Zimbabwe: Command Agriculture Misleading Info Slammed

Analysts have criticised efforts by Zimbabwe’s detractors to discredit Command Agriculture in a bid to engineer failure in the country’s agricultural production and thereby resulting in food insecurity.

These efforts by the hecklers have been evident in a latest report by a United States based organisation calling itself The Sentry, which revealed confusion through peddling false financial figures with regards to what Sakunda Holdings received for its role in ensuring the success of Command Agriculture Programme.

At first, Zimbabweans were told by these detractors that Sakunda received US$6 billion for Command Agriculture, but within a few months they reduced the figure to US$3 billion. A few weeks ago, the figure had declined to roughly US$1,3 billion, but now they are touting it as US$90 million.

A group of anti-Zimbabwe politicians and NGO-funded “investigators” claimed these varying figures were “looted” by Sakunda Holdings through its participation in the successful Command Agriculture from 2016 to 2019.

Urged on by ex-legislator, Mr Tendai Biti ,and financed by shadowy donors who have never hidden their desire for illegal regime change in Zimbabwe, the accusers used these unsubstantiated claims to get the United Kingdom and the United States to impose sanctions on Sakunda Holdings and its chief executive, Mr Kudakwashe Tagwirei.

At the forefront of seeking to legitimise Mr Biti’s false claims has been The Sentry and, locally, the NewsHawks, which are allegedly funded by avowed pro-opposition activist Mr George Soros.

Over the past few years, The Sentry and Mr Biti have repeatedly alleged a corrupt link between the Government of Zimbabwe and Sakunda — but the amount of money allegedly looted has been declining by billions.

Political analyst Mr Fanuel Murozvi said the amount of falsehoods with regard to Command Agriculture was shocking.

“Over the past years, the figure has been shrinking and it’s shocking it has now come down to US$90 million from US$6 billion, according to the so-called The Sentry’s latest report published on March 17, 2022,” he said.

“What has happened that the figure has gone down by nearly US$5,9 billion? It is clear they are failing to substantiate their billion-dollar claims.

“The somersault might also be related to the March 3, 2022 report by the opposition-chaired Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, which found that Sakunda fully accounted for its participation in the Special Maize Import Substitution Programme (Command Agriculture).

“The varying figures simply show the world that these anti-Government politicians and institutions have no case against Government and Sakunda Holdings. It won’t be surprising to see the figure at US$1 million in the coming months.”

Another observer, Mr Nkosilathi Moyo, said after browsing The Sentry’s latest allegations: “Biti fed the West a lie, and now everyone is trying extra hard to try and squeeze some truth out of that lie.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to one day read a report from these guys saying though they can’t point to any money being stolen, they just do not like to see a company owned by a black Zimbabwean actually doing good work for a government run by black Zimbabweans.”

According to the report produced by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, total payments to Sakunda for 2017 was US$378,739,319.75 and for 2018 it was US$235,954,143.85. The committee pointed out that several other companies had also benefited from Special Cabinet Authority to participate in improving agriculture.

“Total payments in 2017 and 2018 for Presidential Scheme is $573,392,887.33 (paid to FSG — $ 392,853,180.22; Quton – $19,753,638.00; Pedstock – $7,538,441.69; Cottco – $30,898,812.65; Sakunda $51,205,481.25; Sable Chemicals — $4,900,00; Seedco – $40,150,000.00; Valley Seeds — $8,700,000; Windmill — $17,800,000; and ZFC — $17,750,000.),” the committee said.

The contracts were facilitated by Special Cabinet Authority and thus were not subjected to public tendering processes.

The Government uses Special Cabinet Authority in exigent circumstances, such as guaranteeing food security through initiatives like Command Agriculture.

The Sentry, Mr Biti and the pro-sanctions lobby have tried to claim that issuance of Treasury Bills to Sakunda as security for its participation in Command Agriculture was riddled with corruption.

However, the Public Accounts Committee noted that Government issued Treasury Bills to at least 10 companies contracted for Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme. A Treasury Bill is a negotiable debt instrument issued by the Government through the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

Notably, the committee said issuance of Treasury Bills to Sakunda was above board.

“According to the RBZ, Sakunda was paid $ 429,944,801 in 2017 and $233,937,461 in 2018 which comes to a total of $663,882,262.00 (in Treasury Bills),” the committee noted.

For companies like FSG, Valley Seeds and ZFC, among others, participating in the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme targeting smallholders, Treasury Bills totalling “$258,362,845 (were) paid to suppliers in 2017 and $263,824,560.69 was paid in 2018”.

The Public Accounts Committee added that, “Treasury Bills were properly issued to Sakunda Holdings.”

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