EDITORIAL COMMENT: Command Agric, STEM, sides of same coin
Lately, Zimbabweans have been treated to a skit deriding Government’s Command Agriculture programme. Some have tried to link these to Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo. If true, that would be very sad. Which is why we believe such amusement to be the product of misinformed minds trying to satirise, ridicule, trivialise and oppose everything and anything that comes in the name of Zanu-PF.
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Unfortunately, Prof Moyo has acted in a weird fashion concerning Command Agriculture, seeming to conflate his personal attacks on Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa with the latter’s national, official duties as supervisor of the Command Agriculture programme launched last year as part of President Mugabe’s efforts to mobilise resources towards national food self-sufficiency.
Looked at in the context of the Zim-Asset cluster on food and nutrition, Command Agriculture is an example of low-hanging fruits. It would be shocking that Prof Moyo missed this important policy initiative of his party, and he is a Cabinet minister. Why would he be playing the devil’s advocate if not the ultimate delinquent now?
The kernel of the skits making a parody of Command Agriculture is that the concept of command is antiquated in an age of pervasive technology. We are aware of how crazes like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are so addictive and have swept many otherwise reasonable people off their feet to believe these can supplant the State because they are beyond regulation.
But that is to miss the point and the reason why people now tend to fall for fake or false news. Government policy remains valid. Whether one calls it command or by whatever nomenclature is their choice.
Zimbabwe is currently seized with the idea of STEM. It would be laughable for anyone to pretend it was implemented through so-called consultations. President Mugabe came up with the idea and the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development took it up, only adding incentives such as Government paying school fees for students taking up sciences at A Level. That’s a typical command programme embraced with gusto even by the clueless opposition and its media hangers on.
Last year, Government promulgated Statutory Instrument 64 banning the import of products which had local substitutes. That was command by any other name. There was no need to waste time consulting while local industry went under to please people with a warped notion of democracy.
A government gets its mandate to rule at election time. It doesn’t have to consult on policy nitty-gritties unless it doubts its own legitimacy.
That is why the Zanu-PF Government is going ahead with the launch of the new education curriculum. Consultations were carried out over a long period. Its implementation time and some misguided elements turnaround and say we don’t want our children to be taught in their mother tongue. How ridiculous can one get!
And the same people join the rest of the world in celebrating Mother Tongue month and don’t feel a sense of shame and irony. Government has to go out of its way to command them through a curriculum to appreciate who they are!
Yet even beyond Zanu-PF, the concept of command is not new, nor is it restricted to the communist or socialist ideology. Developing nations have lived with variants of command ever since the IMF and the World Bank ventured into the developing world as the vanguards of imperialist control. Structural adjustment programmes are forms of command, they are conditional. Without meeting those a nation doesn’t get budgetary support. That is familiar territory for every Zimbabwean who lived through the 1990s. Bernard Chidzero and Esap.
Now the conditionalities have been debased to include institutionalising gay and lesbian rights on top of electoral democracy and human rights.
Even today we are being commanded to carry out so-called political and economic reforms to attract investment. We are being commanded to open up the mining sector so capital can run riot. Government is being commanded to abandon its black economic empowerment and indigenisation policies to please foreigners who are hungry for our natural resources. And it’s being punished for refusing to obey this imperial command.
Unfortunately those making fun of Command Agriculture don’t realise it when commands come from outside. They confuse this with democracy, globalisation and being techno savvy.
The truth is that every legitimate government has within it powers to command available resources to meet identified exigencies. Such can be material, intellectual, artistic or otherwise.
Indeed Command Agriculture is a key facet of Zimbabwe’s empowered society and a growing economy. Agriculture is still the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy.
Through it we can grow, nay, command the economy.