The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Charamba Lashes Out At Tsvangirai

Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba has lashed out at MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai for undermining President Mugabe's input support scheme.

Mr Tsvangirai told his supporters in Buhera at the weekend that President Mugabe should not be the country's donor. He said it was high time farmers sourced their inputs.

However, Mr Charamba said President Mugabe introduced the Presidential Well Wishers Special Agricultural Inputs Scheme after realising that farmers were not receiving support from Government institutions such as the Grain Marketing Board and the National Budget. He said it was absurd that Mr Tsvangirai was irked by a programme that was designed to ensure food security in the country.

"I find it very strange that the MDC-T president and his henchmen have no difficulty in lauding the President being an IT warrior for his computerisation programme yet they have problems with him as a food warrior who fundraises for agriculture.

"Against the instruction of the President, let me tell you as his spokesperson that every time the President goes on a foreign trip he carries with him a food hamper in order to save from travel and subsistence allowance which he is perfectly entitled in order to turn those savings into a fund to buy computers for school children.

"Meanwhile his opposite number in Government finds enough money to atone his carnal excesses whilst the farmer out there does not have a single bag of fertiliser. Essentially they are saying we should rather have children, who are IT compliant and not life compliant," he said.

Mr Charamba said President Mugabe was not being a "donor" by supporting farmers.

He dismissed allegations by the MDC-T that the Presidential Well Wishers Special Agricultural Input Scheme was funded using diamond proceeds.

"The donor is not the President. The donor are the men and women of goodwill who made available the resources to buy inputs so that the Zimbabwean farmers after being failed by their own Government can still go back to the field.

"Those donors are not only African but some of them come from foreign countries who have been charitable enough to drop coins into the President's begging bowl," said Mr Charamba.

He said the President decided to fundraise for farmers to make up for the glaring weaknesses in the country's national budgetary allocation towards agriculture.

Mr Charamba said farmers were also getting a raw deal from banks.

"By the admission of the Finance Minister (Tendai Biti) himself, banks in this country are inhospitable to local enterprises and that includes agriculture.

"If a secure instrument like Treasury Bill cannot be supported, what more with farming which is dependent on nature's goodwill?"

Mr Charamba said estimates for the 2013 National Budget clearly showed a bleak picture for farmers.

He said there was a misconception among some ministers in the inclusive Government that funding agriculture amounted to supporting Zanu-PF.

"Certain parties in the Inclusive Government view agriculture as synonymous with supporting Zanu-PF which is why it never occurs to them that it feeds their stomachs more than it feeds the Zanu-PF ballot," he said.

Mr Charamba said it was unfortunate that Zimbabwe was spending more money on importing food.

Trade between Zimbabwe and South Africa showed a trade deficit of nearly US$2 billion and much of the money was spent on luxuries.

Addressing stakeholders at the Zimbabwe Independent Banks and Banking Survey recently, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Dr Gideon Gono said there was a worrisome dependency syndrome in the country where Zimbabwe was spending more than US$65 million on importation of chicken feet and gizzards.

In this regard, Mr Charamba said: "We are seeing a dependence culture being promoted in the National Budget so that we end up begging for our stomachs."

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