Why agriculture strategy will flop

Ministry ofLands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary John Basera

IN the past few weeks, the Zimbabwe Independent has exposed shocking levels of transgressions by authorities.

They act as they please because they know that no one will hold them to account. But in a landmark ruling a fortnight ago, the High Court directed authorities to return 127 carats of diamonds to Vast Resources, after clinging onto the parcel for 13 years.

The problem with powerful figures in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is that they think they can brazenly violate rules and take anything they want. They have inflicted serious damage to Zimbabwe’s image. But publicly, they are the same people mounting campaigns to convince investors that Zimbabwe respects property rights. This culture began during the mayhem that characterised company expropriations a decade ago. It is being perpetuated and passed on to the next generation of public servants, with disastrous consequences. Investors are shying way, millions of unemployed people are roaming the streets, and a devastating economic crisis that exploded 23 years ago is deepening.

Why authorities clung to diamonds lodged with the central bank in good faith baffles the mind. But it is important to note that the judiciary is waking up — it is beginning to see the underlying factors behind waves of capital flight and taking action.

The central bank three weeks ago backtracked on incremental export incentives promised to firms listing on Victoria Falls Stock Exchange just over a year ago — slashing them from between 80% to 75%. Investors know Harare’s attitude towards them. They will not speak publicly, but they are all in pain. The RBZ’s action further demonstrates Zimbabwe’s appetite to deceive investors by shifting and changing laws and policies for its own gain.

There appears to be no room for attitude change. In Victoria Falls, the town clerk directed an employer of over 700 workers to move out of a strategic piece of land for leisure operations and make way for a ruling party linked gold baron. The firm holds a lease running until 2029. His bosses told the Independent last week that they had nothing to do with his shocking show of unbridled power. Shockingly, they have failed to hold him to account. A mafia boss with a US$5 million prize on his head is living large in Harare. Protecting criminals has been condemned in diplomatic and investment circles worldwide. It pushes away investors due to threats associated with money laundering and terrorism.

In the middle of all this, progressive civil servants like John Basera, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary are working around the clock to rebuild a shattered sector. His ministry has attracted US$2 billion to revamp irrigation systems in three years.

Still, the ministry needs many more billions, given the state of national infrastructure.

But with many in Mnangagwa’s administration busy throwing spanners into the works, it will not be an easy walk in the park for the ministry. Delinquent behaviour must be punished first, if higher levels of foreign direct investment is to flow into Zimbabwe.

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