NRZ CHAOS MUST BE ADDRESSED: SENATOR TIMVEOS

Midlands Senator Lilian Timveos (MDC-T) has highlighted the rapidly deteriorating state of National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and called on the Executive to urgently address the situation.Speaking during debate on the state of NRZ in the Senate on Thursday 30 July 2015, Senator Timveos called for swift action to address the situation. Below is the full text of her debate, which is also available through Hansard on the Parliament of Zimbabwe website, www.parlzim.gov.zw and on her own website, www.liliantimveos.wordpress.com.

SENATOR TIMVEOS: Thank you Mr. President for giving me this opportunity to debate this motion. I want to thank Senator B. Sibanda for moving this motion and the seconder Senator Makore. I stand with a heavy heart Mr. President on the shocking state of the National Railways of Zimbabwe. Let me start by saying, as a land locked country, we really need efficient and reliable railway transportation. This is not only for this country; it caters for the whole region. It also helps our neighbouring countries including South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. These countries depend on this rail service. From the 1960s, Mr. President until now, we used to do good business and earn very good money for the Treasury of the nation by providing rail transit services to our neighbours.

Mr. President, I would like to refer to the recent report of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee which was tabled in the National Assembly on the 10th June, 2015. This report makes some very sad reading. According to the report, the NRZ is in a state of chaos because of poor business performance, aging fleet and dilapidated infrastructure. The company is not paying tax, workers and its creditors. Its debts have reached alarming levels. Mr. President, NRZ employs 6 500 workers and these workers are suffering. Information provided by management shows that the company owes its workers US$55 million in salary arrears when Parliament conducted its investigation in August 2014. Some sort of arrangement had been made where the lower grades got 75% and the managers got at least 50% of their salaries. You cannot run an oraganisation like that Mr. President. The workers need motivation, they need to get all their salaries so that they can work to make sure that the NRZ is operating in a good way. Experts say they can no longer retrench staff. To begin with, NRZ used to have over 30 000 workers but now you can see the big difference of 6 500 only that are left. They can no longer retrench because they actually have to maintain the workers who know their job.

It is also of grave concern Mr. President, that while NRZ was deducting NSSA and Railmed contributions on workers pay slips, no remittances were made to NSSA or Railmed. When the Comptroller and Auditor General conducted the 2011 audit, NRZ owed NSSA about US$2 m dating back to 2009. Mr. President, you can see that surely NRZ is in a lot of problems. The debt had gone up to $4.1 million in August 2014. Railmed was owed over $1.3 m. There is a danger that workers will not be able to get their pensions in full when they retire.

Because of the failure of Railmed, workers have no access to health services at all. So, definitely this should concern all of us who are in this Senate –[HON. SENATORS: Hear, hear.]- because we are here to represent these workers.

Mr. President, considering the importance of NRZ to this country and this economy, this is a very bad situation. The railways used to be our cheapest and reliable means of transport and it was used for bulk goods and passengers. NRZ also used to do good business by transporting international tourists to destinations such as Victoria Falls but today, most of us are filled with dread when we think of boarding a train or even sending goods through this mode of transport. Most businesses have abandoned the railway systems and are now transporting goods by road which is very expensive, considering the state of our major roads and the high cost of fuel. It is not viable to transport good by road. It actually makes these goods more expensive and our people actually have to use money for these goods.

Mr. President, the NRZ transported nearly ten million tonnes of goods in 2000. This has dropped to 3.7 million tonnes in 2013. The NRZ needs to ferry about 5 million tonnes to break even. We have to ask ourselves what went wrong. The reasons are clear Mr. President. Our equipment is old and it experiences breakdowns. We also have issues to do with security where equipment is vandalised. In fact, it is appalling that NRZ had to abandon cheap and efficient electric trains on the Harare to Gweru route. You remember that there was a Harare and Gweru railway and it was really cheap and people were really excited until cables were stolen. Surely, we really have to guard against these thieves that are doing a disservice to the NRZ. The NRZ like other hon. senators said who have spoken before me, is definitely facing a financial crisis. By 2011, it had accumulated losses of $105 million. Information at hand shows that its current liabilities exceeds its assets by about $17 million. The organisation needs $700 million Mr. President, to restore normal operations. It has been reported that negotiations were underway for $450 million loan from the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Even if that loan was availed soon, that still leaves the NRZ with a shortfall of $250 million. So, really, some more money has to come from somewhere else. We are hoping that this will come true and our railway will get back to where it was. I hope our Minister of Finance knows what really a mammoth task he is facing.

Mr. President, as things stand, NZR’s ability to attract funding is very limited at the moment. Because of its poor financial performance, the NRZ does not have current tax clearance certificate from, what I read from this report. It also owes ZIMRA at lot of money, almost $43 million and that is a lot of money. There are also suspicions of corruption there at NRZ and it actually needs to be investigated to see how best we can avoid these corrupt activities.

