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Sakunda’s USD$3 billion Command Agriculture saga takes a new twist

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Sakunda Fuel Station

Sakunda’s USD$3 billion Command Agriculture saga takes a new twist. The government says $900 million has been paid to Sakunda for command agriculture since the inception of the programme in 2016. The revelation comes at a time when the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts chaired by MDC Vice President Tendai Biti has been obsessed with payment made to Sakunda by the government which it claims to be around $3 billion.

Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Permanent Secretary, George Guvamatanga made it clear on an online interview that only $900 million was paid to Sakunda for command agriculture programme since its inception. “Under my watch, I came in when there was an outstanding amount to Sakunda of
$170 million which I signed off.

The total for command wheat, maize, and soya since its inception 2016 to the 2018-2019 agricultural season, only $900 million has been paid. For people to come here and brand this programme with figures around $1 billion $2 billion and $3 billion being thrown around, I don’t know where they get these numbers. Since its inception, not more than $1 billion has been disbursed towards the traditional command agriculture,” said Guvamatanga.

Mr. Guvamatanga also indicated that farmers have made efforts towards repayment of the command agriculture funds. “I have been looking at the numbers of the repayment for 2018-2019 agricultural
season, we have received around $105-120 million repayments which is around 20-25 percent of the total money disbursed. And as a banker 25 percent is good enough, it’s better than nothing. It’s not a free
scheme,” he said.

Besides command agriculture, the government has been working on other programmes to uplift the standards of the citizens through the unveiling of free inputs. “We have the vulnerable input scheme
which is different from command agriculture since in command agriculture one has to repay, and this one we are targeting those in deep rural areas and the programme commenced in 2016 with only $600 million having been spent. This year we have contracted around $200 million,” he said.

On why Sakunda has been mentioned on several occasions as part of all agricultural programmes, Permanent Secretary Guvatanga said Sakunda was never involved in the presidential inputs scheme but the programme was contracted to three different companies. “There is no single supplier in these
programmes, we have issues currently with a number of suppliers.

Kuda Tagwireyi and Emmerson Mnangagwa

As a government we promised in 2016 that we will provide enough foreign currency to these suppliers but we never provide enough foreign currency. We do have issues for various players, what We call it legacy debt but I prefer to call it unsettled foreign obligations and we have that with Sakunda and devise a mechanism to ensure they are settled, we only provided the local currency but we failed on foreign currency.

The issue with Sakunda became more urgent because partners involved supply fuel and inputs, so they
came to say they will not be able to supply those requirements hence coming up with measures to bridge that gap as we finalise the legacy debt issue,” he explained. The permanent secretary also noted that
the traditional command agriculture is gone as the government has adopted smart agriculture where the private sector has been called in to finance agriculture.

“We are working with CBZ, Stanbic, Agribank and other financial institutions which have come on board after realising that it’s a working formula. With our partners have disbursed money, we have a billion dollars already disbursed so far with government finalising the guarantee,” he said. Sakunda came under attack by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts as claims were rampant that they got $3 billion since the inception of Command agriculture and the United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols also took that as a fact yet it was a misleading figure.

Only $900 million was paid under command agriculture for the past three seasons.

Source – ZBC News

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