The Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) has come under fire for alleged “asset-stripping” at most of its estates with disclosures the organisation reportedly auctioned tractors for as little as $30 while over 33 000 head of cattle had depleted to a paltry 1 300.
Arda had a fleet of 428 tractors acquired through a government-to-government arrangement with Iran, the bulk of which were cannibalised, auctioned or disused.
Joint committee sittings of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement chaired by Chikomba Central MP Moses Jiri and the State Enterprises and Parastatals Committee chaired by Zvishavane Runde MP Lawrence Mavima said when they visited different Arda estates they discovered most of the cattle were missing.
The committee also said in 2010 when the previous Arda board appeared before Parliament, it disclosed there were 30 000 head of cattle, a figure which did not correspond with what was on the ground during the MPs’ visit to different Arda estates.
But Arda board chairperson Basil Nyabadza denied the asset-stripping allegations arguing although between 1997 and 2009 there were 33 026 head of cattle occupying 357 294 hectares of land, they were asked to surrender the land during the land reform programme.
“We were asked to surrender that land during the land reform and resettlement programme and we also had to surrender the herd because there was nowhere else to keep it. We had 428 tractors we got from a government-to-government arrangement with Iran and most of them were retained at Arda estates, some went to agricultural colleges and a few were allocated to a number of individuals by government and we have made part of the payment to the Iranians,” Nyabadza said.
“Some of the tractors were auctioned for $30. A total of 197 tractors are disused, 113 are not working and have been cannibalised and we only have 118 tractors in use. We are failing to service some of the equipment because we have not been supported by government financially for more than 97 months.”
On the Chisumbanje ethanol project, Nyabadza said the deal was transparent and was on a Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) business model hence there was no shareholding arrangement between Arda and the investor Billy Rautenbach.
However, the committee said the project might be a “botched deal” and unviable since the cost of producing one litre of ethanol at Chisumbanje was $1 yet the product could be imported from Brazil for only $0, 75 per litre.
“In countries like Brazil it is $0,75 per litre because they grow cane under rain-fed production and the country subsidises the product at $0,44 per litre.
The value of the whole Chisumbanje ethanol project in terms of investment is $1,4 billion earmarked up to 2020,” Nyabadza said.
He said the investment was going to be in three phases, which would include the building of Kondo Dam at a cost of $300 million.