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16th Post -Cabinet Press Briefing

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By Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa 

1.0 UPDATE ON ZIMBABWE’S RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK

Cabinet received an update on Zimbabwe’s Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak, which was presented by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, Honourable A. Murwira, as the Deputy Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on the COVID-19 Outbreak.

As at 25 May, 2021, Zimbabwe’s cumulative COVID-19 cases stood at 38 706, with 36 517 recoveries and 1 587 deaths. The recovery rate stands at 94.3%, with 95.5% of COVID-19-positive cases being attributable to local transmission. The number of active cases stands at 602.

Cabinet wishes to confirm that the B.1.617 variant which is prevalent in India was detected in a localized outbreak in Kwekwe and that, as a result, the Honourable Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care announced a 2-week lockdown of Kwekwe City which started on Friday 21 May 2021. During the lockdown, the following measures shall apply:
1. Curfew running from 1900 hours to 0600 hours;
2. No visitors to all boarding schools and all day schools should strictly observe COVID-19 school protocols;
3. Opening businesses from 0800 hours to 1700 hours;
4. Closure of All bars, drinking places, beerhalls and bottle stores;
5. The banning of all gatherings forthwith; and
6. That all funerals must be supervised by health personnel with the number of people attending funerals not exceeding 30.

Government appreciates the quick response taken to control the spread of the variant and urges citizens who experience COVID-19 symptoms to quickly report to the nearest health facility.

Concerning primary and secondary schools, Cabinet was advised that a total of 837 COVID-19-positive cases have been detected in schools since opening in March, 2021. Total recoveries in schools stand at 796, leaving the number of active cases at 39, demonstrating the effectiveness of the surveillance system and control measures in place. Of special note is the fact that all the 31 additional samples taken from learners and staff at Goldridge Primary School, Kwekwe, after the initial 3 positive cases previously reported, were negative.

Cabinet would like to reiterate that the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us. While every effort is being made to safeguard all citizens from the deadly pandemic, members of the public are urged to remain vigilant and observe all the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols and national guidelines in order to ensure that we overcome this threat.

2.0 PROGRESS REPORT ON THE PROCUREMENT AND ROLL-OUT OF COVID-19 VACCINES

The Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Honourable C.G.D.N. Chiwenga, apprised Cabinet on progress made in the procurement and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.

As of 24th May, 2021, a total of 633 635 people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 288 437 their second dose across the country. Government continues to urge the public to go to their nearest health facility to receive their COVID-19 vaccine so that the country achieves the required herd immunity in order to control the spread of the disease.

Regarding vaccine procurement, the public is informed that delivery of the 500 000 Sinopharm vaccine doses which were ordered from China is expected in June 2021.

Cabinet takes this opportunity to advise that Zimbabwe was elected into the General Committee of the World Health Assembly. The main functions of the Assembly are
(a) To determine the policies of the World Health Organisation (WHO);
(b) To appoint the (WHO) Director-General; and
(c) To supervise financial policies and to review and approve the proposed programme budget.
Meanwhile, the 74th World Health Assembly commenced on 24 May 2021 and will run virtually until 1 June 2021. The theme of the Assembly is “Ending this Pandemic, Preventing the Next: Building Together a Healthier, Safer and Fairer World”.

3.0 UPDATE ON THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR

The Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement updated Cabinet on the status of the agriculture sector.

Regarding the winter wheat and barley, preparation, Cabinet wishes to report that three facilities are in place targeting 92 000 hectares distributed as follows: the Presidential Wheat Scheme targeting 10 000 hectares; the Command/CBZ Agro-yield Scheme targeting 60 000 hectares; and the Private Sector Support targeting 15 000 hectares for wheat and 7 000 hectares for barley. A Statutory Instrument to restrict marketing of wheat and barley crops to contractors and GMB only is being drafted.

The 2021 Agricultural Marketing Season has generally progressed according to plan. Cabinet notes that a total of 152 924 tobacco growers were registered for the 2020/2021 tobacco season, compared to 153 800 for last season, sales have generally been firm with good prices across all grades. Total tobacco export shipments for 2021 have reached 57.4 million kg as at 19 May 2021 compared to 67 million kg shipped during the same period last year. Tobacco export revenue now stands at US$235 million compared to US$231 million the previous year. Regarding preparedness for the 2021/2022 season, seed sales to date are 74 670g compared to the same time last year. Measures are being put in place to facilitate value-addition of tobacco before exporting so as to maximize on the proceeds from tobacco. Government is also reinforcing discipline in the tobacco sector and over 60 illegal buyers have been arrested. Also, the Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Strategy is nearing completion. The main focus of the strategy are as follows: growers production to increase to 300 million kg; combating de-forestration; localizing financing of production; increasing value-addition and beneficiation; and growing alternative crops.

