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Monday, July 15, 2024

Speaker of Parliament, Hon. J. Mudenda on benchmarking visit to Nordic & Baltic countries

THE Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Advocate Jacob Francis Nzwidamilimo Mudenda, is in Stockholm, Sweden where he is leading a Parliamentary delegation undertaking Benchmarking visits to Sweden, Latvia, and Finland from 4th to 11th March 2024. Speaker Mudenda was received at the airport by the Zimbabwean Ambassador to Sweden, Her Excellency, Ms. Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga. The Hon. Speaker is accompanied by the following Chairpersons: Hon. Webster Shamu, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade; Hon. Surrender Kapoikulu, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Information and Communication Technology; Hon. Master Makope, Acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology Development; and, Hon. Joanah Mamombe, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Climate and Tourism.

The overarching objectives of the visit revolve around exploration of potential areas of cooperation and learning best practices in several key areas, more poignantly in the following: Functions of the Committee of the Future (Artificial Intelligence and Information Communication Technology), Renewable Energy and Waste Management Environment and Climate Change Institutions of Higher Learning and Vocational Training Touring the Passports and National Identification Documents Producing Company.

On 3rd March 2024, Ambassador Misihairabwi-Mushonga having facilitated the visit briefed the delegation on the key aspects of the programme. In her briefing, she also alluded to the operations of the embassy by highlighting its challenges and successes so far achieved. In the same vein, the Ambassador expressed gratitude to the President, His Excellency, Cde Dr. E.D Mnangagwa, for the continued efforts in improving the conditions of service for diplomats through timeous payment of salaries, renovation of the Chancery and its adequate furnishings.

Tour of Strangnäs Solar Park

The Honourable Speaker’s delegation and H.E Misihairambwi-Mushonga visited Strangnäs Solar Park on the 4th of March 2024. The Solar Park is one of the largest solar parks in Sweden. With 35 hectares of land, the park has a total installed capacity of 14 megawatts and an electricity production capacity of 13,000,000 kWh, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 4,650 apartments. As explained by the marketing manager, Mr. Jonah Weissglas, the investment made by HSB Södermanland means that many residents have access to affordable environmentally clean sources of electricity thereby contributing significantly to reduced carbon emissions. The delegation was impressed by the enormity of the project. To that extent, Speaker Mudenda indicated that a project of such magnitude would be highly impactful and beneficial in making the New Parliament of Zimbabwe Building green. Speaker Mudenda further highlighted that cooperation between the two entities would be beneficial to the Zimbabwean people as the NPB solar project would catalyse similar projects across the country as the country boasts of unlimited sunshine radiance compared to Sweden.

Meeting with State Secretary

In the afternoon of the 4th of March 2024, Speaker Mudenda and his delegation interfaced with Swedish Secretary of State, Ms Diana Janse. In her opening remarks, the State Secretary shared her country’s current drive towards reforming its development aid cooperation paradigm by fostering greater strategic trade and economic partnerships with respective countries. Ms. Janse emphasised Sweden’s commitment to maintaining dynamic economic cooperation with African countries, Zimbabwe included. In the same vein, she expressed optimism in exploring further areas of cooperation between Sweden and Zimbabwe, particularly given that there is already a presence of Swedish businesses in Zimbabwe in the mining and health sectors.

In response to Secretary Janse’s remarks, Hon. Speaker Mudenda acknowledged the existing historical, political, and economic ties between Zimbabwe and Sweden dating back to pre-independence. He explained that Zimbabwe had received material and moral support from Sweden during the war of liberation. In this context and the interest of Parliamentary diplomacy, the Hon. Speaker underscored the need for continued dialogue to enhance bilateral relations between Sweden and Zimbabwe for mutual benefit. In the same vein, he acknowledged the devastating global effects of the Russia/Ukraine conflict on the global economies. In the spirit of Parliamentary diplomacy and in playing its role in the peaceful resolution of the conflict, the Parliament of Zimbabwe supported the establishment of the IPU task force on the Russia/Ukraine conflict with the view to finding a solution to end the conflict through diplomacy and dialogue.

In calling for accelerated economic cooperation, the Hon. Speaker assured the State Secretary that property rights for both domestic and foreign investors are guaranteed by the Zimbabwe Constitution. However, the Speaker raised concerns about the debilitating effects of illegal sanctions by some Western countries which have constrained the national development agenda of Zimbabwe particularly since Zimbabwe cannot easily access foreign capital. In this regard, Zimbabwe looks forward to strengthening economic cooperation with Sweden through Swedish Development Aid which it was hoped would be conducted through direct economic cooperation between the two countries rather than through civil society organisations resident in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, Speaker Mudenda appealed for the establishment of a Parliamentary Friendship Association between the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) and the Zimbabwe Parliament as a way of solidifying parliamentary diplomacy.

