THE Brazilian government has demanded an audit of the US$38 million agricultural equipment it supplied last year to establish if the farming implements were not distributed on partisan political lines and whether they reached the intended target.
By Herbert Moyo
Brazil supplied Zimbabwe with equipment, which includes 320 tractors, 450 disc harrows and 310 planters valued at US$38,6 million under the first phase of a US$98 million facility commissioned by President Robert Mugabe in May last year.
However, his wife Grace took centre-stage in handing over the equipment at her political rallies, a development which, according to government sources, has not gone down well with the Brazilians.
Brazil, according to government sources, wants an audit before new equipment is released under the second phase of the programme valued at US$30 million.
“The Brazilians are not happy with the distribution of the equipment at partisan political rallies by the First Lady who is not even a government official. They have requested the audit ahead of the release of the second tranche of agricultural equipment just to ensure that there was no abuse and misappropriation of the equipment,” said one source.
Grace attracted criticism from various stakeholders including civil society organisations and opposition political parties for purporting to donate the agricultural equipment at her rallies despite the equipment being sourced under a publicly underwritten US$98 million loan facility.
She, however, remained defiant in the face of criticism remarking, “They said I am giving people the goods as a way of buying votes”, during her rally in Rushinga last October, adding, “Hazvina basa kana ndikakutenga ukandivhotera (It does not matter if I pay you to vote for me), it’s okay. It’s better to vote for someone who gives you something than someone who does not.”
While confirming the impending audit, Brazilian ambassador Marcia Maro da Silva (pictured), however, denied that Brazil is unhappy with Grace’s involvement in the distribution of the equipment. She said the audit is “merely being conducted to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the programme to alleviate hunger so that the lessons derived will inform the second phase of the loan facility”.
“We have no issues with the First Lady at all and this has nothing to do with her,” Da Silva said of the audit. “In the first place it should be called an assessment and not an audit. It is necessary to have an assessment of the first phase of the facility before undertaking the second phase so that we can appreciate the positives and the shortcomings. We want to make sure that our programme benefits Zimbabweans and helps to improve food security and we don’t want to be handing over equipment that will end up just piling instead of being used.”
Da Silva said her country does not interfere in the internal political dynamics in Zimbabwe and is satisfied with the fact that the equipment got to the intended beneficiaries.
“They are 176 projects being carried out across the country to benefit 22 000 families and we are extending to Zimbabwe a project that benefitted Brazilians,” Da Silva said. The US$98 million facility is repayable over 15 years, attracting an interest rate of 2% per year.