‘Speak with one voice’
Collen Murahwa Herald Reporter—
Defence Minister Dr Sydney Sekeramayi has hailed Government’s Special Maize Programme for Import Substitution, also known as Command Agriculture, as a major success while imploring Cabinet ministers to speak with one voice on policy matters. In apparent reference to policy inconsistency following a sustained attack on Command Agriculture by some Cabinet ministers despite the initiative having been described as a “beautiful programme” by President Mugabe, Dr Sekeramayi said “at the end of the day it is what is on the ground that really matters”.
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Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo has taken to social media where he has been deriding Command Agriculture as “Command Ugly-Culture” or “Command lies”, while Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Patrick Zhuwao joined the bandwagon saying: “Zimbabwe was not about Command and Command was not the only game in town.”
Delivering a lecture at the National Defence University on Wednesday, Dr Sekeramayi said Command Agriculture had shamed land reform detractors, mainly former white farmers, who were boasting that no meaningful harvest had been recorded ever since their farms were taken over.
“There were farmers in areas like Chinhoyi and they would go boasting that ‘once our farms were taken over by Government, nothing significant has been produced’.
“But under the Command Agriculture programme we are witnessing harvests that even the Grain Marketing Board depots cannot cope with and we have to expand silos because there has been a lot of maize harvested this season.
“This is a programme that needs to be continued with, yet like any other programme there had been teething problems but this is part of the learning process and we are sure that we will fine tune this system to such an end that out children and grandchildren will be reading about food shortages as part of history not as current experiences,” he said.
Dr Sekeramayi told the media that leaders having differences with regards to policy formulation and implementation needed to iron out their differences amicably.
“We appeal to the top not to have confusion. There may be differences of approach here and there but we must make sure that we are on the same platform, speaking the same language, we send the same message.
“What is in place is a determination to resolve some of these differences when they occur. People may use certain terminology which may not appeal to others but at the end of the day it is what is on the ground that really matters,” he said.
Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga recently reprimanded Professor Moyo for fuelling discord in Government and undermining Command Agriculture.
He was also blasted by Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda and Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa for going against Government policy.
Minister Chinamasa dismissed Prof Moyo as a “barking dog” while commending the achievements of Command Agriculture in Zimbabwe’s quest to achieve food self-sufficiency.
Speaking during his lecture titled, “The National Security Council in National Defence Planning and Development”, Dr Sekeramayi said in the past, farmers could not access cheaper financial backing hence Command Agriculture en- abled them to have adequate resources at their disposal.
“Part of the reason why the country was failing to produce adequate food reserves was because the farmers had no access to cheap and affordable finance and inputs which the Government facilitated under Command Agriculture,” he said.
“The timely availability of farming inputs coupled with a good rainfall season contributed to the good yields recorded under the Command Agriculture programme.”
Dr Sekeramayi highlighted that food security is an essential element in defence planning and the country’s development is hinged upon an economy that does not rely on food imports.
“Food security is a very important element of national defence planning and the Government has a responsibility to always ensure that the country has food reserves,” he said.
“Last year the Government had to work round the clock to secure maize from Zambia in order to mitigate the effects of drought of the 2015-2016 farming season and while this was necessary, it was, however, not favourable for national development as Government had to spend the limited available foreign currency reserves on buying maize instead on other developmental projects.”
Dr Sekeramayi said the operation of a single diamond company in Marange was in line with international standards and was adopted after a realisation that giving concession to various companies was problematic.
“Government initially gave mining concessions to various companies but, however, the practical implementation of such arrangement proved unworkable with Government realising the serious leakages of the precious stones that cost it significant money in revenue,” he said.
“The most important thing is that operation of a single diamond mining company is in line with international diamond mining best practices.”