In articulating positive steps being taken by Parliament about enhancing constitutional democracy, Speaker Mudenda highlighted the following: –
A functional Committee system with Members drawn from across the political divide.

Inculcating a culture of tolerance through the Multiparty Liaison Committee propagated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)
By encouraging the public to petition Parliament in terms of Section 149 of the Zimbabwe Constitution.

Working Dinner

Ultimately, Speaker Mudenda and his delegation concluded the packed schedule with a working dinner at the residence of the Zimbabwean Ambassador to Sweden, H.E Ms Misihairambwi-Mushonga. Business representatives from Green Business Team and Absolicon Solar Collectors augmented by industry experts and economists made presentations on green investment in Zimbabwe. The Green Business team led by Mrs. Annika Johansson made their pitch revolving around the development of off-grid water purification technologies to produce safe drinking water for the public to avert the scourge of Cholera.

The company has successfully implemented similar projects in Rwanda, Mozambique, and Haiti.

The second presentation was made by Mr. Joakim Bystrom, whose theme was, ‘Decarbonising Industries with Solar Thermal Heat: Transforming the world’s energy supply’. Mr Bystrom presented a trailblazing model that is rapidly changing the industrial ecosystem anchored on the use of solar energy. Whereas most industries rely on fossil fuels in the form of coal, gas, and oil for heating, Absolicon Company has developed sustainable heating solutions using solar energy. On that score, it was noted that the entity had entered a partnership with the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) wherein ZESA will be producing thermal heaters to replace traditional heating models for industries such as breweries across Zimbabwe. Additionally, the partnership is set to present the model in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in April this year, a development that will put Zimbabwe and Sweden on the global map concerning sustainable energy solutions.

Finally, Ms Angelica Lups di Cruz made a passionate plea to the delegation to preserve the country’s cultural heritage within the ambit of trade-offs in the emerging areas of carbon credits. Ms Angelica underscored the need to safeguard land as a pristine resource which is fundamental in maintaining robust biodiversity. As such there is a need to regulate the preservation and conservation of our environment sustainably. Speaker Mudenda impressed upon the centrality of Parliaments to come up with sound climate-related laws that boost sustainable environmental ecosystems.

Meeting with Dag Juhlin Dannfelt

On 5th March 2024, the delegation interacted with Mr. Dag Juhlin Dannfelt, Director General of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In welcoming the delegation, Mr. Dannfelt referred to the long-standing cordial relations between Zimbabwe and Sweden dating back to the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe. He welcomed the delegation’s visit to Sweden as a key cog in cementing Parliamentary diplomacy.

In response, Speaker Mudenda alluded to the warm reception his delegation had received from the Swedish host from the onset of the visit. Advocate Mudenda expressed his concern over global peace and security issues, particularly the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. The instability in the conflict regions has ultimately impacted negatively on the global economy, the supply chain of goods and services, food security, and the attendant humanitarian crisis. In this regard, he called for the expeditious resolution of global conflicts through Parliamentary Diplomacy and dialogue. Advocate Mudenda shared his perspective on the gradual evolution of democracy in Europe which spread for over 500 years. He, therefore, called for an empathetic approach to Africa as she runs her race in the evolving nature of democracy in the continent. In appreciating the Hon. Speaker’s sentiments on the evolving nature of democracy, the Director General explained that Sweden had managed the evolution of democracy through the wisdom of its political leadership. In spite of its evolving democracy, the Director General acknowledged that Sweden still has challenges including corruption and organized crime.

Accordingly, he posited that it was the duty of the government to tackle such issues through exercising the rule of law and putting in place the necessary checks and balances within the Government matrix.

Turning to Parliament business, Speaker Mudenda expressed the Parliament of Zimbabwe’s commitment to ensuring that appropriate legislation that promotes the ease of doing business for both domestic and foreign investment is in place. To this end, the Parliament of Zimbabwe enacted legislation for the creation of the Zimbabwe Investment Development Authority (ZIDA), an investment one-stop shop. Accordingly, he called for Sweden to encourage its businesses to invest in Zimbabwe.

Once again, Speaker Mudenda called for the unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions which are affecting the country’s ability to access foreign capital from the Bretton Woods institutions. He informed the Director General that Zimbabwe is still negotiating with the international financial institutions on its debt mitigation strategy. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe depends on domestic resource mobilisation for its national development agenda.

Lunch Meeting with the Swedish delegation to the IPU.

