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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 05 OCTOBER 2017 VOL 44 NO 10

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PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE

Thursday, 5th October, 2017

The National Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two o’clock p.m.

PRAYERS

(THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER in the Chair)

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER

INVITATION TO ATTEND AN URGENT MEETING OF THE ZIMBABWE WOMEN’S PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS MEETING

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  I have to inform all Members of the Zimbabwe Women’s Parliamentary Caucus that they are invited to attend an urgent meeting on Tuesday, 10th October, 2017 at 1200 hours in the Senate Chamber.  The meeting is to discuss the women’s manifesto.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

HON. RUNGANI:  I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 1 to 8 be stood over until Order of the Day, Number 9 has been disposed of.

HON. MUKWANGWARIWA:  I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

MOTION

PRESIDENTIAL SPEECH:  DEBATE ON ADDRESS

Ninth Order read:  Adjourned debate on motion in reply to the Presidential Speech.

Question again proposed.

HON. CROSS:  Madam Speaker, I rise to respond to the Address by the President when he opened this Session of Parliament.  I want to raise a couple of issues of national importance that I think that this House should consider – the situation in which we find ourselves in today.  The situation in Zimbabwe Madam Chair, that I am talking about is the economic and monetary crisis which we face at present.  The situation is centred on one central issue which is the issue of the national deficit in the Budget.

If we we study the situation which prevailed between 2009 and 2013 – in 2009 Madam Speaker, our Gross Domestic Product reached about US$4 billion and we collected just short of a billion US dollars in taxes and revenues.  The following year, we collected, US$1.7 billion, the year after that US$2.8, the year after that US$3.8 and the year after that we budgeted US$4.3 billion.  Madam Speaker, that is a growth in GDP of fourteen times in four years.  I think we had the fastest growing economy, not just in Africa but in the world.  This is what economists call “a bounce back” because in 2008, we had the economic collapse with the collapse of currency. 

The key to our stability during that period was the fact that the Minister of Finance followed a very simple principle.  He said, “we eat what we kill”.  In other words, each year we run a small Budget surplus.  Members of the House might not appreciate the importance of that but rising out of that single central policy, the country had monetary stability.  We did not have shortages of cash, we were to import everything we required and we met our bills externally on time.  2013 arrived and immediately, we did two things, there was a collapse of confidence in the market as the banks saw withdrawals of $1 billion, $1.5 billion left the stock market and was externalised and we know that about a billion US dollars fled the country via various other means.

As the consequence of these withdrawals from the market, the income to the State began to decline.  However, we did not adjust our expenditure.  In 2013 when we had planned for an expenditure of something like $4.2 billion with the income of $4.3 billion, we spent $4.8 billion and the revenues to the State declined.  They did not achieve the target of $4.3 billion.  In fact, we achieved less than 4 billion.  This created a 500 million dollar deficit in 2013 after four years during which we had run a Budget surplus.  In 2014 and 2015, we further exacerbated the situation by increasing expenditure in the face of declining revenues.  I do not see how the Minister of Finance can claim that the economy of the country is growing, when revenue to the State is declining.  Surely, growth in the GDP automatically leads to growth in taxes.  In fact, that was not the situation which was happening between 2013 and 2015.  In 2016, we simply took all restrictions off expenditure and in 2016 we now know that we spent $1.4bn more than we received in revenue.

          When you talk to an economist about the budget deficit, the average fiscal deficit in all SADC states is about 6%. In Zimbabwe, in 2016, our budget deficit was 30%, one-third of our expenditure and income. That is completely unacceptable and unsustainable.

To make matters worse, in 2017 at the Mid Term Review when the Minister of Finance and Economic Development came and reported to the House on his half term results, he forecast that the budget deficit was going to rise to about $800m. He had planned $400m. In fact, since that review was presented to the House, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has discovered another $1.2bn worth of expenditure by line ministries which has not been accounted for. That raises our half year deficit to $1.4bn. At the same time, he retained the forecast of income at $3.8 billion, I do not believe he is going to achieve about $3.8 billion, I think he is going to achieve $3.7billion. This means also that his expenditure this year is going to exceed $6bn. This could give us a budget deficit of $2.3bn or $2.4 billion.

          These numbers are just extraordinary in economic terms. We have to ask ourselves, how we have been financing this massive deficit in state expenditure? The answer is, we have been printing money. We have gone back to 2008. We are printing money recklessly. I received my MP salary on 4th October, 2017. It was paid into my bank account at Stanbic Bank and I have been drawing down on those resources from my bank. What arrived in my account was not US dollars, it was an animal we call RTGS dollars. It is money created electronically. If you add that sort of money to the other forms of money – when the Minister was here last week, he told us how massively the electronic transfer of money has grown in the last four years. It is amazing how we have switched from cash and cheques to this electronic form of transacting business.

          The other forms of cash which we have been creating are things like Treasury Bills and debentures. When the Minister settled the debts of Hwange Colliery the other day, he gave them debentures. I have not seen the debenture terms but I understand it is ten years without interest. That is printing money. It is printing money recklessly because it bears no relation to our production as a country. If these forms of money are not supported by productivity or real growth, then the result is going to be inflation. I am not at all surprised that as we speak today there is a substantial premium on real money. The premium is anything from 50% to 70%. If I was a businessman in Zimbabwe with money tied up in Zimbabwe, and I want to tell you that there are a billions of dollars locked into our banking system which cannot find any outlet.

          I talked to a manufacturer in South Africa the other day who exported fertilizer to Zimbabwe last year for the Command Agriculture Programme. He was owed $70m by the Government. They paid him in RTGS dollars. The money is sitting here in a bank account and he cannot get the money back to South Africa because he cannot convert that money into real cash. If he was to take that $70m and try to export it through the stock market, he would have to buy either PPC shares which are fungible or Old Mutual shares. If he bought Old Mutual, he would lose 70% of the value of his money. You cannot run a country like that. That is simple fiscal delinquency on a massive scale.

          I was really quite shocked when the President spoke to this House and he did not mention this fact at all. It was not raised as an issue. He dealt with the question of our legislative programme purely and simply. To me, what he said was completely irrelevant because the real facts are that if you get your salary today, that salary is worth 30% less than what it was worth at the beginning of the year. By Christmas our salary will be worth half what it is worth at the beginning of the year. We are devaluing by stealth.  Every civil servant in the country and every person who works on a fixed salary is going to feel the pain by the end of the year because you cannot print money on this scale and imagine that you are going to get away with it. You are not going to. The consequences are going to be exactly the same as 2008. It is going to be rampant hyper inflation which is going to destroy savings, industries, people’s living standards and it is going to destroy the productive sector in Zimbabwe.

          When a formal gold miner, not an informal gold miner because the bulk of informal gold is sold on the black market and they get paid in cash by the smugglers.  If I am a formal gold producer and I have sold my gold to the Reserve Bank, I get paid today 50% in real money and 50% in bond notes.  If I am a big producer and I give my gold to the Central Bank and I get paid in RTGS dollars. What can I do with those RTGS dollars? I cannot buy anything externally. Their value is depreciating every day.    I want to forecast now as we talk today that within a matter of months, the great majority of formal gold producers in this country will be bankrupt because, you cannot do that and  imagine that there will be no correspondences.

