Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa reprimanded Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo for his public posturing denigrating the Command Agriculture Programme on social media, despite him being a member of Cabinet where the programme is always discussed.
In an interview yesterday, VP Mnangagwa said he challenged Prof Moyo why he was attacking Command Agriculture when he was a beneficiary of the scheme under which he received farming support.
Prof Moyo has on several occasions posted a string of messages on social media denouncing the programme adopted by Government last year.
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Command Agriculture is expected to run for the next two years as part of efforts to boost the country’s food production levels.
VP Mnangagwa said he expressed his reservations on why Prof Moyo was taking the issue on social media when he had the Cabinet meeting platform.
“The major attack of Command Agriculture came from my colleague Professor Moyo, so I met him,” he said.
“He is a beneficiary of Command Agriculture. He has 80 hectares, very good crop in Mashonaland Central, so when I met him I said my brother, but you criticise Command Agriculture when you are benefiting so much and we are supporting you.
“He said no my brother, Vice President, I am not attacking Command Agriculture, l have been attacking information that is coming out about the $500 million fund. It is not explained to the public, people will think there is some mismanagement of some sort.
“I said no! but you understand you are in Cabinet, we always explain these things in Cabinet, and we discuss these things in Cabinet. This is why each time I have an opportunity to discuss these things, I mention what actual funds have come to the programme, that is what has happened.”
VP Mnangagwa said he would, however, not be deterred by the criticism of the scheme, but was determined to find ways to improve it.
“When I see people criticising Command Agriculture, I do not have time to look at the criticism,” he said. “I continuously want to improve on what is there.
“In fact, those who criticise will have eaten. They do not criticise when they are hungry, so we must make sure we produce more food for them to eat and criticise.”
VP Mnangagwa said Command Agriculture had been very successful despite some challenges which Government had derived lessons for improvement in future.
“We introduced Command Agric, which many people have criticised because of the word ‘command.’” he said. “But I would want anybody to bring anyone who had been commanded to join Command Agriculture. There is nobody.”
VP Mnangagwa said Government had not even exhausted the $190 million availed by several stakeholders for the programme, with $30 million not utilised.
In one of the messages on March 6 following a story published by The Herald, Prof Moyo wrote on his Twitter handle: “Report by @Herald Zimbabwe that ‘Command Agric exceeds target’ is at best premature & at worst needlessly false!”
He went on to post on March 10 that “1/2: Maize is on 1,3m ha: 1,1m is Presidential Input Scheme; 153,102.60ha is Command Agriculture & the rest private!”
Prof Moyo on the same date added “2/2: Command Agriculture targeted 400 000ha but contracted 247,035ha of which 191,124ha (77 percent) were tilled & 153,102.60ha (61 percent) were planted on!”
On March 11, he also wrote that, “Command is a tried & tested military concept. It is also a great in programming. But in civil matters command is an oxymoron & non starter!”
He added on his Twitter handle: “After merchants of Command Agriculture poured $500m to plant maize on 153,102.60ha, they now want a Command Economy!”
In another tweet Prof Moyo wrote: “Better listen to agro-economists on how $500m was commandeered to plant maize on just 153,102.60ha when the $500m was meant for 400,000ha!”
Contrary to Prof Moyo’s assertions that $500m was used, Government has since indicated that only $191m went into Command Agriculture.