BY REX MPHISA
LANDS and Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka’s decision to stay in Zvishavane during his three-day visit to Matabeleland South province has raised eyebrows with stakeholders who believe taxpayers’ money may be abused in travel expenses.
This comes at a time when Masuka is scheduled to visit Top Pick Farm in Beitbridge as part of his itinerary.
However, stakeholders said Masuka’s visit was superfluous since Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and former Vice-President Kembo Mohadi, as well as seven Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants had already visited Erasmus Marema’s Top Pick Farm. They said the visits to Beitbridge were not necessary as there were no new developments. Masuka had not responded to questions sent to him by NewsDay by the time of going to print last night.
However, his itinerary which begins today and ends on Saturday shows that after his visits to different places in Matabeleland South, the minister will at the end of each day drive back to Zvishavane for lodgings.
Zvishavane is about 500km from each of his daily assignment venues.
Masuka’s itinerary shows that he will leave Zvishavane today for Beitbridge via Gwanda, which is about 150km away. He will then proceed to Beitbridge, which is a gruelling 200km from Gwanda for Zhove Leisure Lodge for a 10-minute tour of a dam. He will also tour Top Pick Farm belonging to Mohadi’s close buddy Marema, and thereafter proceed to Bishopstone Citrus Estate, Schweppes juice factory, and Bain Wheat plantations in Beitbridge.
From there, Masuka will then drive back to Zvishavane completing a round trip of 860km a day, according to his itinerary. The next day, he will again burn fuel travelling almost the same distance for a tour of the proposed Tuli Manyange Dam before returning to his Zvishavane base.
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He will again travel a similar distance to Matabeleland South province for his final trip the following day. This last lap, which is slightly longer, will take him to Bulilima district in Plumtree, where he will visit Sedgemere Farm to tour its model irrigation scheme and dairy unit.
In total, the trip will be over 3 200km, but it could be cut by two-thirds if he stayed in the host province or Bulawayo. Masuka is likely to be using his ministerial V8 Toyota Land Cruiser, which guzzles an average of 13 litres per 100km.
A senior civil servant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The minister can base at Zhovhe’s Zimbabwe Tourism Authority-ranked lodges. That will give him enough time to visit the scheduled projects and other topical issues in the vast district.
“It is an extravagant trip which is not recommended in a country with a struggling economy. Only a few days ago, Masuka disconnected water supplies to defaulting government departments,” he said.
In the past, several government officials who toured Matabeleland South province farms were given bulls, goats and sheep as tokens of appreciation.
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