I understand that fully when the Governor of the Reserve Bank demanded that Zimplats release 80% of their foreign earnings to the Central Bank for allocation to other people, they refused to do so. They argued they have an agreement with the Government which allows them to retain their foreign exchange in the form in which we receive it and we can use it in that form. If we want to sell foreign exchange, we will sell it at the market rate. If the Reserve Bank takes 80% of the revenue of Zimplats and converts it into RTGS dollars, the way we were doing it back in 2008, Zimplats would be bankrupt tomorrow because they could not pay their bills and staff. For me, if I was President of Zimbabwe, that is the key issue I would address.

We have been conducting public hearings for the last three days under the Budget and Finance Committee. Yesterday, we were in Chikomba and the Chief of the district was there with us. He spoke at the end of the meeting very passionately and asked where the burial place of the Zimbabwe dollar is. Why has it died? He does not understand what happened but he does know that we killed it and we did kill it. Along with its killings, when independence came in Zimbabwe, Madam Speaker, the Z$ was worth two United States Dollars (US$2.00).  When I first started work in 1957 on a ranch in Matabeleland, the Rhodesian Dollar was worth two pounds.

          Madam Speaker, running a currency properly and behaving correctly in terms of the principles is a straightforward thing to do, and if you violet those principles, you pay the price.  The price we have paid has been an enormous one – we have destroyed the accumulated savings of the country.  I worked for 50 years and for 20 of those years I worked as a Chief Executive of major companies.  I paid all those years into a pension fund.  I paid 20% of my salary into a pension fund, by law.  I paid more than US$1 500 000.00 into a pension fund, but because of inflation my pension today is $94.00 a month.  Madam Speaker, that is a terrible price to pay, and all of us have paid it.

          For me, the great tragedy of the President’s Speech is he did not raise this key issue at all – he never discussed it.  I was astonished in the last three days in our public hearings at the extent of the anger amongst people at what is happening.  I think, we as a Parliament have to face reality and we have to call a halt to this reckless expenditure on our behalf.  I thank you.

          HON. RUNGANI:  I move that the debate do now adjourn.

          HON. MUKWANGWARIWA:  I second.

          Motion put and agreed to.

          Debate to resume: Tuesday, 10th October, 2017.

MOTION

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

          HON. RUNGANI:  Madam Speaker, I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 be stood over until Order of the Day Number 15 has been disposed of.

          HON. ZIYAMBI:  I second.

          Motion put and agreed to.

MATTER OF PRIVILEGE

DISTURBING COMMUNICATION FROM THE ZIMBABWE NATIONAL ARMY

          HON. ADV. CHAMISA:  Just a matter of privilege Madam Speaker, I am not debating but this is just a matter of privilege.

          Hon. Speaker, I just wish to draw to your attention and to the attention of the House that as Members of Parliament and as the august House of this Republic where there is information that has the potential of destabilising the country or causing alarm and despondence.  We have a duty to just seek clarification.  There has been communication or a message doing the rounds, which communication I would have wished or wanted to direct to one of the Ministers or any of the leaders of Government, but I realise that we do not have any of the Ministers here present to – [HON. MEMBERS: They are in the Senate!] -  I am told they are in the Senate, to address these issues.

          There has been some communication or statement that is purportedly and I must say purportedly being churned out from the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA).  It has the logo of the national army. I am not the only one - I know that this message has been circulating on the social media.  It has been actually circulated – [HON. MEMBERS: Isu hatina, tipewo!] –

          THE HON. DEPTUY SPEAKER:  Order, order, if you do not have it then let him finish debating.

          HON. ADV. CHAMISA:  Hon. Speaker, this message has to do with some instruction or intimation that there are tensions in the country both within the ruling party and the opposition which I am not so sure where it is deriving that and that there are intra-party tensions within all the parties. 

          That in pursuit of the constitutional mandate of peace and national security, there is action that is being taken in terms of suspending – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – Sorry, I am paraphrasing so that I do not bother the House by reading the entire thing but if you want me to read the whole thing Hon. Speaker …

          THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, order, instead of stopping and so forth.  I have allowed you to read the whole thing. – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

          HON. ADV. CHAMISA:  Thank you Hon. Speaker, – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – You know the reason why I am saying this is because as Parliament we must take important notice of such information.  If it is fake information, it is incumbent upon our Government, particularly the Zimbabwe National Army to correct it as soon as possible, because it has been noted in Parliament.

          The Zimbabwe National Army, it is on the logo of the Zimbabwe National Army, has noted – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

          THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, order, Hon. Members, we have allowed him to bring and debate.  So once we allow him, he has to proceed, yes.

          HON. ADV. CHAMISA:  Thank you Hon. Speaker for that indulgence. “The Zimbabwe National Army has noted with concern the escalation of tensions in both the ruling party and in the opposition parties in Zimbabwe.

          It is from the background of these intra-party and inter-party tensions that the Zimbabwe National Army has recommended the suspension of all demonstrations, both political and civic from the 5th of October, 2017 until the reassessment of the tension and sees fit the resumption of such.  This is in pursuit of our constitutional mandate towards the maintenance of peace and national security.  All stakeholders are obliged to adhere to this recommendation and any breach will attract remedial action from the force.

 For the avoidance of doubt, the Zimbabwe National Army will not sit on its laurels and watch any threats to the security of the nation and the State either caused by citizens or foreigners.  We are in defence of the Constitution and the people of Zimbabwe”.

What I just thought Hon. Speaker was I had to bring it to the attention of the House so that it is confirmed if it is indeed the official position of our national army.  This is a very important statement, if it is a lie, it is also an important one because then – [AN HON. MEMBER: Inaudible interjections.] – Honourable, please let us take serious things seriously.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, order, Hon. Member can we please be serious.

HON. ADV. CHAMISA:  This is a very serious …

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, I think you have brought something that is very important to the House. 

What we are going to do is to check whether this is authentic or not but alerting the House, I think, is very important.  Thank you very much.

HON. ADV. CHAMISA:  Thank Madam Speaker. – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, order Hon. Mudyiwa you may proceed. – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – Order, order Hon. Members, if you need information from Hon. Chamisa you can go closer to him and not to call each other in the House.

MOTION

VELD FIRES LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK

 

          HON. MUDYIWA: I move the motion standing in my name;

          That this House:-

          AWARE that the veld fire season runs from the end of July to the end of October;

          MINDFUL that frequent burning has serious implications on the environmental degradation to loss of property and life;

COGNISANT that Zimbabwe has received normal to above normal rainfall during the 2016/2017 season;

          NOTING that the growth of vegetation countrywide translates to high fuel load with a high probability of veld fire prediction for 2017 season indicates 80% of high to extreme fire risk;

          CONCERNED that human activities increase the frequency, extent and pattern of veld fires:

          NOW THEREFORE, calls upon the Executive to:-

a)    Amend the legislative framework that deals with veld fires so that it provides for stiffer custodial sentences for people who start fires;

b)   take steps to ensure that court cases on environmental crimes are resolved speedily.

