THE ruling Zanu PF has splashed over $200 million on imported state-of-the-art agricultural equipment — including heavy-duty tractors — for distribution to high-ranking party and government officials resettled on A2 commercial-size farms under unclear circumstances at a time the economy is in a state of comatose, NewsDay can reveal.
The move has been condemned by political analysts under the present circumstances, describing it as a case of blatantly misplaced priorities.
It is understood that although the multi-million dollar agricultural equipment was sourced through government funding at a time Zimbabweans are staring starvation in the face, Zanu PF would distribute the equipment to its members – most of them resettled on A2 farms countrywide.
Impeccable sources said the distribution would be staggered until the 2018 election as a campaign tool. The sources said only card-carrying Zanu PF members will benefit just like with the 2007-2008 farm mechanisation programme.
Although no comment could be obtained from Agriculture minister Joseph Made, his deputy (crops) Davies Marapira confirmed the existence of the agricultural equipment, but refused to give details referring further questions to Made.
Repeated efforts to contact Made this week were fruitless.
“For the agricultural equipment at Msasa depot (Harare), kindly talk to Made, he is the one who has finer details on what it is meant for and where it is going to. I can only say there is something there, but I am not allowed to talk much,” Marapira said.
Attempts too to get a comment from Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo or party secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo failed as their mobile phones went unanswered.
According to various Zanu PF sources, several politburo members were invited to inspect the agricultural equipment between last Thursday and Friday.
The politburo member said indications were that the equipment would be distributed according to provinces depending on the number of commercial farms in the province.
The sources said unlike the previous agricultural programmes, the beneficiaries were expected to pay for the equipment over a period of up to 10 years.
NewsDay has it on good authority that President Robert Mugabe was set to launch the multi-million-dollar programme soon to kickstart Zanu PF’s 2018 election campaign strategy at a time the mainstream opposition parties were floundering and cracking into pieces.
This is happening as Parliament is haggling over the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Debt Assumption Bill, which if approved, will see ordinary Zimbabweans taking over the central bank’s $1,35 billion debt incurred before December 31 2008 mostly through the bank’s quasi-fiscal activities.
The RBZ has provided Parliament with a profile of its creditors, but for some reason, withheld the profile of the debtors following allegations that Treasury had funded First Lady Grace Mugabe’s Gushungo Holdings’ Alpha Omega Dairy in Mazowe and ex-Premier Morgan Tsvangirai’s Highlands residence.
Zanu PF controls the rural vote through the much-touted land reform programme and other coercive mechanisms.
Well-placed sources in Zanu PF disclosed that the farming equipment currently housed at the Grain Marketing Board’s Msasa depot was sourced from Brazil by Treasury at an initial cost of $70 million.
The sources said government made a downpayment of $35 million, but the revolving facility was revised upwards to $200 million.
“This is going to be Zanu PF’s campaign way now, using the equipment to empower resettled farmers so that they can be productive, in line with ZimAsset,” another Zanu PF politburo member said.
The scheme is taking place at a time the Tsvangirai-led MDC-T was mobilising grassroots support across the country whipping emotions against the Zanu PF government.
Renowned academic Ibbo Mandaza said the government was extremely short of money, hence it was important for the public to know the source of the money.
“Given that the government is so cash-strapped, it is important to know where the money is coming from and where the equipment is coming from and whether it is justified. It is also important to find out whether the $200 million equipment is a priority under the circumstances. It appears to me that the priority is to buy food and not what they are doing,” Mandaza said.
Another analyst, Charles Mangongera, described the move as resumption of the looting era before the inclusive government.
“I think they are just resuming the patronage and blunders which we saw before the inclusive government particularly through the RBZ. There was a bit of a break because they couldn’t do it between 2009 and 2013 because they were not in control of Treasury. This is just one of the many networks in which Mugabe will buy support,” Mangongera said.