Command Agriculture compounds State capture

The announcement by the head of the Air Force of Zimbabwe that Command Agriculture will continue, concerns the MDC Alliance.

By Jacob Mafume ,MDC national spokesperson

The announcement was made through an extra-legal institution with no such mandate; addition of de-facto responsibilities to the military is not only a violation of the Constitution, but compromises any efforts at institutional reform in Zimbabwe. We are also concerned with the implementation of the scheme through murky institutions, which will not be accountable to the people of Zimbabwe through Parliament.

State control of economic and social matters as an approach is a failed and archaic model, which chokes creativity and stinks of rent-seeking interests. As a model, it is also opposite and contradictory to the so-called “open for business” slogan which, of course, is already suffering from lack of a supporting plan.

The MDC Alliance is fully conscious of the background of Command Agriculture, it started off as a factional project, driven by the Lacoste frontman Emmerson Mnangagwa. It was clear then, as it is now, that it is a version of State capture in Zimbabwe.

The cancer reached unacceptable levels, with over $250 million spent on the project: the MDC Alliance refers to official figures released by the Treasury in its latest fiscal statement. It is clear from the statement that Command Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of the ballooning national debt. It is, therefore, shocking to learn of its continuation even before the 2019 budget is presented.

We take this opportunity to remind those driving the programme that it is only Parliament which must approve appropriation laws. Any announcement from powerful oligarchs is undue influence on parliamentarians and compromises the right to representation for the people of Zimbabwe.

The MDC Alliance is aware that the 2017 version of Command Agriculture was implemented in collaboration with Sakunda Holdings representing the interests of Trafigura. There is a likelihood that as State capture continues, the same culprits will enter into another murky agreement with government.

The Agriculture ministry will remain bystanders, while the military will be at the core of its implementation against the dictates of the Constitution.

Government runs a budget through the consolidated revenue fund, from which all legitimate activities of the State must draw resources.

Our biggest concern is that the financing of Command Agriculture is done parallel to the legal framework of the consolidated revenue fund, of which oversight is in the hands of the people of Zimbabwe through their elected representatives in Parliament.

Command Agriculture eliminates the role of Public Accounts Committee and the Budget Committee, which are important committees in respect of expending tax payers’ money.

The bypassing of these committees is the reason why the Auditor-General’s report revealed a plethora of irregularities.

The terms and conditions of the loan extended by Sakunda Holdings are, up to now, unknown. The interest rates are obscure and the time frames a mystery. With this backlog of problems, the people of Zimbabwe cannot be taken for a ride by allowing an extension.

Under normal circumstances, institutions set out by the Constitution to combat corruption must come into action. It is apparent that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is also a captured institution, which ironically turns a blind eye to the massive rot within the State.

The MDC Alliance will deal with this issue in Parliament and in the streets. The time for games is coming to an end. Zimbabweans must come on board; collectively we can stop the rot.