HomeOpinionAgric new assignments: Much ado about nothing

Agric new assignments: Much ado about nothing

BY BRIAN CHITEMBA

THIS week President Emmerson Mnangagwa reassigned senior government officials with Davis Marapira as Minister of State in charge of Monitoring and the Implementation of Special Agricultural programmes, Reverend Paul Damasane now a deputy chief secretary, Amos Marawa as national coordinator for programmes and projects (deputy chief secretary level).

Effectively, the Agriculture ministry is manned by four ministers (Anxious Masuka, Marapira, Vangelis Haritatos (deputy minister) and Douglas Karoro (deputy minister). Additionally, there is a senior civil servant John Bhasera as permanent secretary. Former deputy chief secretary Justin Mupamhanga is reportedly stationed at the ministry as an adviser.

Going by the government’s excessive expenditure, it means each one of them has an off-road and a luxury sedan vehicle, translating to 12 high-end cars for ministry’s top officials. What is heart-wrenching is that all this is happening in a country where almost half of the 14 million population is wallowing in extreme poverty.

Yes, agriculture is important and our economy is agro-based, with the sector contributing about 20% to the gross domestic product (GDP) and 40% of export earnings, creating employment for 60-70% of the population. It supplies 60% of the raw materials needed by the industrial sector.

But ever since the chaotic land reform exercise of 2000, agriculture has nose-dived, reducing Zimbabwe to a basket case from a bread basket due to under utilisation of land and recurring droughts.

The 2020/2021 summer crop has been a success with 2,8 million tonnes of maize expected up from 900 000 tonnes in the 2019/2020 season.

Be that as it may, does it warrant one ministry being manned by four ministers? What is Marapira doing which cannot be done by the incumbents? Even Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is actively involved as head of Food Security and Nutrition Cluster. Hence, the Marapira assignment, in William Shakespeare’s words, is much ado about nothing.

Again, is Marapirai’s appointment not duplicate to that of Joram Gumbo who is Minister of Policy Implementation? Precisely, these are just jobs for the boys!
What is needed to improve the economy and agriculture in particular is sound policies and the political will to implement such. In the 1990s, Zimbabwe was widely touted as Africa’s bread basket and it had one agriculture minister — Dennis Norman.

Bad policies such as restrictions in soya bean and maize sales scare away commercial farmers who don’t want their investment to be locked in the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) delayed payments.

Thus, GMB should be capacitated to pay farmers on time.

Works such as the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project must be implemented to enable the arid region access water for irrigation and boost agriculture.
The Gwayi Shangani, a cornerstone of the MZWP has been on the cards since 1912. The Mnangagwa administration has vowed to make it a success. We have to wait and see.

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