By Farayi Machamire
Parliament has blasted Sakunda Holdings (Sakunda) for attempting to unduly influence the portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement from investigating Command Agriculture financing and belittling the legislature’s oversight role.
This comes after Sakunda attempted to have the portfolio committee back off from its probe saying it must await the outcome of a soon-to-be-conducted audit by the Finance ministry covering all Command Agriculture activities.
The portfolio committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the financing of the Command Agriculture programme.
Government engaged Sakunda Holdings to bankroll Command Agriculture after realising that commercial banks were not lending to farmers.
This comes amid opposition complaints that the financing by Sakunda is being done parallel to the legal framework of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for which oversight is in the hands of the people of Zimbabwe through their elected representatives in Parliament.
Sakunda had been miffed by a letter written by Parliament to Poitre (Pvt) Ltd requesting that the company submit various documents to the portfolio committee which include the company’s contract with Sakunda, bank statements back dating to December 2016 and proof of purchase of inputs and equipment.
The request did not sit well with Sakunda who took it upon themselves “to call Parliament to order.”
Sakunda wrote a letter to Parliament calling for the recusal of the Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement portfolio committee chairperson Justice Mayor Wadyajena alleging he was unable to fairly adjudicate over the matter as he was conflicted and was “using his position to fight personal wars.”
The conflict, Sakunda alleged, arises from the fact that Sakunda Holdings is currently engaged in a number of legal cases against Wadyajena.
Sakunda also insinuated that “someone” in the Wadyajena-headed committee unethically accessed its bank account records in a bid to tie Sakunda to Poitre Pvt Ltd.
Wrote Sakunda: “Poitre (Pvt) Ltd, upon receiving this letter, approached Sakunda for clarification as they have not had any dealings with respect to Command Agriculture. It is for this reason that we believe it is necessary that Sakunda provides a response.
“Before we provide clarification on some of the matters referred in your letter, as Sakunda Holdings we would like to register our complaint, distress and discontent as to the matter in which the portfolio committee appears to be conducting its business with regards to the Command Agriculture programme and in particular Sakunda Holdings’ operations with respect to the same.”
The letter was met with disgust by Parliament which poured scorn on Sakunda for taking it upon itself to reply to a letter that was not addressed to it in the first place but to Poitre (Pvt) Ltd.
Clerk of Parliament Misheck Chokuda insisted the inquiry would go on despite a parallel inquiry being conducted by the Finance ministry, reminding Sakunda to respect the doctrine of separation of powers as expounded in the Constitution.
Chokuda said allegations that someone had sight of Sakunda Holdings’ bank statements were unfounded and called on the integrated energy supplier to provide collaborative evidence to substantiate the allegation which remained “mere conjecture or a calculated attempt to stampede the committee from undertaking its work.”
“If as you aver in your letter, Poitre (Pvt) Ltd had nothing to do with the Command Agriculture Scheme, they should have simply stated in their response to Parliament rather than approach yourselves,” Chokuda said in the missive.
“Firstly, it is our considered view that there is no legal basis for requesting the recusal of Wadyajena from presiding over the inquiry by the committee. In the first instance, the allegation that Wadyajena is conflicted on the basis of the High Court cases you cited does not appear to hold water in the absence of any information that evidently demonstrates that the cited cases are related in any form or manner to the Command Agriculture Scheme. Unless, of course, you can prove otherwise, this remains mere conjecture.
“Additionally, I must bring it to your attention that the decision to conduct an inquiry into the financing of the Command Agriculture Scheme is as a result of a resolution of the entire committee and not Wadyajena alone.
“In fact, Wadyajena was appointed as chairperson of the committee on December 20, 2017 by which time the committee’s work plan had already been adopted under a different chairperson and the enquiry in question had already commenced.
“Wadyajena, therefore, is simply leading a process that was agreed to by the committee prior to his appointment as a chairperson. Given this background, you must respectfully disagree with the allegation that his continued participation in these matters will taint work and effort of the committee and that of Parliament itself. On the other hand, it is your unsubstantial allegations and insinuations that border on tainting and belittling the role of the committee.”
Chokuda reminded Sakunda that Parliament enjoys constitutional supremacy in the legislative function as well as in providing oversight on the executive and all institutions and agencies of government at every level.
“Therefore your suggestion that Parliament suspends its inquiry to allow the Finance ministry to conduct an audit of Command Agriculture activities, fails to recognise the primacy of doctrine of separation of power…
“Any attempt to direct when and how Parliament should conduct its constitutionally-mandated functions can be perceived, regrettably, as undue interference in the independence of Parliament,” Chokuda said in his letter.
He insisted that the committee will proceed with its inquiry “hopefully without undue encumbrance” and remained hopeful that Poitre (Pvt) ltd “would respond to the issues raised by the committee.”
“And you will desist from responding to or involving yourselves in matters that are not directed to you. If, during the course of its enquiry, the committee deems it prudent to request Sakunda Holdings’ input, we will write to you in that regard.” DailyNews