Opinion & Columnist

Media urged to advance Covid-19 fight

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Senator Monica Mutsvangwa (right) and her Defence and War Veterans Affairs counterpart Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri make a toast to mark the end of Cabinet sittings for this year in Harare yesterday. — Picture: Memory Mangombe

  1. ZIMBABWE’S RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK

The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development presented an update report on the country’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak on behalf of the Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Chairperson of the Covid-19 Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Task Force.

Cabinet was advised that, as of 11 December 2020, Zimbabwe had recorded cumulative 11 162 Covid-19-positive cases, 9 324recoveries and 306 deaths. The national recovery rate now stands at 84 percent, while the total number of local transmissions is 9 548. The number of new cases decreased from 833 in week 48 to 615 in week 49, partly due to increased vigilance and enforcement of Covid-19 guidelines among learners and teachers in schools around the country. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Child Care continue to strengthen infection, prevention and control strategies in schools as they prepare to break for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Cumulatively, 558 cases have been reported at learning institutions across the country.

Regarding the supply of Personal Protective Equipment, hand sanitisers and medical drugs, Cabinet advises that measures are being put in place to increase stocks to meet the anticipated surge in demand during the festive season. Meanwhile, given the recent upsurge in confirmed Covid-19 cases, the transport sector has intensified surveillance to improve compliance with Standard Operating Procedures. On risk communication and information, community awareness campaigns continue to be strengthened, while media houses are set to implement innovative information dissemination strategies such as the use of influencers. Activities will also include intensified dissemination of information to assist returning residents fulfil Covid-19 free certificates entry requirements.

The nation is informed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has published new guidelines to assist countries in the management of Covid-19 cases. The guidelines place Zimbabwe in Category CT2, which includes countries experiencing moderate local transmission. The country is positioned under Level 3. Comparatively, countries with very high incidences of local transmissions are placed under category CT4. For countries in Level 3, like Zimbabwe, WHO recommends the following: (a) citizens should apply individual precautionary measures, such as hand hygiene, cough etiquette, isolating at home if unwell, wearing masks where appropriate, physical social distancing and avoiding the ‘3Cs’ (Crowded places, Close contact settings and Confined/enclosed spaces with poor ventilation); (b) childcare services, primary and secondary schools should remain open, with adequate safety and surveillance measures in place; (c) encourage e-learning at tertiary institutions; (d) evaluate sporting and other social gatherings, using risk-based approaches. Cabinet notes, with satisfaction, that Zimbabwe is already implementing the WHO recommendations, and will continue to strengthen the measures thus we urge members of the public to strictly adhere to them.

Noting the need to guarantee convenience to the travelling public, Cabinet re-iterates that all travellers coming into the country are required to submit Covid-19-free certificates obtained 48 hours before date of departure  and obtained from a WHO-certified laboratory. Those who arrive without these requirements will be quarantined.

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  1. STATUS OF PROJECTS OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE

Cabinet received a report on the status of Projects of National Importance as presented by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development.  The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development is implementing Heritage Based Education 5.0 where key pillars are teaching, research, community service, innovation and industrialisation. The education is designed to give the nation the necessary capability to attain Vision 2030 through modernisation and industrialisation.

The projects of national importance being implemented are in the following categories:  (a)  Development and Adoption of Life Technologies, (b) Innovation Hubs/Industrial Parks, (c) National Strategic Institutions Programme, (d) Internationalisation of Zimbabwe’s Higher and Tertiary Education Institutions, (e) Geospatial Aeronautical and Space Service Capability, and (f) Infrastructure Development.

  1. a) Development and Adoption of Life Technologies Programme

The projects under this programme are:

  1. i) Biotechnology for Virus Free Potato production, a joint venture between National Biotechnology Authority and Jinxisen of China. The objective is to increase potato yield from 15-30 mt per hectare to 90-120 mt per hectare using tissue culture technology.
  2. ii) Mwenezi Mapfura/Marula value chain project, the construction of a factory is underway in Rutenga, Mwenezi district.

iii) Genomic Technology Centre is currently involved in COVID-19 testing.

  1. iv) Agro-Industrial Processing and Manufacturing project — a Germplasm and Reproductive Laboratory, Coffee Breeding infrastructure has been established at Chinhoyi University of Technology with a capacity to process and bank over 1 000 000 semen straws across beef and diary breeds.
  2. v) The Medical and Industrial Cases project — aims to produce 16 tonnes per day medical grade oxygen and 2.5 tons/day Acetylene gas. The objective is to be self-sufficient in the production of the gases, which are currently imported. The Oxygen/Nitrogen and Acetylene plants constructed by Verify Engineering in Mutare are now complete.
  3. b) Innovation Hubs/Industrial Parks Programme

Innovation hubs have been built and completed at the University of Zimbabwe, National University of Science and Technology, Midlands State University, Chinhoyi University of Technology and Harare Institute of Technology. Innovation hubs are also under construction at Zimbabwe National Defence University, Bindura University of Science Education and Great Zimbabwe University while Industrial Parks are being built at the University of Zimbabwe, State University and Chinhoyi University of Technology.

