Criticism of Command Agric act of rogues former Vice President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa
VP Mnangagwa

VP Mnangagwa

Trevor Shiri Correspondent
The adulteration of the Command Agriculture Programme, (CAP), as an “ugly culture” by some senior politicians who should know better is quite troubling, if not unsettling.

It would be remiss, if not reckless, to ignore the blatant undermining of a successful Government programme by our “purported leaders”. The programme is part of a cocktail of measures intended to undo the perennial problem of food insecurity. Other initiatives of the same magnitude include the Presidential Well-Wishers Inputs Scheme for cotton and maize farmers.

During the maiden ZANU PF Provincial Youth Interface Rally in Mashonaland East on June 2, 2017, President Mugabe in his boundless wisdom said that “Command Agriculture pleased even the heavens and floodgates of rains were opened. We received good rains and even those who did not take part in the Command Agriculture Program are looking forward to a good harvest. We want unity and progress for our people, we need to create jobs for our people and strengthen our agriculture at the back of the successes of Command Agriculture.”

He further said “now that Command Agriculture has given us good yields on grain crops, let us extend it to wheat, we will have all the bread we want in the country. It’s not a command like that in the military, it is a command to show each other the way of farming. Rimai makadai, shandai makadai, dyarai mbeu yacho nguva yakadai.”

Fast forward to Friday, 16 June 2017, at the second leg of his marathon Provincial Youth Interface rallies in Manicaland Province, the President reiterated the foregoing standing position, noting that the First Lady, Amai Dr Grace Mugabe, mooted the idea which was then named Command Agriculture supervised by VP Mnangagwa.

However, despite the foregoing ringing endorsement by His Excellency, and the existence of formal platforms such as Cabinet, the Politburo, the Central Committee, and indeed inter-ministerial liaison among fellow members of Cabinet, some have chosen to go rogue, grandstanding on Twitter and in the private media, criticising alleged short-comings of the programme.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, in its Treasury Quarterly Bulletin: January-March 2017, indicated that “Zimbabwe is expecting a maize harvest of about 2.7 million tonnes during the 2016-17 farming season boosted by the success of the Special Maize Programme commonly referred to as Command Agriculture.

In total, about 1 770 389 hectares were put under maize during the 2016-17 farming season, with anticipated maize yields of over 2 million tonnes. This, together with small grains should give over 2.7 million tonnes of grain this year, well above the national requirements of 1.8 million tonnes.”

Similarly, the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development final crop and livestock assessment report revealed that communal farmers’ maize output increased by a staggering 364 percent in 2017, translating to an expected 770 682 tonnes up from 166 216 tonnes in 2016, owing to the Presidential Well-Wishers Scheme.

On the cotton side, the country’s cotton production increased from 33 million kilogrammes in the 2015-16 season to 127 million kg in the 2016-17 season, translating to a staggering 286 percent, on the back of the US$42 million Presidential Well-Wishers Inputs Scheme.

Equally so, the Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics, (STEM), initiative is an ingenious programme by Government intended to set the country on a recovery path on the back of science.

It is a noble Government initiative, which has so far benefited thousands of children. According to statistics from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development in 2017 alone, 10 722 ‘A’ level STEM students from 275 schools had their school fees paid by Government, a feat which is laudable.

The foregoing strides wrought by the CAP, Presidential Well-Wishers Inputs Scheme and STEM are a boon for Zanu-PF, Government and the generality of Zimbabweans, yet for political expedience in the name of factional fighting, some are vilifying such noble initiatives by attacking perceived faces of the programmes.

This is unfortunate and regrettable. Politicians have a right to fight political rivals, but to fight one’s political foes to the detriment of a whole Government programme is sabotage. Let me pose for a moment. An aside.

All these positive strides and the misinformed criticism of Government programmes is coming at a time when opposition elements, mainly MDC-T, PDP and NPP, as well as pseudo-activists such as #Tajamuka/Sesjikile and #ThisFlag have upped the ante in propagating the disaster narrative, which has now degenerated into a decay narrative — that “ZANU yaora, Zimbabwe yaora.”

In their narrow-focussed lenses, nothing good is happening in Zimbabwe, nothing progressive is occurring in Zimbabwe, in fact, Zimbabwe is allegedly burning, while Government ministers are at each other’s throats.

It should be conceded that no programme is perfect, which is why there is always an introspection during and after implementation — a post-mortem to identify shortcomings, all in the hope of self-correction for even better results. This process, however, has not been given a chance to ensure refinement and renewal of ideas, scope, execution and implementation, but has been hijacked for political expediency in the unhelpful factional fighting in the Party.

It is the belief of Party supporters, and Zimbabweans at large, that issues to do with logistical delays in distribution of inputs, monitoring of inputs is used to stem abuse, ring-fencing of the produce to ensure that it is sold to Cottco and the GMB, and not be side-marketed.

These are key issues that self-proclaimed critics should help address through the appropriate fora, where real progressive decisions are made.

Similarly, the critiques on the implementation of STEM, particularly where it should start, Grade 1 or O-Level or the current A-Level; exclusion of Arts and Commercial subjects, among other concerns, should be discussed at appropriate fora, particularly by ministers or permanent secretaries, not in the public.

That way, real solutions to the challenges are thrashed out away from the public glare, not the current megaphone criticism that serves no purpose, other than attracting negative energy on positive Government programmes.

ZANU-PF politicians should be reminded that they serve at the pleasure of the President. They are there as his foot soldiers mandated with implementing His Excellency’s programmes.

They are the face of those programmes on the ground. Any criticism of the portfolio of other foot soldiers is criticism of His Excellency’s programme. STEM does not belong to Professor Jonathan Moyo, nor does the Command Agriculture Programme belong to Vice President Mnangagwa or Minister Joseph Made, but the President.

So, if the heavens themselves welcomed Command Agriculture, who are we mere mortals to sully such a noble programme?

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