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Research unmasks how Command Agriculture is helping to keep Mnangagwa in power

"CAP has lubricated, cascaded and consolidated a deep patronage and clientele infrastructure across key farming and rural constituencies. It has also secured them for future use in ensuring electoral victory for the ruling Zanu PF party," the ZDI report said.

By Nyashadzashe Ndoro | Nehanda Radio |

A detailed study has exposed how President Emmerson Mnangagwa is maintaining his grip on power through the abuse of the Command Agriculture Programme (CAP) whose proceeds are financing his patronage network while militarising all key sectors of the economy.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa strategically appointed retired Air-Marshal Perrance Shiri to the key post of Agriculture minister so that he supervises the Command Agriculture Programme
President Emmerson Mnangagwa strategically appointed retired Air-Marshal Perrance Shiri to the key post of Agriculture minister so that he supervises the Command Agriculture Programme

In a research paper compiled the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) titled: Command Agriculture: Post Mugabe Authoritarian Consolidation, Mnangagwa strategically appointed retired Air-Marshal Perence Shiri to the key post of Agriculture minister so that he supervises the CAP.

The ZDI paper maintains that, among other things, proceeds from the CAP have become a cash-cow, benefiting Mnangagwa’s patronage system, in villagers in far-flung remote villages.

“The ZANU PF government has put in place many programmes and projects in agriculture which are laden with interests to capture this economic sector.

“For instance, the Fast Track Land Reform Programme of 2001 and Operation Taguta/Sisuthi in 2005 which were highly militarised in their implementation, saw securocrats (retired or serving) and elements in Zanu PF enjoy spoils in the form of multiple-farm ownership, government agriculture inputs and subsidies, and the creation of ‘command electorates’ to vote for Zanu PF among those given plots, courtesy to the Zanu PF securocrats,” the report also notes.

In doing so, Mnangagwa has reportedly managed to consolidate his grip on power.

“CAP has lubricated, cascaded and consolidated a deep patronage and clientele infrastructure across key farming and rural constituencies. It has also secured them for future use in ensuring electoral victory for the ruling Zanu PF party,” the ZDI report said.

President Mnangagwa consoles Mr Kudakwashe Tagwirei while flanked by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga before the burial of the businessman's father, Sekuru Phineas Tagwirei, in Shurugwi yesterday. - (Picture by John Manzongo)
President Mnangagwa consoles Mr Kudakwashe Tagwirei while flanked by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga before the burial of the businessman’s father, Sekuru Phineas Tagwirei, in Shurugwi in 2018. – (Picture by John Manzongo)

In addition, the research paper revealed some of the irregularities that came with implementation of the CAP, still especially controlled by Mnangagwa himself, through “surrogates” such as Agriculture minister, Shiri.

According to the report, the militarisation of the sector as well as abuse of government resources to favour political sidekicks culminated in the CAP severely falling short of achieving the programme’s laid objectives of improving food security, production and employment.

To the contrary, Zimbabwe reportedly slid further into the abyss of severe food deficits in the years following, in the process losing its “breadbasket” status in Africa.

“In 2019, Zimbabwe experienced a 60% decrease in average household cereal stocks compared to 2018.

“In 2018, 28% of the population was classified as food insecure and this number increased to 39% in 2019.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa
President Emmerson Mnangagwa

“In 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed retired Air-Marshal Perrance Shiri (former commander of the notorious 5 Brigade) Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Land Resettlement responsible for the implementation of the Rural CAP.

“This move has been seen as a deliberate act of retiring army bosses for the purpose of covertly deploying them in the military-capture of the economy,” noted the research paper.

Shiri used to chair the Agriculture Committee in charge of Command Agriculture way before being promoted to the post of Agriculture minister.

Unfortunately, Shiri’s appointment to a ministerial post coincided with a sharp rise in the abuse of government resources and other human rights-related violations.

“Many challenges and controversies have arisen in the sector, thereafter.

“Reports of abuse of government fuel, government agriculture inputs and marginalisation of other players and related human rights abuses have been on the rise.

“Zimbabwe’s domestic debt has ballooned by $3 billion in the last three years, largely because of the billions (of dollars) that have been poured into Command Agriculture through Treasury Bills as farmers have failed to repay funds availed under the CAP.

“There is a link between Zimbabwe’s Command Agriculture, Treasury Bills and (the) rising debt stock,” reads the report.

ZDI revealed that the CAP was meant for manipulation by the incumbent to consolidate his grip on power.

“CAP is seen as more of a political project for the ruling elite and securocrats.

“Its main aim is to foster a post-Mugabe authoritarian consolidation and augment State capacities for the same through coercion of rivals, extraction of revenue, registration of citizens and cultivation of dependency.

“The study reveals that the end effect of Command Agriculture will be to render the incumbent government immune from transition pressures and possibilities presented by competitive elections,” the report adds.

About 23 000 of the 50 000 farmers contracted to produce maize under CAP failed to pay back the loans, hence the loss of $3 billion.

Accordingly, the country now needs $300 million to import maize, ZDI revealed.

“Over 45% of the 50 000 farmers contracted to produce maize under Command Agriculture in the 2016/2017 season had not paid back the loans.

“Only a repayment receipts of US$47.4 million in loan recoveries from farmers against an anticipated repayment target of US$72 million was recorded” the paper further notes.

Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti
Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti

The Tendai Biti-led Public Accounts Parliamentary Committee (PAC) alleged that funds amounting to US$3 billion disappeared without trace under the Sakunda Holdings governmental-supervised command agriculture scheme.

Last year, Kudakwashe Tagwirei snubbed attendance at the PAC where he was supposed to submit evidence on the contracts his company got from government on Command Agriculture and the Presidential Input Scheme.

He said he was out of the country on some other business.

ZDI has urged government to remove the military from all Command Agriculture programmes and activities to remove the fear and uncertainty related to it.

The research also recommended government to allow the input scheme to be commercial to prevent transfer of debt accumulated by scrupulous beneficiaries to government.

It also proposed the creation of pricing systems that make maize production profitable and sustainable to the farmer and government to encourage increase in grain deliveries to the GMB while preventing accumulation and/or transfer of debt to government. Nehanda Radio

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