By Andrew Kunambura
The struggling Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has been directed to supply uninterrupted water to Zanu PF bigwigs and top government officials who are participating in the command winter wheat programme even though some of them have outstanding bills.
Lately, the water national authority has been terminating supplies to defaulting customers, among them Zanu PF and government bigwigs who owe the parastatal substantial amounts of money.
Zinwa had been buoyed in its pursuit of delinquent ruling party heavyweights by its line minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who had validated its aggressive debt collection techniques.
The parastatal will now have to go back to the drawing board after the national Command Agriculture taskforce said it should not interfere with listed farmers who are growing winter wheat under the Command Agriculture initiative.
The list is made up of senior Zanu officials, including top civil servants.
The list includes the chairperson of the taskforce, Justin Mupamhanga, who doubles up as the deputy chief secretary to the president and Cabinet.
Mupamhanga, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, will pay $1 020 for the 30 hectares put under winter wheat at his Argyle Park farm at a cost of $34 per megalitre.
The $34 is applicable to all the other beneficiaries as well, who include the taskforce’s deputy chair and Air Force of Zimbabwe chief, Perrance Shiri.
Shiri has put 66 hectares at his Hoperdale Farm under the winter wheat crop, which requires 396 megalitres and is supposed to pay $2 244.
Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and his brothers Tongai and Dickson Mafios have 40 hectares (Cornucopia Farm), 50 hectares and 30 hectares (both Insingizi Farm) respectively. Their collective water requirement for the season is 780 megalitres, costing an aggregate $26 520.
Kasukuwere is Zanu PF’s national political commissar, while Mafios chairs the party’s Mashonaland Central province. Tongai is the national secretary for finance in the Zanu PF youth league.
Deputy head of the commissariat department Omega Hungwe has 60 hectares of land at her Riversdale Farm and requires 360 megalitres.
Other beneficiaries include top State bureaucrats Mariyawanda Nzuwa, Ngoni Masoka and Washington Mbizvo.
Masoka, who is permanent secretary in the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, requires 360 megalitres to irrigate 60 hectares at his Dunmaglass Farm and has already signed a stop-order form which obligates him to pay Zinwa $2 040.
Nzuwa, the Civil Service Commission chairperson, requires 600 megalitres for the 100 hectares put under wheat at Stella farm, located just outside Bindura and will have to pay $3 400.
His counterpart, Mbizvo is asking for 240 megalitres to irrigate 40 hectares under winter wheat at his Nyawata Farm. Zinwa has calculated his water bill at $1 360.
Legislator Remigious Matangira (Bindura South); senior police officer and Innocent Matibiri are some of the major beneficiaries.
The majority of the farmers are along the Mazowe catchment area.
Insiders at Zinwa, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said they had expressed disquiet over the fact that most of the bigwigs listed by Mupamhanga already owe the authority huge sums of money from previous farming seasons and are not even adhering to payment arrangements that would have been negotiated.
Zinwa has been unwilling to make further water allocations unless the farmers clear their arrears or negotiate payment terms. The major bone of contention has been that while the farmers are getting all the other inputs from government under the programme on credit, water has not been considered a key input in their operations which should also be paid for in advance as government is doing with the suppliers of other critical inputs such as seed, fertiliser and chemicals, paid for from the Command Agriculture funds.
But government has maintained that farmers should pay for the water individually even when it is clear that some of them just do not want to honour their bills.
Zinwa insiders said Zanu PF bigwigs had used their influence in government to direct the parastatal to give uninterrupted water suppliers to the farmers under the guise that they feared that the winter crop could go to waste due to non availability of power.
Following Mupamhanga’s intervention, the parties have made a compromise agreement whereby Zinwa would deduct its dues through a stop-order facility upon farmers delivering their crop to Grain Marketing Body (GMB).
Zinwa’s corporate communications manager, Marjorie Munyonga, confirmed the development saying water had been recognised as a key input “just like any other input under the Command Agriculture programme”.
“The agreement is that farmers who have planted wheat under the Command Agriculture programme will pay for their water through a stop-order facility that will be administered through GMB. Zinwa will provide water to the farmers in advance and then collect money when the farmers sell their produce,” she said.
She said Zinwa was currently in the process of compiling the names of the farmers who are supposed to sign stop-order forms from other catchment areas.
“The stop-order forms are then submitted to GMB through the local Command A griculture structures in the districts and provinces,” she said.
However, fears are that with most farmers unable to meet the May 1 deadline, which saw government revising the target hectarage by 70 percent from 61 000 to 43 000, farmers may fail to produce enough wheat to be able to pay the water bills and remain with something.
Late planting results in poorer harvests, which means farmers could fail to reach the average 3,5 to 4 tonnes per hectare, with GMB maintaining the $500 per tonne producer price.
The situation is further compounded by the fact that farmers still have to off-set costs of input through produce.
Munyonga said Zinwa would still pursue what it is owed by farmers regardless of output.
“The authority reiterates that it is a criminal offence under the Water Act for anyone to use water for purposes other than primary purposes without the relevant water abstraction agreement, which compels farmers to pay for the water they consume,” she said. Daily News