HON. ZINDI: On a point of order Madam Speaker.  I thought perhaps you were going to respond.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: I did, people were making a lot of noise.

     HON. ZINDI: Sorry, my apologies.

HON. ZEMURA: I second.

     HON. MUDYIWA: Thank you Madam Speaker.

Hon. Mudyiwa debated alongside a Power Point Presentation.

HON. MUDYIWA: Thank you Madam Speaker.  Fire, as we know in Zimbabwe, has become a menace, but it is part of a natural process which has some positive roles in the vegetation structure and composition and it also helps recycling some of the needed nutrients contained in old and dead trees.  However, my concern is about the frequency of the fire that we are talking about, the veld fires.  To those who have not come across veld fires, there is something on the screen to show what a veld fire is.  These are blazes of fire that become very wild and in the process, they destroy vast tracts of land, cause destruction and harm to animals and people.  The blazes of fire also cause losses.

Frequent burning has implications on carbon stocks and emissions and this also affects the habitat, human health as well as livelihoods.  This is where my concern is on veld fires.  I am really concerned, particularly this year, 2016/2017 season, where we received plenty of rainfall, normal to above normal as a result of the Tropical Cyclone Dineo.  The rains supported the growth of vegetation, which translates to high loads of fuel with a high probability of veld fire outbreaks in the country.

I am sure we are all aware that the fire season starts from end of July to end of October, every year.  What we have witnessed in the country is fierce wild fires because of the standing vegetation, hence the need for us as a nation to guard against this menace.  I have travelled along our roads, throughout the country and have seen that most of our vegetation is burnt down and there is no vegetation at the moment to talk about. 

The fire risk prediction for 2017 indicates that the fire season is generally 80% of high to extreme high risk for the greater part of the country.  You can see there is a diagram with the map of Zimbabwe which shows the fire risk.  The red spots on the map indicate the extreme risk areas where we expect fire because of the growth of the vegetation in the country.

What I have seen is that most of the causes of veld fires are anthropogenic, which means that they are originating from human activities.  90% of veld fires are caused by human activities, save for only 10% which are natural fires.  Some of the causes –

Hon. Members having been speaking on the top of their voices.

THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MARUMAHOKO): Less noise in the House Hon. Members.

HON. MUDYIWA: Some of the causes of veld fires which I have observed are reckless disposal of cigarette stubs, someone may just throw away a cigarette stub, which starts a fire and nobody controls that fire, it goes on to destroy all those vast tracts of land.  Some people go out to smoke out for bees during honey harvesting.  We also have people who are at bus stops who light up fires because of the cold weather and when the bus comes they just leave the fire there which spreads and goes on and on burning all the vegetation in the area.

Some people start fires during land clearing, particularly in the resettlement areas.  We also have some people who go out hunting and they start fires.  Some people deliberately start fires, known as arson.  There are also fires started by children playing with matches and nobody can really control that fire, it goes out of control.  Some people in the rural areas also dispose ashes and leave it there unattended and starts fire which may go on and on burning everything within the vicinity.

The veld fires have impacted greatly on our lives resulting in the loss of livelihoods and income to some people.  It has a psychosocial impact, which is associated with fatalities and family bereavement at times.  There is loss of biodiversity as well and disturbance of the hydrological balance.  The veld fires are currently a significant threat to national economic recovery plans as they go on to destroy the much needed pastures which are necessary for the restocking exercise. 

Hon. Members having been making noise.

THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Hon. Members, less noise in the House.

HON. MUDYIWA: The veld fires are also in a way affecting our ZIM-ASSET Programme through destroying vast plantations.  Food security in the country may also be affected as had been witnessed in the burning of wheat and maize fields including other valuables.  Recently, particularly this year, there was a very sad incident where one of our Hon. Senators had a farm burnt and all the maize were burnt and she harvested nothing.  This resulted in substantial amount of loss. 

Associated with veld fires are loss of property and human lives.  We have seen homes and families being destroyed and we cannot underestimate the dangers associated with veld fires.  Every year, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), launches the Veld Fire Season Campaign, which is from the end of July to the end of October.  In that exercise, they try to bring awareness to the population about the dangers of veld fires, but it seems this has fallen on deaf ears because we have seen these fires burning every now and then in every province where there is vegetation, we have seen these fires burning and destroying our natural habitats.   

          On the average, the country has been losing over a million hectares annually on vegetation due to these veld fires.  The 2016 fire season recorded about 10.4% decrease in hectarage burnt compared to 2015 and 12% decrease in fire incidences.  This year, we have seen quite some fires burning large pieces of land.  As you can see, these are some of the diagrams or graphs to show how serious these veld fire instances are and the destruction that they have caused.  In 2016, they destroyed over 197 335 hectares of vegetation.  In 2014, we had the highest which was 1 653 822 hectares of vegetation destroyed. 

          We move on to the next one which shows the fire incidences from 2012 to 2016 where we have got 2014 with the highest number of fire incidences being recorded at 2575.  We move on to the next slide; the essence of my motion is that we are all stakeholders in the dangers caused by veld fires.  We have the community, school children and Hon. Members of Parliament and we are affected in one way or the other, when our properties are destroyed, people’s homes are destroyed and we have to fend for these people.  We all have got a role to play in stopping this menace of veld fires. 

          We have pre-suppression measures that we can employ that can be embraced by the community such as training fire fighting, training them to employ fire warning systems whereby whistles or drums are used to warn other people that there is fire which has started so that people can converge and try to extinguish the fire.  We can also assist our communities by procuring and servicing fire equipment.  I am sure in most of our communities or in the rural areas, we do not have these firefighting equipment and it is high time that we have the firefighting equipment on standby so that in case of fire, we can quickly extinguish the fire.          

          Each person or institution has a role to play in the fight against veld fires so as to prevent the destruction of the environment as well as loss of life and property.  Veld fires cause a lot of destruction and as burning of vegetation continues, it leaves the soil bare and there is no protection.  When it rains, the top soil is washed away and this has resulted in siltation of dams in the country.  I think we have heard the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate talking about siltation of our dams.  Three quarters of our dams are full of sand and they no longer have that capacity to hold the much needed water for our people in the rural areas and for our livestock.  So soil erosion is also a result of veld fires.

          I have also tried to check whether there is any legislative framework that deals with veld fires.  Yes, there is S.I 7, 2007 which talks about the environmental impacts assessment and ecosystem protection regulations as read with the Environmental Management Act [Chapter 20, 2017].  This legislation provides for communities not to leave fires unattended.  It also defines the fire season.  There should be no starting of fires according to this legislation outside residential or commercial premises during the fire season and there should be adequate veld fire suppression measures.  It also provides for communities to investigate and report fire instances to EMA and the police.  It is an offence, if we did not know, to deliberately start open fires between the fire seasons which is from 31st July to 31st October every year.  It is also an offence to fail to put in place standard fire guards on our farms which are at least 9 metres wide.   It is also an offence to pass by or to drive past a fire without stopping to assist in putting out the fire.  It is also an offence to fail to report a fire incident within 7 working days.  I thought we should remind each other about the veld fire related offences.