In conclusion Mr. President, I want to advise that the Government must recapitalize the NRZ as a matter of urgency. Yes, the country is facing financial constraints but considering the strategic importance of NRZ to the national economy, this matter deserves to be prioritised. The NRZ management must come up with a viable business plan within the six months prescribed by the Public Accounts Committee. Without the plan, it is impossible to raise the money.

The Government must also ensure that a substantive management is appointed, because as of now, currently the top managers are actually acting – including the General Manager. They have been acting for a very long time. The Government must also ensure that whatever equipment is bought conforms to the modern railway standards. It is better to buy new equipment which may be expensive in the short term than to keep trying to fix the old which is way past its viable 25 year lifespan. On this note it may also be useful to ask what happened to the high-speed trains which were reported to have been ordered from China?

Security of rail infrastructure to avoid the vandalism that I spoke about must be beefed up as well so that NRZ does not continue to lose vital equipment through vandalism and theft. The Government must restore the confidence of the business community and the public so that they get back to using the railway to ship their goods and for ordinary travel. The Government must address all issues of suspected corruption in railway tender processes and other related matters. All those found to have been corrupt must be prosecuted. With these few sentiments, I thank you Mr. President. – [HON. SENATORS: Hear, hear.]-

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MDC Demands Government Action on Human Trafficking After Women Are Murdered in SA

MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE
MDC Demands Government Action on Human Trafficking After Women Are Murdered in SA
Press Statement
Harare, 30 July 2015.
The Movement for Democratic Change has learnt with shock and horror about the fate of two Zimbabwean women who were brutally murdered by a human trafficking gang in South Africa recently.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, one of whom has been identified as Olga Gwena while the other, suspected to be Esther Mwinde, is still to be officially accounted for. According to news reports, the women were abducted by the traffickers, who demanded ransom from their families but still went on to kill them after the money was paid.
As a party, the MDC is concerned about the Government’s failure or refusal to comply with the full provisions of the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol of 2000. This has made the country a hotbed for human trafficking.
Although the Government announced the formation of an inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee in January 2015 under the leadership of the Ministry of Home Affairs, this so-called committee has not been visible and has not reported any progress in efforts to combat human trafficking. We note with concern that the committee remained without a designated chair and has not met or reported regularly on the progress of its anti-trafficking activities. While the government established a position in the president’s office in 2014 to focus on trafficking issues, nothing has come out of this office to indicate progress in curbing or preventing human trafficking in the country.
The MDC notes that in June 2014, the Government passed the Trafficking in Persons Act. This law is defective and falls far short of meeting the standards set out in the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Contrary to international law, which defines trafficking in persons as a crime of exploitation, the Zimbabwe TIP Act provides a very limited definition of this heinous crime. This loophole is being exploited by traffickers.
Human trafficking is a very serious problem for Zimbabweans. As in the case of the late Olga Gwena, an unknown number of Zimbabweans are being abducted for ransom by trafficking gangs when they travel outside the country, especially to South Africa. Others are promised lucrative jobs, only to end up as sex slaves and forced labourers.
The latest United States State Department report on trafficking in persons makes it clear that Zimbabwe is not fulfilling its international obligations in this regard . The crime is not limited to activities of traffickers outside the country but within our borders as well. Millions of Zimbabweans are trapped in conditions of forced prostitution and slave labour inside the country, especially on farms in mines and households.
As a social democratic party with the interests of the people at heart, the MDC calls for urgent action to free those who are trapped in this practice and to prevent others from becoming victims. We are aware that many of the people who end up being victims of human traffickers are only trying to survive. They are already victims of Zanu PF misrule and political repression at home. They are forced to undertake these hazardous journeys because of corruption-induced economic collapse in Zimbabwe.
Recommendations
We recommend the following:
Amendment of the Zimbabwe Trafficking in Persons Act to bring it in line with the 2000 UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol;
Increasing efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offences, including those involving state and ruling party officials;
That Government makes greater efforts to convict and punish trafficking offenders;
Train police, diplomatic personnel and other relevant authorities on how to deal with human trafficking offences;
Escalate public awareness campaigns to prevent people falling victim to traffickers;
Provide support services to survivors and reassure those that are trapped in this practice that there is a way out for them.
Thank you.
Issued by Hon. Senator Lilian Timveos,
Secretary for Domestic Affairs, MDC.
Harvest House, Harare.
E-mail: lilimikoro@gmail.com
Mobile: 263 773 894 366
Website: http://www.liliantimveos.wordpress.com

Senator Timveos Calls Upon Government to Stop Company Closures and Protect Debtors

