agriculture; increase production; provide new agricultural technologies on farm production. We need to emphasize the use of fertilisers; we also need the Government to improve on Government credit facilities and not just to focus on large farming communities but also to factor in the financing of the rural communities. We need deliberate financing in this sector as well as micro financing. We must also look at enhancing and empowering women in the agricultural sector by providing women with credit facilities.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, I speak of Mexico where through improved research, production of wheat went up by 50%; so we can take a leaf from Mexico. India also did well by improving on the technology on agriculture as well as Latin America, Argentina and Brazil.
Madam Speaker, I will move on to the second point which is that of value addition and beneficiation. Facts are stubborn, Zimbabwe has minerals in its belly/womb and it is a fact and not fiction. However, 90% of the minerals are going outside the country in raw form. We, therefore, must advance beneficiation and value addition of our minerals. When we speak of diamonds, we are talking about cutting and polishing. When we speak of platinum, we are talking about coming up with refineries and also ensuring that we know about the other minerals that come from platinum. When we speak of chrome, we would like to have those smelters. It is the same with gold. As we stand, our minerals are going in raw form and fetching lower prices at the world market. It is, therefore, a welcome priority that was presented to us by His Excellency the President that we value add our minerals.
Value addition and beneficiation must also extend to the agricultural sector. We are happy to see that the imports that were coming from Zambia were stopped. We are also happy that we stopped the potatoes that were coming from Zambia as this in turn will ensure that our farmers begin to grow the crops and we stand to benefit from this. The opening of Cairns Foods will ensure that our commodities like potatoes are at least taken at a bigger scale. We prefer the importation of maize in its raw form rather than bringing in stock feed.
Another important point that was presented to us by His Excellency the President is on the anti-corruption drive. It is a well known fact that our officers in Government entities have become predatory as bribes are the norm, fraudulent activities, extortion, intimidation, high profile scandals, financial irregularities, misuse of capital, investment in poor unprofitable projects, accepting of gifts and
abuse of public property especially in local authorities, all these things have become a scourge. They are eating on the very fabric of our society.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, we look at the weakness of our culture in terms of refusing to go by this corruption norm. I speak of politicization of advice where when you proffer advice to say this is wrong, the advice is politicised. You are deemed to be on the wrong side if you want to put things right. – [AN. HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear] – We want to conduct business in a clear and widely understood philosophy so that we remove these bad elements and practices from our system. We need to enforce values and norms by putting penalties for those people who divert from the norm. We need to punish or remove those people from key positions if found guilty – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear] – We must also be exemplary and walk the talk.
I am happy that of late, we have seen some arrests and prosecutions. We hope that this will continue to help deter the scourge of corruption.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, another point that came up is that of the implementation of the Special Economic Zones to provide impetus for foreign direct investments. As regards Special Economic Zones, these are the way to go as China has grown against this backdrop. The success of Zambia where it grew to 6% previously was also attributed to Special Economic Zones. We have the same thing in Ethiopia and as we speak, Nigeria has overtaken South Africa as a powerhouse in Africa for pursuing Special Economic Zones. So Madam Speaker Ma’am, we receive these intentions with open arms.
Another point that is important in our economy as we wish to drive it forward is the modernisation of labour laws. With respect to labour market rigidities, the President was spot-on that we need to modernise labour laws. Zimbabwe’s overall labour market efficiency is ranked 137 out of 144 countries. This is according to the World Economic Global Competitive Reports (GCR). The Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) should step up and play its role and both labour and employees should sober up in their approach. Cheap labour on the dictates of the economy as we stand becomes a factor and labour flexibility as well becomes important.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, in the SMEs sector, it is important for us to unlock the potential of SMEs. These SMEs should be well organised and there should be order. We should have a spirit of oneness and not the spirit that prevails at the moment where each man or woman is for himself or herself. There should be order and we need the SMEs to pull together resources and finances. We need them to have membership contributions and access loans. We need local authorities to have easy access to factory shells. In this respect as well, it is important for us to bring back big businesses because when it comes back, we will begin to have our SMEs thriving through buying and selling opportunities.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, focusing on infrastructural development in the key areas of water, energy, transport and ICTs subsectors; the energy that we need in our country is 2 200 mega watts at peak demand. At one time, we had generated a capacity of 1 300 mega watts. In the sphere of power generation, we already understand the importance of a good generation mix. At the moment, we sit at a very suppressed power supply because the power generation is very constrained. Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati are operating at grossly suppressed levels and this is where we should be focusing on. It is either we are repowering or we are refurbishing. With new technologies, I feel that we should be bringing in new technologies as opposed to sticking with the obsolete equipment and methods but it will get worse when we get to the annual maintenance which is mandatory. The energy situation will become worse.