          The other legislation that we have on veld fires is the Forestry Act [Chapter 19] which provides for fireguard construction, notification before burning and penalties for not informing about the burning or starting of fire.  What I have seen is that all these legislations have been enforced but they are not being adhered to.  There has been trivialization of environmental issues where environmental offenders normally get suspended sentences; there is no custodial sentence in living memory concerning veld fire offences.  Also, we have noticed that farmers do fail to prepare the fireguards and also the court cases concerning fire incidences are taking long to be finalized and sentences have always been fines or suspended sentences and no conviction.  Those convicted of starting fires, the sentences are not deterrent enough.  So as a result, we have seen an increase in incidences of veld fires in the country. It is because of that Mr. Speaker Sir, that I am calling for a stiffer custodial sentence to all those people who deliberately start fires and those who deliberately ignore fires and just keep on moving without reporting them.  So, I am calling for stiffer sentences, preferably custodial sentences for offenders or people who start fires in the country.  This is the only way we can try and curb this menace of veld fires in the country.

 Mr. Speaker Sir, it is because of that, that I thought of moving this motion and bring it before Hon. Members so that we can debate on veld fires in the country which is quite a danger which is affecting development, agriculture, destroying vast tracts of land, it has destroyed vegetation and it has destroyed our properties and worse still, it has resulted in loss of lives.  

          HON. ZEMURA: Thank you Hon. Speaker.  I want to thank the mover of this motion, Hon. Mudyiwa for moving this motion that helps the community. We have a problem in our homes, and our constituencies because of fires that are just left burning property and crops, even burning innocent animals.  We have seen a lot of grass, a lot of animals big and small, the small insects that cannot defend themselves being burnt everyday yet they were also created by God to be there.

          Our vegetation that makes Zimbabwe a beautiful country is also destroyed everyday by these veld fires.  We have also seen a lot of crops, farmers losing their crops because of veld fires.  Two months ago, one of our colleagues, Senator Goto lost a whole field of maize. I want to urge our fellow Members to be very cautious about these veld fires that they are put off before they spread.  Let us educate our communities in the areas where we live to be very aware and active when they see a veld fire burning without anyone attending to it.  We have seen a lot of homes burnt.  A lot of people have died, a lot of homes have been destroyed, and properties have been destroyed.  If one’s home is burnt, everything there is also burnt.  If I had two or three dresses, they are destroyed.  Everything gets burnt at the home including the pots, plates, cooking sticks and you will become a very poor person because to buy all those will take a long of time.

 So, Mr. Speaker Sir, I want to urge Members to educate the communities.  The problem is not with us but at our homes; our headmen do not even know that if a fire is started in the village, they must call all villagers to go and assist to put out that fire.  If every village would train a fire fighters’ team that will look at every smoke that comes out in the village and put it off; I do not think there can ever be such big fires that destroy hectares and hectares of land.

  We have seen that the problem is not with the people outside there but with the legislators.  In the constituencies, we must have time to talk about the environment.  Let us talk about how we keep our trees. If a tree is burnt for three consecutive years, the tree dries up.  If it does so, the vegetation has deteriorated.  If grass is burnt every year, the land would be degraded; it would no longer produce anything.  Let us help the communities.  Let us help EMA, it cannot work on its own but we should assist them. 

The Ministry of Environment has concern on a lot of animals like elephants, we are talking of elephants because they are big animals but what of the hare, the tortoise, and the snake that crawls on the grass; who protects and defends them when there is fire.  Those things are there for a purpose, they were created  for a purpose and not to just die. 

I want to urge our Members to have fire fighting teams.  I once travelled to a certain country and there were people who were called voluntary fire fighters that were being funded by the Government to start the fire fighting project.  Once we encourage our people to start those teams of fire fighting, I think our country will be a beautiful country with good vegetation.

I think EMA has done a lot to protect the environment but it cannot do it alone without the support of the local people.  I want all the local people to be supportive of keeping their environment.  We must always be aware that vegetation is life; we have our oxygen being prepared by the leaves of the trees.  We must always be aware that once we destroy the environment, we will be one of the poorest nations, especially in Africa.  Our country will become a desert.  We do not want deserts in Zimbabwe but we want it to be a very good and attractive country.  However, it cannot be attractive without good vegetation. I think the tree population in Zimbabwe has deteriorated already by tree cutting which is done by our fellow members.  So, if we burn the forests, we are encouraging desertification.

 We must take note that our forefathers left this country very beautiful.  I think that is why Zimbabwe was colonized by whites.  They saw that it was a beautiful country.  Now, because we are having a bare country without vegetation, who would like to come to Zimbabwe and see a country without vegetation?  Tourism is there because the country is beautiful, it has trees and grass.  We have big trees like baobab trees but if they are burnt every day, we will remain with nothing.  Trees are life.

Hon. Speaker Sir, I want to talk about how people have lost their lives and children because of veld fires.  When big grass burns and there is wind, no one can stop that fire but we must always be aware. When the fires we must be very active and try to stop the fire before it spreads.  It will help our people.  Last year we heard that in Mashonaland West, a family was burnt trying to put a fire out whilst it was coming to their home.  I think if you were the ones who had those relatives, you would feel pity. 

We also have a farm that had a lot of houses that were burnt to ashes and the people remained without anything.  No-one is rich in Zimbabwe. If we allow those people to have their property to be burnt, it means that in the whole area, people will remain very poor – a poor nation.  We will remain a very poor nation.  What about school children who have their parents’ property burnt to nothing – their birth certificates burnt to nothing?  I want to urge all the Hon. Members here to be very supportive of this motion because vegetation or the environment is life. 

We always boast that we have cattle and we are rich but if there is no grass, the cattle will not have food.  The animals in the forest will not have food.  If ever they remain, when the fire is burning, all the animals will be burnt to death.  We have seen a lot of fires that have been started and failed be controlled burning all the animals that are there.  At times, even the cattle are sometimes burnt to ashes.  I want to urge my fellow Hon. Members to support the Hon. Member who has put this motion forward to make sure that we become fire fighters.  We must be fire fighters because fire does not give us anything but destroys our wealth.  Thank you Hon. Speaker Sir.

*HON. MAHOKA:  Thank you Mr. Speaker.  I would also want to thank the mover and seconder of this motion on veld fires.  The issue of veld fires is very painful in the areas we come from and in Zimbabwe.  Veld fires have shamed our country because our animals no longer have that beauty on their skins because they are burnt.  When your children are burnt by fire, you are really pained.  The same applies to the animals in the environment, they are pained after their cubs get burnt by veld fires.

However, I have noticed that we are giving work to the policemen who do not have resources because for you to make a police report, you cannot catch the culprits. Our policemen are having problems in chasing after people but there should be a law which says that when people are caught, they should be brought to book but the law is not there.  The culprits are just fined.  This is not enough because after paying the fine, the culprit will go back and cause more veld fires.  This means that our country will not be attractive to tourists who visit us because they come to see the good environment which has beautiful animals.   If we do not have these things, our country will not be attractive.  Even the animals will be in trouble.  Our cows will starve and die because there will be no grass or trees. 

