AGRICULTURE minister Joseph Made came under fire in Parliament on Thursday after the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture presented a report outlining the rot at Cold Storage Company (CSC) and Arda — two parastatals under his purview.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
MPs across the political divide questioned why the key two institutions had virtually collapsed under Made’s watch.
According to the report presented in the National Assembly by chairperson of the committee Christopher Chitindi, CSC has been operating at less than 10% capacity since 2009.
The report noted that out of about 77 000 national slaughters done in the first quarter of 2015, CSC only accounted for 5 000 beasts.
“Currently, the company has a total national heard of 792 cattle. The company’s dismal performance is attributed to a number of factors, the major one being lack of capital.
“CSC posted a loss of $1,3 million in the first quarter of 2015 and owes over $28m to its creditors, mainly to public utilities such as Zesa,” Chitindi said.
“Employees are owed about $3,5m for wages and the company has had some of its assets attached by employees over outstanding wages.
“The company is paying its salaries and other expenses from revenue generated from leasing some of its properties. It has been unable to borrow from local financial institutions due to the high interest rates and short-term financing facilities.”
The committee visited some of Arda’s 21 estates, namely Sanyati and Nijo in Harare, where MPs came face-to-face with the sorry state of infrastructure and machinery dilapidation.
“The committee noted with concern that there was no visible security at the premises and most of the machinery and equipment at the farms was being vandalised, such as centre pivots, irrigation pumps and transformers,” Chitindi said.
“It was evident that there was gross negligence and undue care over government assets.”
The committee observed that while the board and management of CSC were keen on revamping the operations of the company, there was no commitment by the government, resulting in deals with investors collapsing.
“There is lack of collective responsibility between the board and parent ministry. The minister [Made] is supposed to give policy direction in line with section 31 (1) of the Cold Storage Commission Act, but there has never been a meeting between the minister and the board since 2011,” the committee said.
It said government should ensure there was adequate security at Arda estates to avoid vandalism and theft of assets.
MPs had no kind words for Made, with Binga North MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC-T) saying the minister had failed the nation.
“Made has got special qualifications that are not found here in Parliament. Those special qualifications should be reflected in the performance of CSC and Arda,” Sibanda said.
“What we are seeing is the opposite, such that one would say it would have been better if the president had simply come into Parliament, appointed a farmer who is an MP to go and run that ministry, otherwise things would have been going on very well than what is happening.”
He added: “I believe that this Parliament should make him come and explain not only to Parliament, but to the nation, why he has neglected CSC and Arda by not supervising them in the manner the committee has reflected. Made has to come and explain why he is failing to do what he is supposed to do.”
Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) said Parliament must show its teeth on non-performing ministers.
“We need to come to a point where when a parastatal is not performing, we give specific timelines to the minister to execute certain things. If they fail within those timelines, Parliament must have teeth not just to bark, but to bite, if we are to save institutions in this country,” Chamisa said.
Chiredzi South MP Callisto Gwanetsa (Zanu PF) said it was sad that government estates were underutilised when hunger was stalking Zimbabweans.
“We are acquiring combine harvesters, tractors and many other agricultural equipment, but unashamedly, we are taking it to waste. We are a shame, a disaster,” he said.
Mazowe South MP Fortune Chasi (Zanu PF) also criticised the government for allowing the two institutions to collapse.
“I do not know whether Parliament must actually descend into the arena and go and run these institutions,” he said.
“How does government know what is happening if there is no interaction with the board? The ministry must take active interest in the parastatals that operate under it.
“The level of depreciation of government property that we are seeing in the pictures here [shown in Parliament] is unprecedented.”