Zimbabweans line up to vote on a new constitution for the Southern African state. The voting went off smoothly and peacefully on March 16, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Secret behind Zanu-PF’s victory
August 29, 2013 Opinion & Analysis
Emilia Zindi Agriculture Editor
THERE is no doubt that the resounding victory by the revolutionary party, Zanu-PF, in the just-ended harmonised elections has brought a sigh of relief to the agriculture sector which has been facing challenges during the last five years under Government of National Unity. Zanu-PF, which freed the land by embarking on the land reform programme, found it difficult to fully support the key sector of the economy as those it went into partnership with made sure all people-oriented programmes initiated by the revolutionary party failed, fearing their success would give credit to
Zanu-PF, especially as the country faced the so-called watershed elections.
If anything, all these other partners wanted was a situation where Zanu-PF’s programmes collapsed during the five-year period of inclusivity in order for them to come up with their own whose origins were from their Western masters.
But as the saying goes, “You cannot pull a good man down”, all these ambitions by the parties in the inclusive Government that were dead and buried on July 31 when Zanu-PF First Secretary and Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde Robert Mugabe, trounced his main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, with 61 percent of the 3,5 million votes cast in the presidential poll and the landslide win Parliament by the revolutionary party which garnered 160 seats out of the 210.
It goes without say that the resounding victory of Zanu-PF which the MDC-T had not anticipated perhaps because of assurances they had been given by their Western masters or fooled by the crowds that attended its rallies prior to the July 31 elections, came as a shocker when results were announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
What Mr Tsvangirai failed to realise was that during these rallies, he actually instilled fear among the electorate as he went on issuing threats that once he gets into office he was going to deal with them for having embraced Zanu-PF programmes that included the land reform as well as the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment programmes.
As he clearly stated at one such gathering at Gokwe Nembudziya where he said he was going to make sure one beneficiary of the indigenisation programme who was also Zanu-PF candidate for the National Assembly, Cde Mayor, would be sent to Chikurubi Maximum Prison as he had become rich at a tender age.
“Where did such a young man get the money from? I will make sure he goes to Chikurubi because he stole from the people,’’ Mr Tsvangirai told the crowd which was equally shocked by his utterance as they were all aware that Cde Mayor, being a youth from Gokwe-Nembudziya, was one out of many who had benefited under the indigenisation programme with thousands of others waiting to do the same.
Cde Mayor, who had set an example of how good the programme was, had long embarked on implementing developmental projects in the constituency using his income from the businesses he runs after being empowered.
Among the programmes which benefit the locals was the reconstruction of collapsed school buildings, dams as well as road projects which were there for all to see.
Another shocker from Mr Tsvangirai was when he addressed a crowd in Chegutu labelling farmers who benefited under the land reform programme as “mushrooms” saying that he would make sure all these people were removed and taken back to where they came from.
“Ivo vanonzi mafarmers acho, munongomera pese pese sehova. The so-called farmers are resettled all over just like mushrooms),’’ he said again to amusement of the voters who most of them got pieces of land under the revolutionary party which embarked on the noble cause and was again its campaigning message to the electorate which saw for itself how Zanu-PF had indeed initiated people-oriented programmes.
When such threats got to the hundreds of thousands of people who got land under Zanu-PF, surely it should not have come as a shocker to Mr Tsvangirai when on July 31 he lost heavily to President Mugabe because no one in his or her normal senses would have voted for someone threatening to dispossess them the land they so much cherish given the improvement in their livelihoods through farming.
In its manifesto which won the hearts of the electorate, Zanu-PF clearly stated that one of its achievements whose benefits had become self-evident and widespread with far reaching positive implications over the next five years was the indigenisation of land and the empowerment of newly resettled farmers. with far-reaching positive implications over the next five years was the indigenisation of land and the empowerment of newly resettled farmers.
While this resettlement programme started way back in the 1980s, it gained revolutionary momentum during the Third Chimurenga which saw 276 620 indigenous households taking full ownership of 12 117 000 hectares, representing 31 percent of prime agricultural land previously controlled by some 3 500 white minority colonial settlers.