Senator Lilian Timveos has called on the Government to act immediately to stop the mass closure of companies in Zimbabwe, especially banks and mining firms. Speaking during debate in the Senate on Wednesday July 15, 2015, Senator Timveos said the company closures were causing financial hardship on workers, whose assets were now being seized by creditors. Below is her full debate:

MOTION
PROVISION OF FUNDING TO THE DISTRESSED AND MARGINALISED INDUSTRY FUND
Second Order Read: Adjourned debate on motion on economic challenges resulting in individuals and companies being heavily indebted.
Question again proposed.
SENATOR TIMVEOS: Thank you Mr. President. I am very much thankful for having this opportunity to debate this very important motion. I also want to thank the mover of the motion Senator T. D. Khumalo and the seconder Senator Ncube. Mr. President, the shortage of money in Zimbabwe as formal banking system commonly known as the ‘liquidity crunch’ has led to many companies collapsing. People are being thrown out of work and in some cases, it affects the rest of the family. It affects wives and children; children do not go to school anymore because the fathers will not be working. Companies are closing down and this is worsened by the failure of banks which have failed to actually give the depositors their money after they have closed doors.
According to the Deposit Protection Corporation latest updates on closed banks – Mr. President, if I can just refer to my notes because I want to mention all the banks that have been closed. In view of the current legislative framework no compensation was made to depositors
of failed banking institutions whose resolution methods did not entail liquidation. These are NDH, Highveld, Inter-Market Bank, Inter-Market Discount House, Original Trust Bank, Royal Bank and Barbican Bank whose assets were sold to ZABG in 2005.
More banks were closed down from 2004, that is Afro-Asia Bank, Allied Bank, Interfin Bank, Capital Bank, Trust Bank, Royal Bank, Genesis Investment Bank, Century Discount House, Rapid Discount House and Sagid Finance House. Some of the remaining banking institutions are making super profits out of the misery of the people. Families are breaking apart and some people flee the country to escape debts. Others are engaging in cat and mouse games, changing addresses and phone numbers to dodge their creditors.
Mr. President, this is not right, the Government should put in place policies to assist bankers and companies which are facing heavy debts and liquidation. Mr. President, on a daily basis, we read about properties and goods being auctioned because the owners have failed to pay their debts. People also need protection of the law to save their
goods from loan sharks, illegal debt collectors and unregistered auctioneers who are springing up everywhere. Zimbabweans need protection from these people because they are actually charging exorbitant administration fees which actually makes it worse for the debtors.
The Legal Practitioners Act Chapter 27.7, Mr. President, under Section 9 states that, ‘Only a legal practitioner with a valid practicing certificate can issue out letters of demand and take legal action on behalf of third parties’. Mr. President, this is not happening; there is a lot illegal deals that are going on and illegal sharks that are really sprouting around everywhere. This is giving a lot of problems to the people who owe money and they are actually losing a lot of properties through these illegal debt collectors.
Mr. President, this is a very important motion and surely we should really look at our policies as Government. I am not saying that the people who owe monies should be protected but policies should be clear
to actually make sure that everyone who is dealing with collecting money that is owed is a legal practitioner.
In conclusion Mr. President, I understand the Government is in talks with CABS to revive the Distressed and Marginalised Industry Fund. We hope this facility can be availed soon. However, we should not leave the job of bailing out our companies to the private sector alone. It should be the State’s responsibility to ensure that businesses are operating and that people are going to work. I also like to end by giving you the example of the constituency where I come from, Midlands Province. We have an example of Sabi Gold Mine which was closed over a debt of over US$2m. That mine is actually rich in gold but the workers are now being stripped of their goods by creditors because they cannot pay. The mine was actually the guarantor of these debts while the State was a guarantor of ZMDC debts. This cycle debt has now also affected businesses that are owed money by these insolvent State corporations. So really, Mr. President, as Government we need to look at our policies strongly. I thank you.

Senator Timveos Moves Motion Against Child Marriages

The Zimbabwe Senate has adopted a motion to end child marriages in the country. The motion was moved by Senator Lilian Timveos on Tuesday 30 June 2015 amid growing concern that children as young as 12 were being forced to marry and endure a life of misery. Below is the full text of her debate.