Pertaining to cotton marketing, the nation is advised that the 2021 Cotton Marketing season commenced on 18th May 2021. Cabinet noted with concern the continued failure to pay farmers for cotton delivered to COTTCO and has decided to institute measures to increase its shareholding in COTTCO to at least 51% in tandem with its contribution in the company and apparent support to farmers and the need to spur rural industrialization. To this effect, Government will be paying farmers directly.

On a related matter, Cabinet further agreed that Government final shareholding in Silo Foods Industries be increased to 74% so as to guarantee availability of the seven basic commodities.

On livestock production, increases in beef, sheep and pork slaughter have been noted, largely reflective of the good rains and improved feeds. Milk production is creeping up, by June production levels will be similar to 2020 levels. Varying interventions by the Dairy Sector have been devised to ensure growth. Foot and Mouth Disease vaccinations are continuing in high risk areas. The cumulative cattle vaccinated to date stand at 186 193. The cumulative deliveries of tick grease to GMB depots are 769 947 kg against a target of 1 million kg. The cumulative total of beneficiaries are 686 971 farmers. The tick grease is for free and can be accessed from the local AGRITEX offices.

On water resources, irrigation development and water sanitation, health and pollution coordination issues, the nation is advised that there is sufficient water for all the envisaged irrigation this winter and summer. The national dam storage levels are at 91% above the 71.2% expected at this time of the year. Agriculture remains the biggest water-using sector in the country with an approximate usage proportion of 82%, followed by the usage of water for urban and industrial users which stood at 14%. Major dams set for commissioning are Chivhu and Gwai Shangani. A total of 378 376 hectares are targeted for irrigation by 2024.

On Water and Sanitation, the cumulative number of drilled and rehabilitated boreholes is 1 507 for this year. Tendering is in progress for the purchase of 10 rigs for the Presidential Horticulture Scheme, initially targeting 3 boreholes per ward in 2021.

4.0 REPORT ON THE TRIPARTITE NEGOTIATING FORUM MEETING HELD ON 22 APRIL, 2021

Cabinet considered a report on the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Meeting which was held on 22 April, 2021 as presented by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

Cabinet was informed that the Meeting was convened to provide feedback to the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) regarding Cabinet position on the issue of wages and salaries. The nation is advised that Government emphasized the need to strengthen the sectoral determination of salaries and wages through NECs as well as maintain the stability of the economy and the prevailing foreign currency auction system.

Cabinet agreed to the proposal that the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) Technical Committee conducts a study to establish the appropriate sector wages and salaries relative to the poverty datum line, capacity utilization and productivity levels across the sectors. The resultant report should guide further engagement on the issue of wages and salaries. The TNF was encouraged to address outstanding Agenda Items beyond the issues of salaries and wages.

5.0 OVERVIEW OF THE NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY (NDS1) FIRST QUARTER PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR 2021

Cabinet considered and approved the Overview of the National Development Strategy (NDS1) First Quarter Performance Report For 2021, which was presented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Honourable Professor Muthuli Ncube. The report is an overview of the progress made in the implementation of the National Development Strategy (NDS 1)’s fourteen (14) national priority areas. The comprehensive review exercise was conducted by the National Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Joint Review Committee.

Cabinet notes that, in general, the first quarter NDS1 implementation report demonstrates that positive performance has been realized in spite of adverse exogenous shocks, especially those emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic. The current state of macroeconomic conditions, suggests that an increase in aggregate demand will increase consumption, without provoking uncontrollable inflationary torrents. Significantly, local brands now dominate supermarket shelves. Furthermore, there is a rebound in Zimbabwe’s industrial capacity utilization rates, averaging about 47% from as low as 20%.

Sectoral highlights include a decline in annual headline inflation from 654% to 194% and a positive fiscal budget balance for the first quarter in the Economic Growth and Stability sector. In the Food and Nutrition Security priority area, attainment of food security is on target following the good rains which were received during the 2020-2021 cropping season, that were buttressed by the implementation of the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, epitomized by the Climate-Proofed Presidential Input Scheme (Pfumvudza/Intwasa concept). Regarding the pillar on Moving the Economy up the Value Chain and Attainment of Structural Transformation, it is pleasing to note that industrial capacity utilization in 2021 is set to surpass the 50% target and rise to 61%, according to the Confedreation of Zimbabwe Industris (CZI).