The beneficiaries of the Third Chimurenga were both A1 and A2 with more than four million hectares being distributed to A1 farmers while 3,5 million hectares went to A2 farmers. Other categories that got land are communal occupying a total of 16 400 000 hectares, with A1 having occupied 4 137,000 hectares by 2013 and A2 with 3 497 000 hectares respectively.
The redistribution of land by the revolutionary party has also created an impact as it did not segregate with the youths, war veterans, women as well as others who wanted land being allocated pieces of the precious resource.
It cannot be denied therefore that agriculture sector which has seen different categories of farmers emerge under the land reform programme has also been singled out as a major driving force towards the growth of the economy.
Even those who were partners in the inclusive Government admitted that the sector’s key role could not be ignored in its contributions to the growth of the economy even after the implementation of the land reform programme.
In one of the fiscal policies presented by the outgoing Minister of Finance, MDC-T’s Tendai Biti, he clearly acknowledged that Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development worked tirelessly to restore the sector’s role as the backbone of the economy when it registered 14 percent growth during the 2010-12 season.
He even acknowledged that the newly resettled farmers would rise to the occasion by contributing to local livelihoods, national food security and broader economic development once they get the support they required.
Surprisingly, it was his party that went on mocking the resettled farmers during its leader’s campaigning rallies ahead of the July 31 polls calling the same indigenous farmers “makangomera pesepese sehova” (you were resettled all over as mushrooms).
Despite Mr Tsvangirai’s negative perception of the indigenous farmers growth in the economy continued to be realised even under the harsh economic conditions created by the imposition of the illegal sanctions by the West.
Contrary to Mr Tsvangirai’s utterances a 5,8 percent growth of the economy was registered in 2009, while 2010 registered again an upward growth of the economy by 8,1 and an estimated 9,3 percent growth in 2011 respectively, all this being attributed mainly to the strong performance of the agriculture sector.
Such growth is a clear sign that agriculture occupies a central place in Zimbabwe’s economy and as such need a robust approach to revive it to the fullest.
Of particular interest in the land reform programme is the emergence of new A1 and A2 and communal farmers who are now growing and selling tobacco which was once a whites only grown crop prior to the redistribution of land exercise.
It is a fact that tobacco then was exclusively grown by some 1 547 white settler colonial farmers. But since then a total of 25 610 communal farmers, 26 069 A1 new farmers, 3 372 new A2 farmers and 4 994 small-scale commercial farmers have taken over to growing the golden leaf.
Therefore, the romping to victory by Zanu- PF which many have welcomed has given high hopes to the farmers who have been labelled “mushrooms”.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said aspirations of the farmers were thus many after the resounding victory of the revolutionary party although the major ones were already in the public domain.
“Our party is aware of the hurdles we faced under the inclusive Government as farmers. We did not retreat or surrender as opposed to what the enemy of the land reform programme wanted to see happen. We were squeezed from right, left and centre so that we give up the farms.
But we knew who the devil was behind all these hurdles and as such we soldiered on as we knew very well that after five years of this inclusivity we were heading for an election that was to bring back the revolutionary party in total control so that it reignites its programmes and ideologies that are people-oriented,’’ said Mr Chabikwa.
He said from 2009 when the GNU came into being, production on the farms was a nightmare. Farmers were expected to source their own funds for inputs procurement. The little funds that were availed for borrowing were subject to high interest rates so much that as of July 31 2013, almost every indigenous farmer was heavily indebted.
“As I speak to you now, our members have been visiting our offices pleading with us as their representatives to put forward proposals to Zanu-PF as to how farmers can be assisted under the heavy debts they are in which were as a result of the high interest rates charged on the money they borrowed to sustain their farming operations during the last five years of inclusivity. It is as if this period was just to make sure farmers become heavily indebted so that they lose their assets along the way. This has been the most difficult period of farming in the history of this country,’’ said Mr Chabikwa.
He said his organisation gave a pat on the backs of those farmers that remained resilient on the farms despite the setbacks.
While the farmers faced operational challenges, service providers such as utility companies, water entities as well as local authorities in whose jurisdiction the land is could not spare farmers either.
