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Editor’s Memo

The termites

WHEN former World Food Programme spokesperson Luis Clemens wrote in Focus magazine three months ago that “everything Joseph Made touches turns to dross”, it was perceived

in some quarters to be a bit over the top.

There were several senior ruling-party officials who called us to record their displeasure at Clemens’ conclusions when we reproduced the article in our op-ed pages in September.

However, there are many more who cringe every time Made opens his mouth to tell us the latest achievements in his Agriculture portfolio. It’s not only his loudest critic, MDC’s shadow Agriculture minister Renson Gasela, who thinks that Made has a dirty sock permanently stuck in his mouth.

Made now even surprises some of his own kind.There was a demonstration of that last weekend when he addressed the Zanu PF Congress in response to issues raised by politburo member Enos Chikowore. Television cameras captured Vice-President Joseph Msika shaking his head loose in disapproval as Made responded.

Chikowore wanted to know why there was no delivery on loans promised to farmers. He also wanted to know the role of Arda and the DDF in the agrarian reform. On the financing of agriculture, Made said interest rates on loans from Agribank had been hiked from 15% to 30% and then to 70%. He said the interest rate was headed for the 120% mark.

This was not sanctioned by the party, neither did cabinet deliberate on it. Msika’s intervention was instructive and illustrative of the absence of collective responsibility in government.

“We agreed that Agribank would charge 15% when we first talked about the issue and the last time we talked about it we agreed that the interest rate was to go up to 20%,” said Msika to an embarrassed Made.

“Where the 70% and 120% came from, we do not know. We said if the ministry felt the rates were too low, they should consult cabinet. But now they are saying it’s 70%. That is the problem with people we work with.”

He said government would subsidise the farmers on the interest rates, hence no hikes would be tolerated.

The problem with people working with Msika and his boss President Mugabe is that they act outside policy. Their actions ultimately militate against policy and goals are not achieved. That is the reason why government’s agricultural policies have largely failed. It’s not Blair and Bush who hike the rates unilaterally, it’s Joseph Made and he needs no instruction in the art of blundering.

Interestingly though, was Msika aware of this before Made opened his mouth? I doubt it. And there are many other things which he has probably not been told. Is he aware that his government is importing maize while at the same time boasting that there was a bumper grain harvest last season? Is he aware there are chefs who diverted maize seed to the black market? Is he aware that despite the blundering, Made is still on the Zanu PF central committee? Could someone please tell the VP who is responsible for the presidency’s supervision of ministers.

The other person who did not know seemingly obvious facts was Chikowore. I say this because he asked the question which smoked out Made’s policy blunder. As secretary for Lands and Resettlement in Zanu PF, Chikowore had to use the platform of the Zanu PF congress to be educated on the role of Agribank, Arda and DDF in the land reform exercise. Frankly speaking, what do Zanu PF bosses discuss in their politburo meetings?

Almost on a weekly basis I see the presidential motorcade drive into party headquarters at nine in the morning and leave sometimes up to 12 hours later. There are also weekly cabinet meetings where Mugabe meets his lieutenants. Despite all this seemingly lengthy planning, Made can still hike rates without cabinet or presidential approval and Chikowore needs tutoring on Arda, Agribank and DDF’s contribution to the agrarian reform. What a crowd!

It would appear that there is a new phenomenon in Zanu PF’s policy formulation. It is no longer the old adage of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing, but three hands, all not knowing what the others are doing.

Perhaps Chikowore knew the answers but was just making the most of the platform provided to him!

He also revealed without naming the culprits that there was looting of farm equipment by some high-ranking officials. He was also free with his descriptive powers in denouncing chefs who grabbed more than one farm.

“The issue of multiple-farm ownership does not only reveal indiscipline and dishonesty in the perpetrator’s mind,” said Chikowore. “It also reveals dangerous disloyalty and lack of faith in the principles that have guided our mighty revolutionary party this far. There are termites within our party, they are not people.”

Did I read in the press recently that police had laid siege to farms occupied by Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo and former Mashonaland West governor Peter Chanetsa because the two were multiple-farm owners? Termites eating away at the national fabric?

If the party is now staffed with termites, we can only speculate who the Queen is!

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