On 5th March 2024, the delegation attended a luncheon hosted by the Swedish delegation to the IPU led by the Chairperson of the group, Hon. Margareta Cedefelt. The Hon. Speaker applauded Sweden for its active participation in the IPU. He commended Ms Cecilia, for her commitment to ensuring that the IPU’s finances remained sound during her tenure as the Chairperson of the IPU Finance Sub-Committee. Under the leadership of this Committee, Cecilia proposed the gradual increase of IPU Member subscriptions as a way of enhancing the revenue for the implementation of IPU activities under the current IPU Strategic Plan.

Discussions also focussed on the current global conflicts and the role of parliamentary diplomacy in resolving them. Of particular interest were the Ukraine/Russia and the Middle East current conflicts. It was agreed that peace and security are critical in achieving sustainable development. Accordingly, Hon. Speaker Mudenda supported the establishment of the IPU Taskforce on the Ukraine/Russia conflict. He called for parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue in resolving the conflict to end it through diplomacy and dialogue.

Furthermore, the two sides discussed the possibilities of increasing economic cooperation, particularly on renewable energy. Hon. Speaker Mudenda posited that Africa needed dependable energy for accelerated industrialisation and development. Accordingly, he indicated that renewable energy would likely be on the Agenda of the Africa Heads of State Summit scheduled for August 2024 in Zimbabwe under the Chairmanship of the President, His Excellency, Cde Dr E.D Mnangagwa.

With regards to labour issues in Zimbabwe, the Hon. Speaker applauded His Excellency, the President, Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, for his wisdom in creating a fully-fledged Ministry of Skills Audit and Development that will inform the Government on Zimbabwe’s skills requirement. Regarding the question of labour migration asked by the host IPU Committee, Speaker Mudenda highlighted that this was a global phenomenon that was dependent on the supply and demand for labour in various economies.

In conclusion, the IPU delegation expressed its interest in meeting with the Zimbabwe IPU delegation during the 148th IPU assembly to be held in Geneva, Switzerland in two weeks.

Meeting with the Speaker of the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament)

The next port of call by the Speaker’s delegation was to meet Dr. Andreas Norlen the Speaker of the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) in the afternoon of 5th March 2024. Both Parliaments affirmed their commitment to fostering collaboration in strengthening Parliamentary processes through such benchmarking visits. In response to Dr. Norlen’s concern about alleged irregularities in Zimbabwe’s harmonised General elections of August 2023, Speaker Mudenda expressed deep concerns regarding the generalized nature of the EU’s report on alleged election irregularities which were not specified in its report. Nonetheless, Speaker Mudenda reiterated Zimbabwe’s commitment to the evolving tenet of democracy and observance of the rule of law while affirming that as far as Zimbabwe’s election outcome was concerned these were peaceful, fair, and credible.

On a separate note, in their conversation, Advocate Mudenda urged collaboration between the two Parliaments in the green revolution trajectory, specifically in the accelerated transition towards embracing renewable energy thrust in both countries. Speaker Mudenda also informed his counterpart regarding the establishment of a one-stop shop investment entity which has improved the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe. Consequently, foreign companies including Swedish companies have found it easy to invest in Zimbabwe.

Furthermore, Speaker Mudenda proposed to his fellow Speaker the need to establish a Parliamentary Friendship Association between the two Parliaments to cement deeper understanding and collaboration.

Concomitantly, on another critical note, Hon Speaker Mudenda lauded the Swedish Government for establishing the office of the ombudsman meant to receive complaints from the public on some governance issues affecting the public. Equally, Zimbabwe is concluding the establishment of an Independent Complaints Commission for the same purpose. The two Speakers concluded their interface by pledging each other’s country support for the candidatures of the UN non-permanent position in the UN Security Council seat, 2025-2026 and 2027-2028, for Sweden and Zimbabwe respectively. It is hoped that the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament will accept an invitation to visit the Parliament of Zimbabwe soon.

Meeting with Members of the Committees on Transport and Communications, Industry and Trade as well as Environment and Agriculture, Speaker Mudenda’s delegation concluded their tour of Sweden by meeting the above-named joint Parliamentary Committees. During the meeting with these Committees, the delegation discussed the positive use of AI in various sectors of the economy including its use in e-commerce and sustainable environmental ecosystem. It was further agreed that the use of AI is becoming more pervasive in governance globally. However, there was a need to have a regulatory framework on how AI can be used positively in that respect.

Concerning climate change, the delegation was informed that Sweden’s action plan is aligned with the EU climate change regulations. As such Sweden has been persuaded to utilise carbon taxes domestically as it participates in the EU emissions trading system regarding the purchasing of international carbon credits as a measure to reduce carbon emissions. To bolster this approach towards attaining clean energy, Sweden has embarked on the production of electric cars. In the same vein, Sweden has a robust waste management system which is driven by the natural inclination towards a clean environment.

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