MOTION

ENFORCEMENT OF NATIONAL LAWS WITH A VIEW TO END CHILD MARRIAGES

SENATOR TIMVEOS: I move the motion standing in my name

That this House –

AWARE that new provisions in the Constitution have made 18 the age of marriage for girls and boys;

NOTING that some elements of existing laws such as the Marriage Act and Customary Marriages Act are now unconstitutional;

CONCERNED that the Marriage Act and Customary Marriages Act have not yet been harmonized with the Constitution;

COGNISANT of the fact that Zimbabwe is a signatory of African Union and United Nations Conventions such as the Maputo Protocol, declaring 18 to be the minimum age of marriage;

ALARMED that a large number of girls are being forced into marriage before they reach the age of 18 in contravention of AU and UN guidelines;

NOW THEREFORE, recommends that the Government and leaders end child marriage by:

  1. a) Enacting and enforcing national laws that raise the age of marriage to 18 for both girls and boys;
  1. b) Using available information to identify and target trouble spots of ‘hot spots’ areas and communities with high proportions and numbers of girls at risk of child marriage and intervening to end it;
  2. c) Setting up prevention programmes that empower girls at risk of child marriage and addressing root causes of the problem such as poverty, ignorance and negative cultural and religious practices and beliefs;
  3. d) Mitigating the harmful impact of child marriage on girls by providing care and support programmes for victims and survivors.

SENATOR S. NCUBE: I second.

SENATOR TIMVEOS: Thank you Madam President, for this opportunity. Child marriage is a very evil social, economic and growing problem in Zimbabwe. It is estimated that one in three women were married before the age of 18 years and the trend still continues today.

Child marriage is a violation of the Constitution. The Constitution states that every girl or boy under the age of 18 years is to be protected from economic and sexual exploitation or any form of abuse.

Child marriage happens mainly because of poverty and ignorance. Some parents think that they can escape poverty by charging lobola or bride price for their children. Others try to dodge the responsibility of looking after their children by marrying them very early. The young girls are forced out of school and prevented from acquiring skills from the formal job market. As a result, they can only enter the workplace of unskilled labourers. Parents are also forced to marry off their daughters, which makes it even worse, because then their children are not equipped for any kind of job, and this actually makes poverty to continue. Thus, the child marriage robs girls of education, health and long term prospects.

Cultural and religious practices are also to blame for child marriage. Cultural practices of giving away girls to appease spirits of the dead or the activities of some of religious sects are also encouraging

child marriages. On this note Madam President, it is encouraging that the President of the Chiefs Council, Hon. Senator Chief Charumbira has already issued a statement against child marriages and I want to thank him today for a job well done – [HON. SENATORS: Hear. Hear.] – As legislators, we must play a very big role in awareness campaigns against child marriages.

Experts say that young people lack the emotional maturity needed for marriage. The younger the parties are, the more likely that their marriage will break down, and because they have no education and skills, these desperate young girls end up engaging in other criminal activities like sex work. We saw that when we had a workshop recently in Kadoma. Young girls are now engaging in sex work which is really bad for our country. Young girls often suffer physical injury and emotional stress from marriage because they are very young. Their bodies are not sufficiently developed and they usually experience problems when giving birth. A lot of these young girls or mothers’ babies also die during child birth.

Let me turn to the laws that govern child marriages in our country. Many people have complained about the Government’s delay in aligning our laws to the Constitution. It is obvious this process of alignment is long overdue. You might be aware that there are some young citizens of this country – Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopotsi who have taken the Government to the Constitutional Court over the laws. Without really pre-empting or commenting on the on-going case, I think I want to submit that this is the right time to amend our laws.

Madam President, the Marriage Act Chapter 5.11 is unconstitutional because it allows marriage by people below the age of 18. Sections 20 and 22 of this Act say, “a girl between the age of 16 and 18 can marry with the consent of her mother or father.” The Customary Marriage Act, Chapter 5.07 is also unconstitutional on the basis that it does not provide for a minimum age of 18 years for marriage.

Zimbabwe is party to several African Union Conventions aimed at ending child marriages. It is only on implementation of these treaties that we are lagging behind. We have the African Charter on the Rights

and Welfare of the Child 1999. Article 21.2 states that, “child marriages and betrothal of girls and boys shall be prohibited and effective action, including legislation shall be taken to specify the minimum age of marriage to be 18 years and above”. Article 6 (b) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa 2003 also known as the Maputo Protocol has the same effect. It makes it mandatory for the State parties to enact laws to guarantee that minimum age of marriage for women shall be 18 years and above.

The AU theme for 2015 is, “Women’s empowerment”. As the country’s President, Cde. R. G. Mugabe is the current AU Chairman, Zimbabwe can lead by example by taking direct actions to end child marriages.

In conclusion, as Parliament the greatest action we can take on this to bring our laws in line with international norms in protecting the rights of girls and women, the current Constitutional Court application seeks to have the minimum age written into Constitution. Government should come up with a Bill to make it illegal for boys and girls below 18 to

marry. Such a law will make it mandatory for marriage officers to ensure that marrying parties are above 18 years of age. Madam President, we can spend a lot of time talking or we can change bad laws and shape a better Zimbabwe. I thank you Madam President.