We know that elephants live on leaves but you find that the leaves will not be there.  I have heard someone referring to EMA; I do not agree that EMA is educating people enough because it is not engaging the headmen or chiefs in our villages for education.  Our headmen do not even know what to do in case of a veld fire.  They do not even know in case of a veld fire.  EMA allows people to cut trees from their fields but if they come across people carrying firewood to bring and sell in the urban areas, EMA does not prosecute those people.  If there was a law that people be prosecuted by transporting firewood, no one would cut down trees.  EMA should bring that law into book so that the policemen will have power to prosecute those people.  But as it is, there is no law. Even if people are caught by the police, there is no law that will prosecute them. 

There is a Member who talked about dams;   our dams are silted.  We do not have ways to remove the sand which is there.  People are now excavating near the dams.  I think it is better to construct new dams so that people will benefit from these dams. People are engaging in illegal cultivating.  They are ploughing in vleis and this is not allowed.  Normally, we say these people are good farmers but they are practising bad farming methods.  We want the Government to intervene when people are suffering.  The Government is in serious problems but our country is dawned with milk and honey. 

I think corruption is also rife in these areas because if we compare our country with other countries like Zambia or Malawi, you find that we are far much better when it comes to minerals.  We should all put our heads together and find ways of using those minerals properly because when we see silted dams we leave it like that and we then go on to construct new dams, we will not progress.

EMA normally advises people to make some metres away but I do not think it works.  We should just discourage people from river bank cultivation.  Tourists come to see those rivers but they see no rivers.  There is only sand.  Mr. Speaker, people from America or Britain cannot come to see desserts here in Zimbabwe. This country should be beautiful because God gave us a good country which has a lot of resources.  We are a blessed country but we are abusing those blessings. I think those thieves should be prosecuted.  We should go for the big fish and not prosecute the small fish.  If a Member of Parliament (MP) is prosecuted, I think it will give weight but I have never heard an MP who has been jailed - [HON. MEMBERS:  Ariko, Kereke!] – It was because of rape but those who steal have never been taken to jail.  We are talking about corruption here.  We only say that the small fish are the ones who are stealing but I think Members of Parliament should also be prosecuted because all of us have skeletons in our cupboards. We need that enforcement because the President is at pains talking against corruption.

          Coming to the issue of firewood, you will find a big truck coming into Harare full of firewood but they are not prosecuted. That is where corruption starts. It does not mean that we should enact laws just to catch the ordinary man but I think the laws should apply even to Members of Parliament and Ministers as well. The law should apply to everyone. We should not put laws in place for others but for everyone. EMA should come up with laws that are effective and deterrent enough.

          Again, coming to the issue of people losing their homes through veldt fires, in Hurungwe East Constituency, I have 76 houses that were destroyed by fire. In Pote, four houses were burnt. In Chikuti, one kitchen was burnt. In Chirariro, 23 houses were burnt and in Masikati, nine houses were burnt. People are losing important documents such as birth certificates and national identity cards including clothing as well. I am of the view that we should pass laws that have stiffer sentences so that when the perpetrators are caught and prosecuted, they will not come back.

As Hon. Members, we should teach people in our constituencies with the help of headmen, councillors and EMA as well. EMA should not concentrate their educational campaigns in urban areas only, but should conduct awareness programmes in rural areas. They should be serious. They should be aggressive in their campaigns so that the burden is not left to police officers alone who also lack resources. 

As you all know, most police stations in the rural areas do not have cars as compared to those in the urban centres. What we see in the rural areas are policemen in uniforms only. We urge the Government to allocate police vehicles to rural areas in order to help police combat veldt fires.  Veldt fires are a common place in rural areas because of thick vegetation. So, I want to thank the Hon. Member who moved the motion.

          *HON. CHINANZVAVANA: I want to thank your Mr. Speaker for affording me this opportunity to add my voice on the motion which was moved by Hon. Mudyiwa which touches all of us because we stay where there are forests. She has touched on a number of things and I am going to touch on a few.

          What she talked about is that when we start veldt fires, we do not only destroy the lives of people but also the lives of animals because our health is also dependant on the vegetation. Veldt fires do not only destroy lives but also affect climate change which we are seeing affecting us. As you can see, that is why we have all those protocols on climate change. This is as a result of those veldt fires which affect the ozone layer where we get our oxygen from.

          When people are hunting for mice, they are indirectly depleting the ozone layer because the fires that burn produce smoke that is detrimental to the existence of the ozone layer. When the ozone layer is depleted and there is a lot of carbon, our health system becomes weak. Those in the know say that when we burn the forests the fumes, that are produced go into the air and in turn, this affects climate change and we will not get enough rains.  It also changes the climate and then we end up having floods and then it will affect our farming even our livelihood. If we do not have enough rains, even the economy of the country is affected. When we engage in veldt fires, it may seem like a favourite pastime but the practice has far reaching consequences.

          I think we should help each other on how to prevent veldt fires by making fire guards. As Hon. Members in our constituencies, before the onset of the fire season, we should sit down with our people and educate them on the negative effects of engaging in veldt fires. This practice should cascade to our headmen and chiefs that once a week or once a month, they should educate the people by holding meetings concerning the negative effects of veldt fires.

I want to encourage the Government to come up with stiffer penalties on would-be offenders so that we can protect our environment. If we burn the forests, our animals will die, our forests will deplete and so, there is need to protect living things that depend on the ecosystem. The headmen and chiefs should be given powers to preside over cases of veldt fires and they should have the power to prescribe penalties. 

          In Zimbabwe, we are happy because we have big farms. Our challenge is that we cannot look after our farms. All our fields should be fenced. Each and every field should have a fireguard as protection from the fire but we are not doing that. Our fields have a lot of grass in them because we are not farming. We heard that one of our Hon. Members lost a field which had maize due to veldt fires. We need to remove tall grass from our fields and erect fireguards so that we can protect our harvest. If we do not do so, when there is a break out of fire it will burn everything including cattle kraals and homesteads. So, it is very important that we look after our soil very well. Let us look after our fields well. Let us have fireguards. Let us also erect fences so that it will help our forests in the future. I thank you.

          *HON. ZINDI: I have stood up to support this debate which is before us. I will focus mainly on education in terms of eradicating the effects of veld fires.  Yes, we are being educated in the western knowledge on the issues of protecting our areas but through my investigations – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – Mr. Speaker Sir, may I please be protected from those Hon. Members.  They are disrupting my debate. 

THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MUTOMBA): Order, order, Hon. Members may we please have less noise in the House.

          HON. ZINDI: If they wish, they can leave the House and continue with their conversation outside. – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

          THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER:  You may continue with your debate Hon. Zindi.

          *HON. ZINDI:  Thank you Mr. Speaker for affording me the opportunity to be heard clearly.  I was saying we do not refuse being imparted with western knowledge because this is being done in order to enhance our knowledge.

          What surprises me is, in integrating that western knowledge, we are throwing away our African knowledge in the bin.  I am saying that because when it comes to protecting our environment, there are ways that we grew up being educated on.  For example, if you go to the well with a dirty tin that has been put on the fire and is covered in soot, we were told that snakes would come out of the well.  This was all in an effort to preserve our African culture and to protect our surroundings hence you knew that you could not take a dirty container to the well.  This meant that taking a dirty container, covered in soot, put it in the well, the water would become dirty and people would not have access to clean water because water should always be clean.

