The government was left scurrying for cover last week after this paper exposed the lies being peddled around the controversial command agriculture scheme and the potential prejudice tax payers will suffer as a result of wasteful expenditure.
Comment: The Standard Editor
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been touring irrigation schemes across the country proclaiming the programme a resounding success even before a routine crop assessment is carried out.
The visits, coupled with the stupendous propaganda being peddled by the state-controlled media about the programme being overseen by the VP, raises suspicion that a cover up of scandalous policy failures and even corruption is underway.
There is a desperate attempt to ride on the good rain season and the anticipated good harvest to claim that command agriculture has been a success.
A report by the Auditor-General released recently revealed that irrigation schemes that were supposed to anchor this Stalinist project were in shambles and worse still, there were reports of inputs meant for command agriculture being looted by the usual suspects.
Zimbabweans must brace for another scandal similar to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s ill-fated farm mechanisation scheme where Zanu PF looted equipment meant to revive agriculture and left the central bank saddled with over a billion dollars in debt.
Eventually long-suffering citizens were made to pay for the equipment that was given only to Zanu PF acolytes after the government took over the RBZ debt.
According to reports in the state-controlled media, the government claimed that it was spending as much as $500 million on command agriculture, which targeted 400 000 ha for this cropping season.
However, after this paper revealed last week that less than 200 000 ha of land had been put under maize production, there was a huge climbdown by government. Those questioning the figures were vilified.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made claimed only $190 million had been used to plant 160 000 ha of maize but he did not tell us when the targets were revised.
The government muddied debate over the success of the scheme by trying to link it to Zanu PF factionalism, pointing out Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo’s criticism of command agriculture.
Moyo has been sceptical about claims that this season’s bumper harvest has to be attributed to command agriculture and he is right to do so because accountability is a key facet of good governance.
The media cannot just swallow hook, line and sinker claims that a programme has been a success without doing its independent verification.
Journalism is about asking questions, verifying facts and bringing officials to account. Anything else is propaganda.
This is why we found information minister Christopher Mushohwe’s sermon to editors on Friday a bit disconcerting.
He lashed out at journalists for criticising command agriculture and not celebrating the anticipated bumper harvest. The duty of journalists is to scrutinise government programmes and be a watchdog against potential abuse.
It would be gross dereliction of duty for journalists to look the other way when serious questions are being raised about the alleged abuse of inputs and general corruption in the implementation of the scheme.
Patriotism does not entail looking the other side when those who are well-connected abuse state resources and government programmes are used to advance factional interests.
Only a credible audit would set the record straight and not fanciful propaganda.