13 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Launches U.S$2.4 Billion Fund for Its Youth Farmers

The ruling ZANU PF party has launched a $2.4 billion agriculture fund which it says is aimed at alleviating youth unemployment and food insecurity.

The fund, launched at the party's headquarters Thursday, is said to be a joint venture between the party's youth league and a company called Lasch Enterprises.

Not much is known about Lasch except that its director, agronomist Evans Zininga, is a regular at ZANU PF events and on state television.

The state media said the initiative complements ZANU PF's economic programme ZIMASSET, whose aim is to ensure household and national food security".

"Beneficiaries of this fund should boost food production so that we stop importing maize from Zambia and Malawi," ZANU PF's Didymus Mutasa said at the launch.

According to the ZANU PF scheme, farmers who could not get bank loans for lack of collateral such as title deeds, will not have to worry anymore. They will be able to go directly to agricultural inputs manufacturers, armed with "a government and financial institutions guarantee".

Beneficiaries will not be given cash but will get government and financial institutions guarantee's to access seed, fertilisers, chemicals and livestock inputs from manufacturers, the Herald newspaper said.

The 800,000 targeted farmers will get at least $3,000 worth of inputs and have access to a market for their produce through the Agric Marketing Authority.

But Lobengula MP and MDC-T Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, said the scheme will fail just like many others that ZANU PF has introduced in the past.

"It's just political grandstanding: $2.4 billion is a lot of money and unless they use proceeds from looted diamonds to finance the scheme it will not work."

Nkomo said it was unfortunate that the ZANU PF scheme would add to the country's debt burden, despite benefiting only a few of the regime's supporters.

Party officials said the scheme is open to all, but according to MP Nkomo by launching it at its headquarters ZANU PF had privatised it, and projected it as a party affair.

"If the government is acting as a guarantor, why shouldn't all Zimbabweans benefit? This is a partisan scheme which is an excuse for more looting.

"Unfortunately, those who have been excluded will not be spared the consequences of yet another project that is set to create more debt for a government that is already failing to provide any public service," Nkomo added.

According to the legislator the ZANU PF government should focus on normalising relations with the international community and getting the economy working again.

"ZANU PF should concentrate on getting us out of this unhelpful isolation, get this economy back on track by creating conditions that will attract investors.

"This includes restoring the rule of law, carrying out economic and political reforms. That is the direction they should be taking rather than pouring public resources into a bottomless pit," Nkomo told SW Radio Africa on Friday.

The ruling ZANU PF government has a terrible credit record and is largely blamed for the collapse of parastatals such as the Central Mechanical Engineering Department, Grain Marketing Board and National Railways of Zimbabwe, which it owes large sums of money. If the ZANU PF youth farmers succeed in getting inputs from the manufacturers as planned, it is highly unlikely that the ruling party will pay should they default.


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