          We were also taught which trees to cut and not cut.  For example, the muunze tree, muunze because it takes a long time to grow and provides ample shade and these are the trees that we normally find in mountainous places.  The tree also produces good firewood but we were told that it was sacred and should not be cut.  In some areas, the assumption was that there is a snake that lives in the bark called a garukuni.  So if you cut down the tree then you would be taking the snake home with you.  The garakuni  snake resembles the muunze tree in appearance hence it is difficult to tell them apart and these things used to happen.  This was done in order to instill fear in people and preserve our forestry by not cutting down trees indiscriminately.  That culture was very good yet we threw it away and did not integrate it with the western knowledge.

          We are prioritising western knowledge at the expense of our indigenous knowledge.  I want to buttress the point that indigenous knowledge should always be regarded because it works better than the western knowledge.  There are practical things that happen and I have already given an example of cutting down of the muunze tree and carrying it together with a snake and that would frighten people.

          Mr. Speaker, we should also know that in our lives as Africans, we believe in our ancestors hence if we embrace that knowledge in that aspect it will help us.  For example, we visit the apostolic faith healers in search of prayers that tell us what happens in our daily lives.  This is why you see people spending their time visiting these prophets weekly.  These prophets now have knowledge of that and are maximizing on that in deceiving people.  Hence people do not leave their shrines because they are being told of things that happen on daily basis in conjunction with our Africans beliefs that our lives are conjoined with our ancestors.  This is what the prophets will say, hence if we blend the two cultures, it will help us to preserve our surroundings.  This is the main issue that I stood up to talk about.

          I also want to talk on the issue of fireguards which was mentioned by Hon. Chinanzvavana.  I am in support of fireguards but my challenge is that in the resettlements, many new farmers have put up fireguards but what is happening is, former farm workers who used to work for the white farmers are sabotaging our efforts.  They will start a fire right in the middle of the field and the whole farm is ablaze thus rendering the fireguard useless, this has happened to me three times.  You ensure that you part with your money to have a timeous fireguard in place but because our minds are still colonized, we do not believe that the land now belongs to the blacks.  It is us the blacks who are being used to go and start fires on other people’s farms, sabotaging their efforts.

          So, it also needs people to be enlightened in order to have decolonised mindsets.  People should be made to understand that this land reform happened.  Blacks should support each other and not be used as tools of destruction.  These are the same people who run to the press claiming that the new farmers are failing to manage the farms and are only good at trapping mice.  This is all sabotage to spearhead their agenda that the land reform should not have taken place.  They will now be spicing their stories so that they are acceptable to the world.

          It is unfortunate that as newly resettled farmers, we do not have forums to discuss the various challenges that we encounter. They do not have a chance to sit together and table all these to say that we have fire guards, but there are people who come and burn our fields at night when we are asleep.  So, I want this to be known, that people are erecting fire guards.  With these few words, I want to say thank you Mr. Speaker.

           HON. GABBUZA: Thank you Mr. Speaker, I just have a few issues to raise pertaining to veld fires.  Firstly, let me commend the Hon. Member for bringing this very important and pertinent motion about veld fires.  Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, not many of us appreciate the importance of this motion, especially this time of the year.  I can see by the attitude we are taking towards this kind of debate, quite clearly, not all of us are very interested.

           Mr. Speaker, let me indicate from the onset that, one of the major problems of veld fires, is not that there are no laws, but it is mainly because of our attitude as residents of this country towards veld fires.  Secondly, it is the attitude of the law enforcement agents, the police officers towards veld fires, I will indicate why I am saying this.  Let me also say that I do not agree with the figures that are always given that year in-year out, we lose about 1million hectares of land to veld fires.  That is an understatement, because Zimbabwe is about 49 million hectares and if you fly over the country towards the beginning of the rainy season, you will not see one percent of the country burning, it is usually more than half and more than half of 45 million cannot be 1 million.  So, those figures need to be revised and the correct statistics must be given to the nation.  Maybe people will be able to understand the importance of these veld fires.

           Let us look at it historically Mr. Speaker.  When we were growing up, if fire started, within 30 minutes, the ancient British South African Police (BSAP) Jeep would be immediately seen within your homestead.  Once it approached, everyone would be mobilised to go and put off that fire, they would make sure they check who caused the fire and they would come up with the culprit immediately.  However, do you see that happening in our modern Zimbabwe?  Just at a road block, there will be fire burning and police officers will be busy concentrating on traffic as if they do not know that there is a law about veld fires and stopping it. 

           Mr. Speaker, the laws about veld fires are very thorough, if you look at the Veld Fire Act, it is one of the best laws.  Causing a fire, failing to stop a burning fire, failing to warn people before one can start a fire and even refusing to help put off a fire are all forms of crime.  However, if you look at those laws, I do not remember or reading about somebody who has been arrested and charged for that.  People start off fires willy-nilly, they drive past burning fires and nobody is made to stop and put off a fire. 

           At one time I tried it in my Constituency, there was a fire, I stopped and people were running away instead of trying to assist.  It looks like people are not aware of these laws.  If there are those who are aware, it could be the old people who could have lived during the BSAP because the BSAP enforced these laws.  However, in the modern Zimbabwe, nobody cares about a fire starting or even putting it off.  It looks like the ZRP training manual does not cover veld fires, because if you come across a fire, the police officers will be there and they do not seem to give a damn. 

           Our attitude as African Zimbabweans living near these veld fires – at one time I was driving past Mvuma Mr. Speaker, there was a raging fire on both sides of the road and we were afraid to cross.  We stopped and asked why there was so much fire, they responded to say; Aah mudhara tirikupisa zvishambwe, with my poor Shona language, I was not sure what zvishambwe was, when I inquired, I heard it is ticks.  Sometimes people start off fires out of ignorance to say ‘we are burning the eggs of ticks.’  As indicated here by some people, sometimes people start off veld fires just to catch mice, and it is also true that there could be sabotage as indicated by Hon. Zindi.

           However, sometimes fires are started for very frivolous and flimsy reasons which are nothing to talk about even by the senior people. When these fires are started Mr. Speaker, the fire will rage on.  It will be on a farm, the farm belongs to an individual, and the farmer is there with workers, they will not make an effort to put off the fire.  Each time I pass through a burning and raging veld fire, I have never seen efforts to try and put off the fire.  If it happens, I have never come across it myself.  You just drive through and fires are burning and people are there watching.  The owner of the farm will be there and does nothing in terms of making an effort to put off the fire.  I think our attitude towards fire as indigenous Zimbabweans is very low.  Maybe it is because people do not seem to understand the effects of fires until somebody is killed.  We do not seem to appreciate the importance of the environment.  Our attitude needs to change a bit.

            The other problem Mr. Speaker is EMA itself; we have a fire agency in the form of EMA and environmental agency.  We rarely see them near a fire.  Even if it is in the towns, in the rural areas we say maybe they do not have transport to get to the raging fires.  In towns, there will be fire burning within the precincts of an urban area and you will not see an EMA official trying to mobilise people to put off the fire, or even bring in equipment.  If the fire agents from the City Council do not come, EMA will be nowhere to be seen. 

