The decision, viewed as asset grabbing, was taken at a meeting held this week at Davies Hall, the Zanu PF Bulawayo headquarters.
Zanu PF Matabeleland provincial coordinating committee members, including politburo secretary for education Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, politburo member Eunice Sandi, central committee members Godfrey Malaba, Raphael Baleni, Dennis Ndlovu and David Ndlovu, a former Bulawayo mayor, met on Sunday and decided they should take the equipment.
Ndlovu on Wednesday confirmed the development, adding that President Robert Mugabe had ordered that the equipment should be shared amongst members before the rainy season.
“President Mugabe was seriously concerned about the idle implements and ordered the RBZ to authorise the release of the implements to those who deserve them,” said Ndlovu, a former Information and Publicity minister. “But that doesn’t mean that the leadership will not benefit,” he said.
Ndlovu said the equipment will be divided among Zanu PF supporters in Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South.
The equipment — hundreds of planters, cultivators, harrows, scotch carts and ploughs bought by the central bank under an ill-fated farm mechanisation programme to capacitate under-resourced resettled farmers — has been lying idle at a National Railways storage yard in Bulawayo.
Party insiders said provincial chairman Isaac Dakamela has been directed to engage Bulawayo governor Cain Mathema to expedite the disposal of the equipment, sources who attended the meeting said. Mathema however, said he was unaware of plans to share the implements.
“I didn’t attend the weekend meeting and Dakamela hasn’t come to see me,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from the RBZ were unsuccessful as the central bank was yet to respond to questions e-mailed on Wednesday.
The farm implements were supposed to be auctioned in April this year by a company that supplied the materials and was not paid by the RBZ, but Mugabe invoked the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to stop legal action aimed at attaching and auctioning the assets. Mugabe invoked the Presidential Powers Act to amend the Reserve Bank Act to allow the central bank’s debts to be turned into state liability.
After Mugabe’s intervention, an auction of RBZ farming implements was stopped at the eleventh hour on the instructions of the Deputy Sheriff of Harare.
The countrywide farm mechanisation programme, initiated in 2007 as part of the now abandoned central bank quasi-fiscal activities, benefited Mugabe’s supporters and security chiefs, some of whom were not farmers. Most of the equipment distributed under this programme has been lying idle at underutilised farms. Equipment such as tractors could be seen parked outside houses in Bulawayo because recipients were only politically connected city dwellers and not farmers.
Some farmers have complained that the farm mechanisation programme led by Gono mostly benefited the Zanu PF elite. Some of the tractors distributed during the programme were used as public transport in rural areas.
A close Mugabe ally, Gono spearheaded the farm mechanisation programme in the run- up to the March 2008 elections as Zanu PF tried to buy votes.