President Robert Mugabe yesterday once again revealed that Zanu PF infighting and his punishing schedule were taking a toll on him as he arrived late for a government function in Harare.
Mugabe — who spent part of this week in Botswana after his return from a trip to Mali in West Africa — had to apologise profusely after delaying the handover of agricultural equipment financed by the Brazilian government for close to five hours.
He said he had slept in the early hours of Friday morning (yesterday) after attending the tense Zanu PF politburo meeting that expelled 10 and suspended 13 party stalwarts.
The suspended Zanu PF officials were accused of working with fired Vice-President Joice Mujuru to topple the 91-year-old leader.
“I am sorry I came late, I would like to apologise for delaying because I slept around 4am as we had a long meeting which ran until midnight I would say,” he said.
Mugabe said when he arrived home from the politburo meeting, he found his daughter Bona and husband Simba Chikore waiting to see him.
“When I arrived at home, my daughter and her husband were waiting for me,” he said. “They left at 3am and after taking a bath, I realised it was 4am. I only realised the programme was supposed to follow immediately. Anyway, these are some of the internal in-house issues that we have to deal with.”
In March, Mugabe also had to blame late nights after he arrived late for the Kutama Mission centenary celebrations.
“I want to thank you all for coming, I was disjointed we came back at midnight so I had two hours of sleep and naturally, I have the habit that if I have something that worries my mind, my mind sleeps on it and I constantly jump out of sleep and say is it not time, is it not time. That is why we were a bit late,” Mugabe said at the time.
Yesterday, the veteran ruler was supposed to launch the farm mechanisation programme at 9am, but only arrived at 2pm.
He kept his two deputies Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko and other guests waiting.
A frail-looking Mugabe did not stay for long as has been the norm and stuck to the prepared speech.
He said the $98 million agricultural loan facility would be repaid by the benefiting farmers over a 15-year period at an interest rate of 2% per annum.
“By availing the mechanisation and irrigation equipment, the More Food for Africa Zimbabwe programme will increase land and labour productivity and also enhance the resilience of agriculture to climate change,” he said.
“This facility will clearly give a big boost to the cause our national economic blueprint, ZimAsset.”
Mugabe said the programme was aimed at eradicating poverty and hunger through empowering small-scale farmers whom he said were more productive than large-scale farmers.
The programme will see the South American country loan $98 million to Zimbabwe through the procurement of farming equipment.
“So far, our grain production this year has shown that small scale farmers are the most productive . . . the larger farmers have their own problems, they have their own story, a bad story,” Mugabe said. In 2000, Zimbabwe embarked on a fast-track land reform programme which saw white commercial farmers being kicked out of their farms and replaced by blacks mostly linked to the ruling Zanu PF party.
But recently the country has had to depend on imports as the large-scale farmers have failed to be productive.
Mugabe warned the beneficiaries against fighting over the usage of the equipment saying it would be distributed in communal areas with the community being the owners.
“We are not giving individuals this equipment. We don’t want people to fight over it,” he said.
“We don’t want conflict so let us organise our people on the usage of the equipment. We are going to copy how they did it in Brazil.”
Zimbabwe becomes the first country in Africa to benefit from the Brazilian-supported programme, which will also soon benefit Kenya, Mozambique and Ghana. Farmers will repay the Brazilian loan over 15 years and the programme will be administered by the State agricultural bank, Agribank, at an annual interest rate of 2% with a grace period of three years.
Brazilian ambassador to Zimbabwe Marcia Maro da Silva said the initiative was conceived by the former Brazil leader Luiz da Silva and launched in 2010 in Brazil targeting over 20 million households. Among the consignment, according to officials, are 473 tractors and irrigation equipment.