Concerning Infrastructure and Utilities, significant progress was registered in road infrastructure rehabilitation under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP) 2 which was being implemented in all Provinces, with the target of putting 3% of the road network in good condition having been met. In particular, the first quarter target of upgrading and widening the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge highway was achieved. Generally, progress in the sector was hampered by among others, vandalism of electricity distribution equipment, obsolete equipment, and shortage of foreign currency to embark on new projects as well as completion of outstanding projects.

In Housing Delivery, a total of 569 housing units were constructed and completed out of a targeted 2000 units for the quarter. The COVID-19 induced lockdown adversely affected the construction industry which was declared a non-essential service during the beginning of the year. On the Digital Economy, a surge in demand for ICTs was recorded as citizens, business and education resorted to digital platforms in order to access various services including delivery of learning modules, following the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The Human Capital Development and Innovation pillar saw a total of 45 Qualification Standards, Skills Proficiency Schedules and Course Regulations reconfigured to Education 5.0 against a target of 35. Further, eight Public Service Academy modules were developed and validated. Related to this, the Health and Wellbeing pillar has seen stability being recorded within the sector in all critical areas following the launch of the Health Sector Turnaround Plan. The resurgence of the Covid-19, particularly the second wave, which was more fatal at the beginning of 2021, also triggered new efforts by Government to effectively manage the pandemic.

The Image Building, International Engagement and Re engagement; Governance; Youth, Sport and Culture; Social Protection; and Environmental Protection, Climate Resilience and Natural Resources Management also performed well. However, progress in the Devolution and Decentralization sector has been minimal due to delayed finalization of the requisite legal framework, with full implementation of the Devolution and Decentralization Policy awaiting promulgation of the Provincial Councils Act. There is also need to speed up the reform of State Enterprises and Parastatals since the performance of these entities significantly impacts the economy.

The public is advised that the process of reviewing implementation during the second quarter in the respective priority areas of the NDS 1 is already underway. The momentum established during the first quarter should be sustained in order to yield better results during the second and subsequent quarters of 2021. The required Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of between US$4 125 and US$12 736 by 2030 can only be achieved through constant consolidation of gains scored. The GNI for 2020 was US$1 155, and the projected figure for 2021 is US$1 835, reflecting a 60% growth rate.

Going forward, implementation focus will be directed towards high-impact targets that will transform the livelihoods of the citizenry guided by careful identification of the measurement criteria for targets and outcomes. Through the Whole-of-Government Approach, Thematic Working Groups will develop local indicators that are relevant to the local environment. Furthermore, compilation of Provincial Development Plans will be accelerated with a view to promoting the rapid development of local economies.

6.0 PROPOSALS ON THE RATIONALISATION OF SUBSIDIES

Cabinet considered and approved proposals on the rationalization of subsidies as presented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

The nation is informed that consistent with the overarching goal of the National Development Strategy 1:2021-2025 (NDS 1), it has become necessary that a guiding framework with regard to subsidies be established. Such a framework should ensure subsidies meet a specific public policy objective to remedy an identified market failure and are of the minimum size, necessary to achieve such an objective.

Noting that previous economic blue prints, albeit with similar targets, have fallen short on implementation, NDS 1 is premised on the need for bold and transformative measures that will ensure achievement of the country’s vision of an Empowered and prosperous Upper Middle-Income Society by 2020.

This framework is set to steer the economy on a growth trajectory averaging 5%, supported by a sustainable annual fiscal deficit target of around 1.2% of GDP, exchange rate stability and single digit inflation.

Strict adherence to the framework provides the pathway to the attainment of Vision 2030. This requires discipline and dedication by all stakeholders to achieve the above macro-economic targets, including realigning our public finances that have been the major source of instability in the market.

Unmitigated and unbudgeted subsidies will need to be curtailed going forward as they undermine Government’s fiscal consolidation objectives under NDS 1, whilst also crowding out critical developmental expenditures.

Subsidies that are being provided will have explicit identified funding sources, with costs adequately quantified to determine fiscal sustainability.

Government has supported the agriculture sector with a subsidy component on both inputs and specific crop producer prices, mainly to address food self-sufficiency, improve the welfare of the peasant farmers and make mealie-meal affordable to disadvantaged groups.

Currently, Government is financing several programmes in the agriculture sector including farm mechanisation, inputs and selling price support. Crops under such support include maize, soya beans, cotton and wheat.

Government targets to provide input support for the vulnerable households to the tune of ZWL$4 billion for grain production under the Presidential Inputs Scheme, while banks provided funding for the Command Agriculture programme for the 2020/2021 farming season.

