Felex Share Senior Reporter
Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday slammed critics of Government’s Command Agriculture Programme, saying Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa had no role in financial decisions made by Treasury.
Minister Chinamasa also revealed how a Cabinet minister (name supplied) had approached The Standard newspaper last week with a story attacking Command Agriculture, VP Mnangagwa and the programme’s financier, Sakunda Holdings.
The Cabinet minister, Minister Chinamasa said, had assisted in the editing of the story that was published in The Standard newspaper yesterday.
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The story claimed that Sakunda Holdings, which funded the 2016-17 agricultural season’s Command Agriculture and Presidential Input Support schemes to the tune of $192 million, had not given Government any money.
Said Minister Chinamasa: “The publication of the article confirms what an anonymous caller from The Standard phoned me about late Thursday evening. He said I should expect on Sunday a negative story about Command Agriculture, about VP Mnangagwa and Sakunda Holdings.
“He further said a male Cabinet minister, he mentioned the name, had approached The Standard and attacked Command Agriculture and VP Mnangagwa for his leadership of the programme together with the Ministry of Finance, basically attacking me. He gave me the name of the minister, but he refused to identify himself for ethical reasons.”
Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo has been attacking Command Agriculture on social media programme since last year.
Just last week, he referred to the programme, which was endorsed by Cabinet, as “VP Mnangagwa’s Ugly-Culture”.
He posted on his twitter handle @ProfJNMoyo: “VP Mnangagwa’s Command Ugly-Culture, disguised as Command Agriculture, is a corruption of a noble objective and is, thus, totally unacceptable! The noble objectives of Command Agriculture, first enunciated by Dr Grace Mugabe, have been corrupted by VP Mnangagwa into an Ugly-Culture!”
Minister Chinamasa said according to the anonymous caller, the said Minister had a hand in the editing of the story.
“I asked his (the caller’s) motivation and he said he felt that a Cabinet Minister was unfairly attacking the programme, especially given its success. The Minister concerned, the caller said, had helped to edit the article. I feel outraged that a fellow Minister would seek to undermine and frustrate a Government programme. It boggles the mind that a Cabinet Minister feels unhappy that we are succeeding. I feel completely outraged.”
He added: “Matters like this should be raised in Cabinet and we have discussed Command Agriculture many times and for a member of Cabinet to undermine this programme in the manner that he did leaves a lot to be desired.”
Minister Chinamasa said VP Mnangagwa was simply delivering an assignment given to him by his superior, President Mugabe.
“As far as I am aware and I have it on the good authority of the President, Command Agriculture was conceived between the First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe and VP Mnanagagwa in his capacity as the chairperson of the Cabinet Committee on Food Security and Nutrition,” he said.
“It was left to VP Mnangagwa to oversee the implementation of the programme. I think he has done that remarkably well. His involvement in the programme was to primarily bring together many stakeholders using his high office to discuss this and other programmes that can make our economy recover.”
Minister Chinamasa went on: “He has not been involved in discussing financial arrangements between us and in this case Sakunda Holdings. He has left it completely to my Ministry and has not interfered in any of the decisions we have made financially. All the meetings that we have held with the financier have involved my Ministry officials and me. Similarly we have also arrangements arising from Command Agriculture to do with the Millers’ Association. All these meetings have been between me, my officials and the association. The VP has no idea what the term sheets are, like whether it’s with respect to the Sakunda facility or any financing arrangements we have undertaken. The issue of how resources are used is primarily my Ministry’s responsibility, not VP Mnangagwa.”
He said Government was expanding the Command Agriculture with other crops coming on board.
“Because of the success of the programme, we have extended it to other sectors,” Minister Chinamasa said.
“The programme has been good in turning around our economy because our major challenge is low productivity. When we started Command Agriculture it was Sakunda Holdings and it is on the back of that success that more players are now coming on board.”
Despite his bitter criticism, Prof Moyo is a beneficiary of the Command Agriculture programme and had a good crop at his farm in Mashonaland Central.
Prof Moyo put 140 hectares under maize on his 205-hectare Elephant Trust Farm (formerly Patterson) in Mazowe using inputs from Command Agriculture.
The Moyo family collected diesel, maize seed, fertilisers and herbicides from Grain Marketing Board depots in Concession, Mazowe, Bindura and Harare throughout the planting season.