GRAIN Marketing Board (GMB) managing director Rockie Mutenha yesterday had a torrid time in Parliament when he was grilled over partisan distribution of Presidential farming inputs by the parastatal.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Mutenha had appeared before the Justice Mayor Wadyajena-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands to speak on the country’s grain status when Norton MP Temba Mliswa (independent) asked him to explain the criteria for distribution of Presidential inputs.
“Is it political parties that distribute Presidential inputs because there is sloganeering and people in political party structures get involved to the extent that in Norton, a Zanu PF chairperson called Mavhangira runs the depot and the manager is petrified?” Mliswa asked.
Mutenha responded: “When we distribute inputs, we do not look at political parties. Distribution is done by Agritex and GMB depots and we do not involve party chairpersons. If a farmer shouts a slogan, we cannot stop them from doing so.”
MPs were not satisfied by his answer and Mliswa then asked him to explain why councillors were being asked to give lists of names during the Presidential inputs distribution.
Muzarabani North MP Alfred Mufunga (Zanu PF) said Mutenha was misleading the committee as councillors were involved and were using the distribution exercise to campaign for re-election.
“Some people end up with more than five bags of inputs while genuine farmers get nothing because councillors are involved, pushing their interests,” Mufunga said.
Zengeza West MP Simon Chidhakwa (MDC-T) said if Mutenha continued to deny the allegations, then MPs would have no choice but play videos for him showing GMB teams sloganeering during distribution of Presidential inputs.
Mberengwa North MP Tafanana Zhou (Zanu PF) then roasted Mutenha over the issue of alleged corruption where GMB is charging beneficiaries of the Presidential inputs scheme amounts of $1 per bag per 15 kilometres for transporting the inputs.
Mutenha admitted that the transportation of the inputs should be done for free.
Getrude Hungwa (Zanu PF Proprotional Representation) then asked Mutenha to explain why GMB was buying maize at $390 and selling it to millers at $240 and $270 per tonne and to explain who was meeting the difference
“The price of maize is determined by the government and the difference is a subsidy. This was done to discourage millers from using foreign currency to buy maize from outside the country,” Mutenha said.
In 2016, the Auditor-General’s report on GMB reflected an accumulated loss of $208 968 178, which Mutenha told the committee was a result of underpricing where they bought maize at $390 and sold to millers at $240 to $270.
GMB is also mired in debts from as far back as the Zimbabwean dollar era of Z$14 661 429 for maize and wheat not paid for and fertiliser paid for by farmers but not collected, and payroll arrears of $16 601 811 made up of medical aid, pension fund, housing fund, salary arrears and $4 830 540 owed to Zinwa, Zesa and local authorities.
MPs questioned how Mutenha was appointed GMB MD after he failed to respond effectively to questions and demanded the interview minutes and curriculum vitaes for GMB board members who are now in their third term in office.