In Zimbabwe, there is potential for solar and to a certain extent, wind. There is also huge potential for thermal and hydro power. So, in order to mitigate against the under generation of power in our country which is also prone to seasonal factors and natural disasters like we now talk of the Kariba low water level, we must explore alternative power sources. Focus should also be at small hydro power thermals. The small hydro power stations have the benefits of lowering costs. We applaud the efforts that Government is making to court the Brazilians to bring in thermal power and the Italians to bring in solar. We also await the Dangote group investment that may come with 630 mega watt power plants.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, we also want to applaud the slashing of fuel prices but these should also come with the reduction of prices of services and goods. The massive plan of housing for 313 000 stands with 30 000 already constructed is a noble idea and a welcome move. We also want to applaud Government’s efforts in terms of transport – the dualisation of major roads and that is the preliminary works that have started on the Harare-Beitbridge highway. There is need for the intensification on the revamping of our road network to ensure efficient movement of goods and services. We know that we still face challenges in terms of the National Railways of Zimbabwe but we also want to continue to encourage the policy of open skies for Air Zimbabwe. We also need to improve on the urban transport. The quest for a dry port in Namibia is also a welcome move.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, in the realm of ICT we, would like to encourage ICT learning from primary schools. We have now moved to e-government in terms of our governance, this is the way to go. We also applaud our Government for making sure that we continue to keep pace with other nations in terms of embracing ICT.
Madam Speaker, encouraging private sector investment, the talking that has taken place in terms of our encouragement of the private sector investment is welcome, so is the promulgation of investor friendly policies. Madam Speaker, Zimbabwe Investment Authority has moved a step up by ensuring that the One Stop Shop is now a reality. We applaud the guide book for investors. Once again, Zimbabwe is the Persian Gulf of minerals; we talk of 40 plus types of minerals. In this regard, it becomes important for us to have good investment policy that will bring in investors.
Zimbabwe is also strategically placed as a get away to SADC…
MR. MAONDERA: On a point of order! The hon. member is supposed to be referring to her notes but she is reading continuously.
THE ACTING SPEAKER: Hon. Mhlanga you can only refer to your notes.
MRS. MHLANGA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I think I will catch up with time, hon. members should allow us to learn, we are learning, it is a learning process. I am trying as much as possible not to refer to my notes but if we continue to be forbidden to read, we will continue to be unconfident, we want to be confident. Please can we be given that chance?
THE ACTING SPEAKER: Hon. member we adhere to the Standing Rules and Orders of Parliament. So, you may continue your debate by referring to your notes and not reading them.
MRS. MHLANGA: I just want to talk about the positive things that have come out of this effort that has been undertaken by our Government. We applaud the coming in of the French Yeast company that has come in to partner our yeast company in the country. We also want to applaud Astra Holdings partnered with the Japanese company called Kansai. We also want to applaud these efforts through the Blue Ribbon Foods Investment that has come in from Tanzania. We know that the Dangote Group is also coming in the realm of cement. So we continue to applaud these efforts, Madam Speaker. Perhaps, an important note that we want to bring in, is to allow the private sector to also invest in agriculture which is so key to our economy. These efforts will help remove the risky investment destination tag that our country is associated with.
Madam Speaker, I want to touch a bit on the financial services sector stability and the restoration thereof. I would like to applaud RBZ for its restoration as the banker for our banks, the banker for our Government, the lender of last resort and the monetary regulator of credit conditions. We also applaud the fact that the RBZ has come back to its role of supervising banks. We know that as we speak we do not have distressed banks, Inter-market is now functional between banks. I think where we need to revisit is to ensure that banks like POSB are playing their role of lending to our public enterprises. It could be possible that they are also scared and they are not investing in these entities but it is important for it to play that role.
Madam Speaker, we also want to ensure that merchant banks stick to their mandate of trade financing and providing working capital. We applaud the efforts that are being made to lower the interest rates especially to the agricultural sector. We also know that in the financial services sector banks are now complying with capital requirements. The non-performing loans continue to be a problem in our economy, they have since reduced but a further reduction will be most welcome.
Madam Speaker, with these few words, I want to conclude by looking at the corporate governance issues that are inherent in our economy. It is not a matter that is affecting our country alone; I think if we look at other countries like UK, they came up with various reports, 4 to 5 reports to try and address the running of corporates. If we look at America, at one time the Vice President of that country was involved in what has been termed an enron scandal. In South Africa, they had to come up with king’s report to address the various problems that are inherent in the running of corporations and state enterprises. In our country, at one time the RBZ, way back in 2004, had seen the problems that were manifesting in the banking sector and came up with an instrument to try and address the governance of corporation. I therefore, applaud our country for buying into this governance issue and for moving forward to ensure that our enterprises are run in the most desirable way. I thank you