“It is during this period we saw farmers losing property to such service providers as they could not pay for the estimated power and water charges. Local authorities also came in big time demanding hefty land taxies which saw farmers losing farm equipment that include tractors, ploughs, harrows, irrigation equipment as they were seized. It is as if this period was put into place to make sure destruction of the new farmers is achieved,’’ he said.
Mr Chabikwa said with Zanu PF victory, everyone in the sector was looking forward to the resuscitation of farm operations as priority number one. There is no doubt that Zanu PF which before the inclusive arrangement brought about full support of the sector could do the same from now onwards.
“We are looking forward to the re-introduction of the farm mechanisation programme because the last ones did not benefit every farmer. We are also looking forward to the re-introduction of input subsidies which is the case the world over.
The cost of production must also go down as was the case prior to this GNU arrangement as this is the only way famers can be able to feed the nation as well as increase our exports and regain our status as the bread basket of Southern Africa,’’ he said.
The issue of reviving irrigation schemes should also be taken into consideration as a priority as climate change takes its toll. Most of the irrigation schemes were non functional with those infrastructure in dire need of rehabilitation.
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe President and incoming Zanu PF Member of Parliament for Hurungwe West Mr Temba Mliswa said the importation of food should now be a thing of the past with Zanu PF government in power.
He said priority number one should be the availing of subsidies in inputs as well as cheap finances for farmers to borrow. As of now farmers were heavily indebted due to expensive finances they accessed whose interest rates were beyond the reach of many.
“We expect a single digit interest rate on farming loans. Those loans accessed in the last five years whose interest rates were between 18 and 23 percent should be revised because no one is able to pay back such expensive funds,’’ he said.
Mr Mliswa said there was also need to recapitalise the Grain Marketing Board so that it has the capacity to pay farmers on time. GMB the world over plays a crucial role in the agriculture sector as it has storage facilities for a nation’s food reserves.
“There was a time the GMB would turn away grain deliveries from farmers on the basis that they did not have the funds to pay. This should be a thing of the past as we want to see the GMB playing its key role as a nation’s grain reserve,’’ said Mr Mliswa.
He said with full support to the agriculture sector Zimbabwe would soon retain its status as the bread basket of Southern Africa.
Tobacco production now in the hands of indigenous farmers has continued to grow from the onset of the land reform programme with the trends showing that 58,5 million kgs of the golden leaf were produced in 2009 thereby earning the country $174, 5 million.
In 2010 production went up to 123,5 million kgs earning the country $335,7 million in foreign currency while 2011 saw the crop production increasing to 132,5 million kgs with a total of $361,5 million being earned while 165 million kgs produced in 2012 earning the country about $600 million respectively.
“This is despite the fact that farmers were operating under harsh conditions with no funding at all or very little expensive funds,’’ said Mr Mliswa.
This year alone the number of registered tobacco farmers has even increased to about 120 000 up from 80 000 in the last season, a clear sign that the country would never go wrong with indigenous farmers taking a leading role in earning foreign currency for the country as well as improving their own livelihoods.
He said production of all food stuffs as well should be in full force as farmers had opted for tobacco whose profits margins were much higher compared to food stuffs.
Wheat production should also be revived with power utility companies urged to charge agricultural rates instead of commercial ones as was the case.
Fertiliser manufacturers should also be scrutinised as they seemed to have embraced those who wanted to see the failure of production on the farms by charging exorbitant prices for their products with a 50kg bag costing between $38 and $40 respectively.
“We want a situation where farmers can be able to buy fertiliser at least between $7 and $10 a 50kg bag as is the case in the region where we are being made to compete with those whose production costs are much lower,’’ said Mr Mliswa.
He also lamented the cost of fuel for farmers whose pump prices were too high to engage in any meaningful farming operations. This has forced farmers to reduce the hectarage as they cannot afford the high costs of production.
“It is difficult to buy fuel at pump price and be expected to till a bigger hectarage. Fuel being used by farmers is so expensive and we also expect the price to be affordable,’’ he said.