26 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Let's Embrace Input Scheme


In the 1940s, the then Southern Rhodesian government compensated those who participated in World War II by giving them land and free agricultural inputs a token of appreciation and to ensure they start a new life.

This was a motivating factor which was meant to make this country an agricultural based economy.

Each war veteran was given about 3 000 acres of land and the black people who lived on that land became tenants. The colonial masters treated black people as slaves who were used for tilling the land and getting meagre salaries. The ill-treatment of the black people and then losing their land to white people was the reason the armed struggle was fought. Land was at the centre of conflict as the blacks wanted to get back their land.

This country, with vast arable land and good climatic conditions, brought with it a status of food basket for the region. The coming in 1980 of the Robert Mugabe-led Government made it clear that the land reform program had to be implemented. After more than two decades of negotiations with former colonisers to return land to its rightful owners, the success story only began in 2000.

The land reform program brought with it economic sanctions which were imposed by Western countries.

As such, small scale farmers were hard hit by the economic sanctions, resulting in them failing to get agricultural inputs. Having realised that new farmers were failing to get inputs, President Mugabe launched the Presidential Well-wishers' Special Agricultural Inputs Scheme which was meant to source and distribute agricultural inputs to the needy during the 2008-2009 agricultural season.

The scheme, which in 2008-2009 season, saw about 570 000 households benefitting, with the 2012-2013 season expecting to have about 800 000 beneficiaries, has become a subject of scrutiny by political misguided individuals. They question the source of money from which President Mugabe is getting in order to finance that noble scheme. They are not even appreciating the move by the President who is making the agricultural inputs accessible to the needy. Their concern is where the money is coming from.

The critics, who have mastered the art of dismissing anything good done by President Mugabe, are the MDC-T. They are not happy that the disadvantaged people in society are getting agricultural inputs which hitherto, were a preserve for those with financial muscles.

The same people are not questioning why Finance Minister Tendai Biti is not funding agriculture. In his 2013 National Budget, Finance Minister offered little joy to small scale farmers, only to rush on to raising a lot of questions regarding where President Mugabe is getting funds to finance the same agricultural sector which he, as Finance Minister is failing to avail resources for.

The MDC-T's hypocrisy manifested in its bid to question President Mugabe's source of funds for the Presidential Agricultural Input Scheme when its leader Morgan Tsvangirai is failing to explain the source of funds for his sexual escapades. Tsvangirai, who is at the forefront of making a lot of noise over agricultural input scheme, is alleged to have used more than US$300 000 in settling his marital problems with his estranged wife, Locardia Karimatsenga.

Nobody from any quarter, even from the civil society organisations is questioning that. People also failed to question Tsvangirai's source of funds which he used in touring America and the other Western capitals with his wife Elizabeth Macheka and family friends as he was celebrating his half-backed marriage.

Before the American tour, Macheka who is synonymous with expensive boutique and kitchen wares was reported to have splashed more than US$40 000 in buying and installing state-of-the art kitchen at the Premier's house, but nobody bothered to question.

The MDC-T is rushing into questioning the source of money for the agricultural input scheme as a way of diverting the attention associated with their abuse of donor funds from one of their funders.

The media recently reported that the MDC-T is under investigation over the abuse of donor funds.

The Institute for Democratic Alternative of Zimbabwe is reportedly paying rentals for the MDC-T offices at 14 Bath Road in Avondale, Harare and salaries for workers there. Members of this party have been claiming more than what the NGO was supposed to pay for salaries and rentals, forcing it to carry investigation over the usage of the funds.

Records indicate that rentals for the office for a month were US$750, but senior members would claim US$1 500, thereby prejudicing the NGO of more than US$700 monthly for the past two years. The MDC-T also created ghost workers in order to get substantial amount of money for its alleged illicit deals. With such uncalled for activities, does that mean the MDC-T is immune to public scrutiny, only for it to have capacity to question President Mugabe's generosity towards the public?

Investigations being carried out by the non-governmental organisation are sending shivers to the MDC-T, hence, the move to divert attention to questioning President Mugabe's source of money for the agricultural input scheme.

So the MDC-T should swallow its pride and dump cheap politics which makes them think that there is nothing good coming from Zanu-PF. Funding agriculture should not be demonised, but should be embraced by any rightful thinking individuals as this would make the country retain its food basket status of the region.

Mukachana Hanyani is a Harare-based social and political commentator.

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