Stewart Murewa Correspondent
A brief survey carried out recently on the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) estates seems to show that some of them are lying idle, some do not have managers and only a few are performing.
This is only a small window into the state of affairs at most of Zimbabwe’s state-owned enterprises, which at best are performing poorly and at worst have completely broken down.
At this point in time we should have the guts to question the ARDA board and management’s commitment to duty. Some are citing incompetence as the root cause of failure as epitomised by the absence of managers at some of the estates.
The situation was very pathetic because not even a single manager was at hand to give answers.
Thus, it is valid to is say that the parastatal is being led by land reform saboteurs; hence, these managers are counter revolutionaries.
ARDA should, by all means, be revived and made responsible for food security in line with Zim-Asset. At the moment the mere mention of ARDA reminds people of an organisation whose hallmarks are poor production, looting of livestock and machinery and general maladministration at its estates dotted throughout the country.
Currently, Chisumbanje and Middle Sabi show a different scenario as the management there is a bit competent compared to the rest.
Massive projects are being rolled out with about 40 000 hectors of land at Chisumbanje under sugarcane production to produce ethanol, while wheat is being grown on a large scale at Middle Sabi.
It is strategic for ARDA to seek more business opportunities and partnerships to boost investment on its 21 estates in the country, which hold about 98 000 hectares of arable land while 19 000 hectares has an irrigable capacity.
However, of the 21 estates only Chisumbanje is operating viably.
ARDA should have the zeal to establish joint ventures with individuals and companies in the production of several seed crops.
The potential partners must be adequately capitalised to not only provide working capital, but also investment capital.
ARDA needs new capital to replace its outdated seed processing equipment and to revamp its seed quality laboratory.
For the parastatals to be vibrant, it needs more capital to renovate buildings, seed storage facilities, guest houses and staff houses.
The authority also needs assistance for irrigation infrastructural development at its 28 hectare research plot, near Harare, and support of out- grower seed production schemes and other social investments.
ARDA seeds have the potential to produce and market a number of seed crops which include maize, potatoes, wheat, sorghum, millet, soya beans, sunflower, cow peas and groundnuts among others.
The authority is facing viability problems owing largely to lack of fresh capital injection at its underutilised estates. Good corporate governance, coupled with capital injection, will make Zimbabwe the breadbasket of Africa.
An attentive examination of all parastatals in Zimbabwe shows that the current procedure where boards of directors are appointed by ministers mainly based on nepotism and a system of patronage, instead of merit is not working for the country and should be changed. They must be appointed solely on merit.
If the Government implements these progressive ideas, then we will build systems that work for the interests of the people, rather than the interest of the individuals at the helm of the organisation.
Parastatals use a lot of state resources and as such it is important that we have them running in the correct manner.
Parastatals need to run like businesses and not to be reliant on Government handouts.
Therefore, this can only be achieved if the right people with the requisite qualifications are appointed for the job.