           So, this is a serious problem about enforcement which, as Government, we must seriously look at on whether we really need EMA.  If we need it, is it really serving its purpose in terms of protecting the environment?  The police, we could say maybe they are overwhelmed but EMA, this is their primary responsibility to look after the environment.  I think as a starting point Mr. Speaker, we must put all our efforts to enforce the existing laws.  I see that the motion is requiring or expecting us to put stringent measures.  The measures or laws about veld fires are very thorough and adequate.  What is lacking is enforcement by the law enforcement agents and particularly and explicitly the Zimbabwe Republic Police and EMA, which is in charge of this Act.  Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to raise those issues.  Thank you very much.

           *HON. MLISWA: Thank you Mr. Speaker for giving me this opportunity to debate on this pertinent issue.  Firstly, I understand this because when I was a Member of Parliament for Hurungwe West, it is the worst in the country in terms of fires.  As the Chairman of Mashonaland West Province, it was worst, I was the Chairman of the Portfolio Committee on Education Sport and Culture.  Seized with that, especially in education, Mashonaland West in the country is the worst, Hurungwe West is the worst and in Norton and Chegutu, it is the worst when it comes to fires and I have the statistics from NSSA.

           As I was coming from Kent Farm, I came across a fire and there were gum trees, you do not know what to do because even if you stop, you will be endangering your life and so you are forced to keep on driving.  However, what I think is important is education.  I think Hon. Zindi talked about sabotage, which is caused by the former white employees, but the blacks who took over the farms, ourselves, the farm owners are not educating our people on these issues. We can talk about sabotage but what are we doing as farmers.  If you look at this, I am happy that the Deputy Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement is here.  The people who are causing this are illegal settlers who do not even have offer letters.  When it comes to issues of land reform, if you go to the compounds and try to find information of the owner, it is not available.  People just stay there and are not gainfully employed.  The issue of unemployment is also important to consider because if people are not employed, it is difficult to control them because they do anything to survive.    As you can see, EMA does not have the capacity to hold sensitisation to everyone but as Members of Parliament, Councillors, et cetera, we must help in sensitising the community.  EMA will sensitise us and we in turn sensitize the community.   I invited EMA officials in Norton.  I was very disappointed that EMA called for a workshop in Mashonaland West but I was the only Member of Parliament who attended and this hurt me.  So, the input of Members of Parliament is very important.  When they get information, they will cascade it to their constituencies.

          The influence of a Member of Parliament in a constituency is not underestimated but we are not doing our work properly.  Where work is being done, you can see, if you look at Matabeleland there are forests there.  Why is this happening in Mashonaland West?  In Matabeleland, you do not get stories of veld fires. The people of Matabeleland respect who they are and what they value because they know how to look after their forests.  They engage in cattle ranching so they go all the way to protect their forests and grazing areas.  So, I think we should learn from these other provinces. 

          I think there should be an exchange so that people from here can go and stay in Matabeleland. I think provincial affairs Ministers should engage and help each other on this issue.  Yes, we can come up with many laws, strong laws, we can take people into prisons but jails are there for rehabilitation and we cannot take jails as a way of educating people.  We should channel our resources to educate people rather than sending them to jail.  As Legislators, how far have we gone?  The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe has given us stickers to conscientise us, do not drink beer whilst you are driving.  Why cannot EMA do the same before the grass has been burnt?  That will help us?  You know the Hon. Vice President, the Late John Nkomo, he always said ‘peace begins with me, peace begins with you and peace begins with all of us’. So, we must have a moto in the country.

          I have also seen that EMA helps because in my constituency, there are others who are being given jobs, they will say come with your tractors then you  make hay-bales ….

          *THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER (HON. MUTOMBA):   Order, you have linguistic competence in your mother language Hon. Mliswa, please do not code switch.

          *HON. MLISWA: EMA has got a lot of jobs which will help us to protect our environment.  One of them is that you bring your tractor and then you make hay-bales.  That grass is sold in Matebeleland where there are a lot of cattle and the market is there.  Women know how to bale it properly and if you engage them, they will do it for you.  People who keep bees for honey do not start fires because it is their source of living.  Those programmes are the ones which are being spearheaded by EMA.  If you approach EMA, they are at liberty to give out information and education. We should visit schools, headmen and chiefs who will help us in spreading the information.  You must work with headmen and chiefs because in the rural areas is where we have headmen and chiefs.   Are they included in these programmes?  If they are included in other programmes of giving out rice and mealie meal, why are they not included in the control of veld fires?  I think we should engage them.  It looks like they are only looked for when it comes to the distribution of rice and mealie meal. 

          I think if you engage them, it will really help us when they distribute rice and maize they will teach the people about veld fires.  Rice and maize will help in bringing people together then the EMA officials will do the sensitisation, hence the need for chiefs involvement.  I want to thank Hon. Mudyiwa who has brought this motion.  It is a good motion and it touches on everyone and we have to support it.  What Hon. Gabbuza said is that we do not care, we have come to represent the people and we must continue in this spirit.  All members should contribute because it touches on all of us because if we do not look after the things that we have been blessed with, I think we will be in trouble.  So, I want to thank them for this motion because it is very good and it touches on everyone.

          *HON. MANGWENDE:   Thank you Mr. Speaker. I want to thank Hon. Mudyiwa for the motion that she has raised on veld fires.  What I am seeing is that they should be an awareness campaign.  Wherever people gather for other programmes in the constituencies, the EMA people should come and sensitise people about veld fires.  However, the issue of fire guards which Hon. Zindi has talked about, I finished harvesting like today and the next day the whole field was on fire.  We have a Forestry Commission in Highlands, Harare and you know that forestry is where we get our seedlings, but within hours that forestry was down.  We do not know where the fire came from.   So, I am urging that our police force should do their part, have cars to patrol.

          EMA leave people ferrying firewood in Harare yet there are no forests in Harare so where does the firewood come from.  Every constituency in Harare there is a marketplace for fire wood, EMA should do its job properly otherwise we will end up thinking that the top management at EMA are the ones authorizing this illegal market of firewood.  If you are coming from a farm and you have just a bundle of firewood, EMA will stop you and pay a fine but where are those big logs of firewood coming from in Harare? 

          The tobacco farmers also take part in the illegal cutting down of trees.  Some of us have fields which have trees and you will find your trees cut down by tobacco farmers.  If you report the matter to the police, no one is prosecuted, so I think those tobacco farmers should be investigated on how they are treating their tobacco.  If anyone is caught starting a fire, that person should sentenced because if two people are sentenced, others will not engage in starting fires.      When we were travelling from Kadoma we noticed that all the forests along that road were on fire.  So I think people should be given stiffer sentences. I thank you.

          +HON. G.M. NCUBE: Thank you Mr. Speaker, I want to add my voice on the motion that was brought by the Hon. Member.  When we grew up we did not experience any occasion whereby we would just see veld fires in a community. It was not a usual scene but it is a common thing nowadays maybe it is because of mixture of different cultures.

