New Command Agric scheme stinks to high heaven

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Vice President Chiwenga

The government’s decision to launch another $2,7 billion Command Agriculture “special” scheme targeted at wheat production stinks to high heaven in view of the fact that the previous programme ended up as a feeding trough for some political fat cats.

NewsDay Comment

The initial scheme, introduced in 2016 focusing on boosting maize production, ended up riddled with allegations of corruption and looting by top ruling party politicians and missed its targets to boost the country’s agricultural sector.

Given such a murky background, Zimbabweans are justified to be sceptical about this new scheme, which will likely go a similar route like its predecessor. What accountability measures have been put in place to ensure that it will not be prone to abuse?

Quite ironically, the same government is struggling to effectively bankroll the national response to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak, where it is mainly relying on donors and other well-wishers.

While we understand Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s sentiments that the government is worried about the continued fall in wheat production in the country due to inadequate irrigation water and electricity as well as high input costs, we are also quite aware that he was one of the private beneficiaries of Command Agriculture, having received cars for “private use” from the programme.

Such murky details, which have not been fully explained, will simply make people more suspicious of government’s real intentions.

With the country’s hospitals — and especially its infectious disease hospitals — grossly underfunded and ill-equipped in the face of a raging disease threatening to wipe out entire populations, it is strange that government would prefer to come up with another “special” Command Agriculture Programme.

This actually shows this government is out of touch with the needs of ordinary people and the issues that affect them.

The fact that government has admitted that the Command Agriculture Programme, which they financed through Sakunda Holdings fronted by businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei, to the tune of US$3 billion, fell prey to rampant looting means they should not have rushed with this new programme, unless they are ulterior motives.

Strangely, we have not heard of any arrests or investigations into how the funds raised through Command Agriculture were used and for what reasons. This is why rushing headlong into another similar programme raises more questions than answers. Government is duty-bound to explain these disparities to citizens, otherwise people will just believe it is yet another opportunity for the mighty to steal from the nation.