PRESIDENT Mugabe on Thursday shocked some Cabinet ministers when he roundly criticised them for unconvincingly answering questions raised during the launch of Government’s Broad Based Women’s Economic Empowerment Framework.
He warned the ministers that they faced difficulties in the forthcoming elections if they continued to be evasive to questions raised by the people.
President Mugabe was unimpressed with the ministers’ responses during the session and made it clear he was not convinced.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Minister Walter Mzembi (Tourism and Hospitality Industry), Minister Sithembiso Nyoni (Small and Medium Enterprises Development) and Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Mike Bimha answered questions during the meeting.
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara asked the questions and some of the ministers openly said they were not prepared for them.
However, the ministers who were dominantly Zanu-PF could be commended for biting the bullet, as the MDC formations did not attend the meeting.
Also scheduled to respond to some questions were Finance Minister Tendai Biti who was expected to present Government’s position on resource mobilisation while Economic Planning and Investment Promotions Minister Tapiwa Mashakada did not show up.
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe also failed to attend the launch.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu was scheduled to respond to some questions from the women’s groups.
State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Home Affairs co-Minister Kembo Mohadi and National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration Minister Sekai Holland also supported the programme.
Minister Mzembi was asked about the opportunities that women could take advantage of during the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
“The next immediate opportunity that exists is the tourism supply chain management . . . ” He said there was a need for an affirmative thrust in areas of accommodation and transport while women could take advantage by selling artifacts linked to Zimbabwe and its heritage.
Minister Nhema was challenged on the high fines charged by the Environmental Management Agency, which the women miners claimed they could not afford.
He said the fines would still be imposed because people continued to break environmental laws.
Minister Made said while there was a marked improvement in tobacco production it was critical to empower farmers so that they produce.
He said his ministry would ensure there were adequate inputs for women to improve yields.
Government, he said, would intensify mechanisation and agro-processing targeted at women.
Although admitting that he had been briefed of a different question by his Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development counterpart Minister Olivia Muchena, Minister Made said the ministry would enhance training and agriculture extension services to rural farmers, especially women.
Minister Nyoni said her ministry contributed to all sectors but accepted that banks, as businesses, do not empower people but want to make profit.
She said the ministry has aggressively embarked on savings and credit clubs to assist women to save their money collectively and support each other’s business.
“This has been very successful among rural women, grassroots women . . . ”
She said this has resulted in the establishment of 13 rural banks with 25 000 active members.
Deputy Minister Bimha said the recently launched National Industrial Development Policy and National Trade Policy that recognised the role played by women in sustained livelihood and participation in the mainstream economy.
He said they would ensure gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the policies by facilitating their participation in their activities.
Minister Kasukuwere said his ministry would implement the framework according to the recommendations made by the women.
He acknowledged the challenges affecting the empowerment of women.
Minister Kasukuwere said there was need for Government to look at the funding for women’s projects.
“We want to see each and every bank, announce to us, at the end of the year, how many women would have accessed funding…”
It was, however, clear that most of the ministers had come with prepared notes and had been side swiped by the impromptu questions.
President Mugabe quickly noticed this and chided Minister Nhema for failing to address the women’s query.
“The Minister of Environment, I think he did not answer your question.
“What the women were actually worried about is the level of charges. That they are too punitive and could they be reduced, not that they should not exist.”
President Mugabe acknowledged that the ministers where not convincing in their responses.
“I have been listening to the responses from the ministers and I am not sure I am convinced.
“But if you are not convinced also what will the ministers do to convince the people out there. Kana chamupupuri chauya, chamupupuri chema elections chirikuuya and I hope you will be able to convince the voters,” he said to loud applause. Herald