FORMER Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander and Zanu PF’s Gutu senator, Vitalis Zvinavashe, on Tuesday lambasted government for not add
ressing the issue of food security blaming lack of preparedness for hunger that is stalking the nation.
He also criticised government for imposing price controls on grain at a hearing before the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP) taskforce on agriculture co-ordination, input supply and food security.
Zvinavashe took secretaries for Agriculture and Industry and International Trade Simon Pazvakavambwa and retired Col Christian Katsande to task when they appeared before the committee in their capacity as co-chairpersons of the NEDPP taskforce asking: “What independence is that when people are hungry 26 years on?” he asked.
“It is the system. We say we are now independent, independent with no food. Go back to historical structures. Open the archives and see how they used to do it,” the tough-talking former commander said.
He added: “They are saying we are going to have a good harvest, but there is no diesel. Should there be an agricultural Bible of Ten commandments on what must be done?” said Zvinavashe.
He said as government had withdrawn support for A2 farmers, the farmers must negotiate on an individual basis with financial institutions. But he said government must not impose price controls on their produce.
“The A2 farmer will be responsible 100%, so where does the government come in to say the price is this? You cannot control what I produce. Which maths, which dictionary is that?” Zvinavashe added.
Zvinavashe said not everybody should venture into farming. Agriculture should be left to those who are willing and able.
He also wondered whether government finds advantages in importing food judging by its handling of the agricultural sector.
Senator Zvinavashe said this after Katsande indicated that government would import fertiliser as the local industry was unable to meet national requirements.
“I foresee that, maybe there is too much advantage in importing. I do not know what language to use,” Zvinavashe added.
Last week during an agriculture committee meeting, Zvinavashe clashed with National Security minister Didymus Mutasa over the issue of compensating white farmers, saying ordinary taxpayers must not be made to pay for properties acquired by individuals who should meet the compensation costs.
Committee’s chairperson and Zanu PF’s Masvingo South MP, Walter Mzembi, lamented the fragmentation because of three ministries — all involved in agricultural activities.
“There is too much fragmentation and that is a worrying feature of our planning,” Mzembi said.
Last week during a budget and finance committee hearing with Finance minister Herbert Murerwa, Mzembi disputed the accuracy of government’s forecasts, such as 23% growth in agriculture.
“Remember when you (Murerwa) came to the committee with Minister (Rugare) Gumbo you gave us an 80 000-mark for wheat. We told you that we had 45 000 hectares and today we hear of 57 000 hectares. Combine that with the claim that agriculture will grow by 23%. I shudder to think what baseline government is using,” Mzembi said.