  1. c) National Strategic Institutions Capacities Programme

The Management Training Bureau (MTB) is being re-modelled and upgraded into a world class national strategic institution.  It will provide critical lifelong skills.

  1. d) Internationalisation of Zimbabwe’s Higher and Tertiary Education Institutions Programme — the country now has a National Qualification Framework.
  2. e) Geospartial, Aeronautical and Space Science Capability Programme the programme revised Agro-Ecological Zones Map, and produced the Chimanimani Flood and Landslide Hazard Map to aid planning in the Cyclone Idai affected areas. Infrastructure Development Programme — the Ministry is constructing its own buildings using the Industrial Training and Trade Testing Division.
  3. PROPOSED ROADMAP FOR THE RE-ORGANISATION AND RE-MODELLING OF AGRIBANK INTO A LAND BANK

The nation will recall that, at its 28th Meeting, Cabinet approved the re-organisation and re-structuring of Agribank into a Land and Agriculture Development of Zimbabwe (LADBZ). Today,the Minister of Finance and Economic Development presented the relevant initial key elements for the successful establishment of the LADBZ, which were adopted by Cabinet. The elements cover two main areas, namely: Institutional Design and Governance; and Capitalisation and Fiscal Matters. The bank is expected to be open by the 1st of April 2021.

  1. PRINCIPLES FOR THE AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION ON PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN LOCAL AUTHORITIES

Cabinet considered and approved Principles for the Amendment of the Constitution on Proportional Representation in Local Authorities, which was presented by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works. The proposal is in response to submissions by Women Councillors at Victoria Falls, which His Excellency the President undertook to bring to Cabinet. The Principles seek to extend the progressive Constitutional provisions on gender equality to local Government structures. In particular, the systems of proportional representation for the election of candidates to Parliamentary seats will be extended to local authorities. The principles will facilitate increased women and minority parties representation in lower tiers of governance, thereby bringing stability and balance in decision-making as power-sharing becomes more visible at the grassroots level. Another key highlight is that Cabinet approved the principle to provide for a 30 percent quota for women in all local authorities.

  1. UPDATE ON THE PROGRESS IN THE REHABILITATION OF THE BEITBRIDGE-HARARE-CHIRUNDU HIGHWAY

Cabinet was updated on the progress in the rehabilitation of the country’s highways by the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. The Minister reported that Government had prioritised the rehabilitation and upgrading of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu, which is part of the North-South corridor. The Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge stretch was contracted out to five (5) local companies. Each company was allocated 20km under Phase 1, which has since been completed. The companies are now working on the second stretch of 20km under Phase 2, which is earmarked for completion in February 2021. A total of 132 km out of the expected 200 km has been completed to date. The Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare road had become a death trap considering it has exceeded its design life of twenty (20) years by forty (40) years. The road is being rehabilitated and upgraded in line with Southern Africa Transport and Communication Commissions (SATCC) standards. The road is being widened from the current 7 metres to 12,5 metres.

On the Harare-Chirundu Road, the 6,5km section between Makuti and Hells Gate is being upgraded to a SATCC standard Three-Lane-Two Way carriageway with a width ranging from 13,5 metres to 15.5 metres. The project is being funded by the Government of Japan through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

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  1. UPDATE ON AIR ZIMBABWE (PVT) LTD’S BALANCE SHEET POST-RECONSTRUCTION BUSINESS PLAN AND DEBT ASSUMPTION BY GOVERNMENT

Cabinet considered and approved Air Zimbabwe’s Balance Sheet and its Business Plan post-reconstruction as presented by the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development. As the nation may recall, Air Zimbabwe Holdings (Private) Ltd and Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited were placed under a Reconstruction Order to stay all legal action, attachment and rescue the national Airline.  Owing to the strategic nature of the national airline, Cabinet resolved to assume the debt as well as the extension of the Air Zimbabwe Reconstruction period to 30 June 2021. The reconstruction will provide for the payment of creditors as well as return the airline to profitability. The nation is advised that Air Zimbabwe will resume flights to Victoria Falls and Bulawayo on 21 December, 2020.

  1. NATIONAL FABRIC AND GARMENT DESIGN

The Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises advised Cabinet that the national fabric was ready for launch. The national fabric and garment will be launched on Saturday, 19 December, 2020 at State House, where a total of 45 designers will showcase various designs.

HERALD