 I heard someone saying some of the people claim that they start veld fires because they will be looking for mice.  We now have such people even in our own farms.  I once received a call that my farm where I am doing cattle ranching was on fire.  What I saw there, I had not seen it ever since I was born, the veld fire was very serious and I was so terrified.  I had to let my farm get burnt to ashes, up until today, I do not even know who started that veld fire.  This shows that the mixture of different cultures bring such acts that we do not even how to handle as a community.

With this I want to emphasise on the motion that was brought by Hon. Mudyiwa that it is important that as a nation we should come up with laws, or the ones that exist should be enforced so that we can avoid such veld fires.   Like I said, when we growing up we knew that it was a taboo to start a veld fire, one would only start fire when cooking.  I remember, way back there was a time when our house got burnt and everyone in the family was so saddened as if there was death in the family.  This was something that was not usual, that is why people reacted that way.  It was not usual that someone would just start a veld fire; we knew that when we saw such a scene, something would have gone wrong. 

However, now you will find veld fires anywhere whether in the farm or along the road side. This is something that we need to take note of.  As Africans we should know that since we have taken our land and we own farms, are really taking these things seriously or we took the farms so that we can claim that we own something in life.  Some of the people who start veld fires is because they will be looking for honey and they leave the fire burning which then starts veld fires.

Mr. Speaker Sir, we heard that the laws are there, why are those laws not being enforced.  It is shocking that as a nation, maybe compared to other countries, we have the laws but they are not being enforced.  Those who are supposed to be enforcing the laws are they really trustworthy?  As has been alluded to earlier on that the policeman would come and watch a veld fire and will not even bother to take any action.  Therefore, we need to know whether there is a problem that they encounter when they try to enforce the laws which will then make to just watch when there is a veld fire and not take any action.  Is this how we want to run or is this how the nation is being run? Is this the way of living that we want as a nation?  I therefore pose a question as to what else is going to happen in this country when we just watch things going wrong like that? 

I want to take this opportunity to encourage the organisation like EMA that it is important to start the outreach programmes and go right round the communities, talking to the people, especially the people from Matebeleland.  People should not look down upon the people from Matebeleland and think that we do not have anything to do with veld fires.  We realise we have encounter veld fires even along the road sides or in the farms.  Most of the things that they used to think only happen in Mashonaland also happen in Matabeleland.

I also want to add a point on what Hon. Mliswa said where he mentioned that there are meetings that were once held to encourage people or teach them on veld fires.  We also want such meetings from our provinces.  In my constituency, someone was once arrested because of starting the veld fires.  When the police man phoned me, I encouraged them to take the person and arrest him until the EMA had come.  The person was then charged on the offence of causing veld fires.  Therefore for us as leaders, it is not enough for us to come and debate in Parliament and there is no action that we take in our communities.

I would like to urge this House that those fires are very dangerous because they degrade the soils and they destroy our nation in terms of vegetation.  Gone are the days whereby we used to say there is a specific area where we would start veld fires in order for the grass to grow properly.  I think it is important for us to teach our community that such days are no longer there and we should urge, encourage and also teach our communities that it is important to conserve our vegetation.  I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.

*HON. NKATAZO: I would like to thank the mover of this motion Hon. Mudyiwa, seconded by Hon. Zemura concerning veld fires which are affecting our fields, homesteads and almost everywhere.  I think this has come late.  If Hon. Mudyiwa had known, she whould have brought her motion before people started putting on fires. 

As we speak right now, my farm was burnt.  The people burnt my field because they wanted to pick maize.  After setting fire, they go into the fire, take the burnt maize and use it for mealie meal.  Sometimes for these fires to break out, it is not a failure to put them out.  You can put fireguards as per the requirement but because some people just want to burn the field in order to benefit, they will just do it.  From the time when people started farming, no one would start fires but when we got into the farms, there is now no end to fires.  Animals are dying. 

We now, have Command Livestock, we do not know what these cattle are going to feed on.  We are getting into cattle ranging because we want to get meat.  Even in Bulawayo, there are places which are not burnt but it is just here and there.  All over the country, there are areas where people are engaging in starting veld fires.  I think the people who start veld fires are being paid for this activity.  They will then say that people have failed.  The stocks that cattle are supposed to feed on are being burnt.  There is an area that has been left where there is grass – people went to harvest that grass.  After they had bundled that grass, that same night, the stacks of grass were burnt after people had spent two days cutting grass to feed cattle. 

I think EMA has failed.  I do not think they can control veld fires.  It is out of control.  Even the fines that they charge, whether they are paid or not, they are not deterrent.  Every year, veld fires are erupting.  I come from a rural constituency, the headmen and chiefs always meet people and talk about veld fires.   People who commit the crimes are made to pay fines but it is not helping at all.  They keep on starting fires.  We do not know how to control this.  I think there should be stiffer penalty or a mandatory jail sentence of ten years. This may probably deter people from starting fires. Ten years is too long for someone to be in jail. 

In the rural areas, we used to thatch huts with gum tree poles but we are no longer doing that because the gum trees are not growing.  People in the rural areas are no longer using gum poles because once they are planted, they get burnt.  We do not know where the problem is really.  We cannot say that there is a better place.  What we can say is that we have to put our heads together so that we come up with solutions.

Three children who were coming from school were burnt beyond recognition during the eruption of these veld fires.  They were suffocated by the smoke after they thought that they would beat the fire.  They did not know that if they get to the centre of the smoke, they will be choked by the smoke.  They were all choked and confused in the fire, thus they were burnt and died.  I do not know anyone who would be happy to see a child who has his or her life cut short. Probably, that child was going to be a doctor or an Hon. Member of Parliament but he or she died because of careless people who start fires. 

If you are have not come across a veld fire, you will not understand. The fires that are started in farms are very difficult to put off. Cyprus trees will burn like paraffin when fires have been started.  The grass on farms is very big.  When there is a fire, we run away and leave our homes.  Fires will be put out naturally by the will of God.

I would like to thank Hon. Mudyiwa for raising this motion though it came late.  I think we should come together and do away with these veld fires.  We no longer have wild animals in the environment.  When we went to the farms, there were wild animals there, for example wild bucks and snakes but now there is nothing left.  At times you can see snakes moving to your homestead and you run away they will also be running away from the fire.  Every animal gets affected.  It is not about people alone. If you start a fire, you have started it for other people and animals as well.  No one benefits from that. 

Hon. Mudyiwa, I would like to thank you for that motion and I hope everybody will take heed of it.  I think EMA and the Ministry should do something in order to curb veld fires.  They should provide enough resources for the people who come to attend these veld fires.  People who come to attend veld fires at the moment are complaining that they do not have transport.  The Ministry should give them transport so that they do their work properly. I thank you.

HON. RUNGANI:  Mr. Speaker Sir, I move that the debate do now adjourn.

HON. N. NDLOVU:  I second.

Motion put and agreed to.

Debate to resume:  Tuesday, 10th October, 2017.

On the motion of HON. RUNGANI, seconded by HON. N. NDLOVU, the House adjourned at Twenty Five Minutes past Four o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 10th October, 2017.

 

 

 

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National Assembly Hansard NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 05 OCTOBER 2017 VOL 44 NO 10