Government has continued to support the productive sectors of the economy by extending tax concessions, as a way of improving viability, productivity and competitiveness. As a result, Government has foregone about US$2.3 billion through tax incentives during the period 2011 to May 2019.

The established framework should meet the following guiding principles:-

 Explicitly budgeted and quantified for and approved through the Annual Estimates of Expenditure (Budget);
 Be Time-bound except for those meant for social protection programmes;
 Rigouros monitoring, with their cost being regularly quantified, along with an evaluation of their benefits;
 Do away with all subsidies that are creating distortions in the economy and use targeted approach so as to make sure that those benefiting from the subsidy are those originally targeted; and
 According to those who need them, and not to industries or individuals who can operate profitably without support, unless their activity has substantial positive outcomes for society.

7.0 STATE OF PREPAREDNESS FOR HOSTING THE 61ST EDITION OF THE ZIMBABWE INTERNATIONAL TRADE FAIR (ZITF)

The Minister of Industry and Commerce apprised Cabinet on the status of preparations for the hosting of the 61st Edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, which is scheduled to be held in Bulawayo from the 20 to the 23 of July, 2021. Running under the theme “Showcasing the New Normal for Business and Industry: Realities and Opportunities”, the Fair will be held in accordance with National and World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID-19 guidelines. The major thrust is on finding innovative and sustainable business models to ensure continuity during and after the pandemic.

The ZITF 2021 exhibition diary is as follows:-
20 – 22 July, 2021: Business Days;
21 July, 2021 : International Business Conference;
22 July, 2021 : Official Opening Ceremony;
23 July, 2021 : ZITF Charity Golf Challenge; and
23 July, 2021 : Public Day.

As at 20 May 2021, 46 309 square metres out of 49 877 square metres exhibition space available for booking had been taken up. Three hundred and ninety five (395) companies have expressed interest to exhibit at ZITF 2021, ninety-four (94) of which are leaseholders and 52 are new exhibitors. A total of nine (9) countries have confirmed their participation at the Fair, while engagements with other nations are ongoing.

The exhibitor profile is varied, with a range of products and services including the following: agricultural implements and equipment; automotive products; building and construction; clothing and textile; food product manufacturing and processing; tourism business products and services; information communication technology; pharmaceuticals and chemicals; and mining equipment.

Highlights of the main activities at ZITF 2021 include the following:
Official Opening of ZITF 2021 on 22 July 2021;
International Business Conference on 21 July 2021;
The Zim-Diplomats Forum; and
The ZITF Innovators’ Forum.
Pleasing to note is that 105 participants have registered to participate at the International Business Conference, with 52 having already paid. The Zim-Diplomats Forum will be hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) and is aimed at engaging locally-based foreign diplomats on Government’s ongoing measures to facilitate investment. This is the first time that the forum is being hosted at the ZITF.

Cabinet is pleased to announce that the ZITF 61st Edition will be officially opened by His Excellency the President, Cde E.D. Mnangagwa, on Thursday, 22nd July 2021.

8.0 2021 BULAWAYO ARTS FESTIVAL: 2 TO 5 JUNE, 2021

Cabinet received and adopted a report on the 2021 Bulawayo Arts Festival, which was presented by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Honourable J.G. Moyo.

Cabinet advises that the inaugural Bulawayo Arts Festival was digitally launched in 2020, reaching audiences in 45 countries. This year’s Festival is scheduled to be held from 2 to 5 June, 2021. The main festival, which will largely remain digital due to COVID-19 control measures, will feature two main high profile programmes, namely: the launch of the Bulawayo Urban Heritage and Eco-Tourism Programme (3 June 2021); and the Creative and Cultural Industries Conference (3 – 4 June 2021). Government is pleased to announce that His Excellency the President will officiate at the event. This demonstrates the Second Republic’s commitment to the promotion and development of the creative and cultural industry.

9.0 IMPLEMENTATION OF A NATIONAL BIOMETRIC DATABASE FOR THE PRODUCTION OF e-PASSPORTS, NATIONAL IDENTITY CARDS AND BIRTH CERTIFICATES

Cabinet considered and approved the proposed engagement of a private partner in the Implementation of a National Biometric Database for the Production of e-Passports, National Identity Cards and Birth Certificates.

The partnership will increase the passport production capacity to 4 million units per year, resulting not only in the clearance of the current backlog, but also meeting the daily demand and enabling the country’s Embassies to issue passports to Zimbabwean citizens abroad.

 

I THANK YOU!

 

Robert Tapfumaneyi

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