In a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Command Agriculture presented two weeks ago, former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa (pictured) and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe stand accused of superintending over a dodgy process through suspicious approvals of Treasury Bills that left the country in debt.
MPs recommended the involvement of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) to probe the matter which they said bordered on criminality after several companies benefitted but without going to tender.
But in debating the report which was presented two weeks ago by Gweru Urban MP Brian Dube (MDC-T), MPs from Zanu-PF led by their chief whip Pupurai Togarepi on Wednesday accused some of falsifying information, inflating figures and harbouring a sinister an agenda against local companies.
“I also read that report and realise that we as Parliament, do we have the power to take action on someone who peddles falsehoods using Parliament’s name? That person will be trusted but they tarnish the image of some companies as well as the country. What can we do?” Togarepi asked.
“So what can we do if honourable members or the chairperson of the committee say something that is false or not correct, what can we do? If we are an honorable Parliament, let us look at the difference of what was said and what was reported. That person who brought a false report must be charged. Secondly, all those things that are being peddled are just falsehoods about Treasury Bills and other payments,” he added.
It was not clear who Togarepi was targeting, but observers said the Zanu-PF legislators may be targeting mainly opposition MPs who were vocal in alleging that more than US$3 billion was abused under the programme that saw several companies, including Sakunda Holdings, benefitting.
Former Harare East MP Tendai Biti, who chaired the PAC before he was recalled in a suspicious move, is said to be one of the targeted legislators as he has on several occasions spoken out against the massive looting under the Command Agriculture facility.
“I realise that those falsehoods were targeting black people and not the whites who also received these Treasury Bills. So, is it meant to tarnish black businesspeople by saying only whites carry out good business practices?” Togarepi asked.
“This report has actually exposed the truth so that the whole nation knows who was misleading and lying about this report. People have to know who did what regardless of their skin colour because the blacks are being tarnished,” the Gutu South MP said.
“The Command Agriculture programme indeed transformed the agriculture sector in this country. The black farmers were empowered just as the whites were empowered through the Agriculture Finance Corporation where they got a lot of funding and they never returned that money, yet they are regarded as good farmers while the black farmers are being bad mouthed in their quest to become successful farmers.
“The black farmers are doing very well and the silos are full of grain, but no one acknowledges that, but (they) just look for the negatives so as to tarnish the image of the blacks. They rush to talk about the falsehoods of Treasury Bills, but never stop to praise Command Agriculture. Why only focus on the negative issues about this country? All those who lied about this should be brought to book and should be punished by this august House.”
Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna said although the report was presented in Parliament, several issues were left out.
“I have read and understood the report that was presented in this House and I have a feeling that there are some issues that were left out of that report that are very critical most probably because there were a lot of pages,” Nduna said.
“The report did not make it clear that the suppliers were not the originators of the Treasury Bills and that these suppliers did not receive the US dollars. Also, the suppliers were not contracted by the ministry of Agriculture and that the suppliers were either supplying fertilizer or (were) suppliers of seed,” Nduna said.
Nduna zeroed in on fertiliser supplier FSG and said some of the critical information the company presented was not in the report.
“The files that were brought to Parliament — I attended the oral evidence session that these companies came through — showed (that) the committee was very happy with the information of the RTGS and the TBs that was used as a mode of payment. It will boggle one’s mind why now the report speaks to the issue of US dollars. It would……”
Before he could finish, Nduna was however, cautioned by the temporary Speaker over why he was seemingly opposed to a report he was part of as a PAC member.
“Honourable Nduna, it would appear that you seem to be going against your committee’s report. You were supposed to have raised these issues during your interaction,” the temporary Speaker said.
But Nduna argued he was not going against the report, saying he was simply adding.
“No, no, honourable Nduna, the report has been tabled and you seem to be hitting the points that are contrary to your report. You produced this report together with your other members. So, please if you would like to continue, you are supposed to be adding some points and not contradict what was actually reported in the report,” the temporary Speaker argued.
But Nduna insisted he was simply adding to the report, arguing that the money paid to some of the companies was in local currency and not in US dollars.
“As I conclude, Valley Seeds proved that they did not receive any other payments in the form of Treasury Bills or bonds. I want to make it categorically clear that they received only RTGS and I do not think I am at variance with the mother-report.”
“It is the duty of your thematic Committee on Public Accounts to chastise and give advice to those who would have been mentioned in the Auditor-General’s report and also to be very specific, truthful and make sure we support the suppliers, in particular the Command Agriculture under the circumstances of an acrimonious relationship with the West and their allies who have put in sanctions and where we have companies that try by all means, under the circumstances, to supply the nation for the special maize programme.”
Mberengwa MP Marko Raidza said some of the reported figures on Command Agriculture were distorted to suit a narrative.
“I say these words with a heavy heart because the Zimbabwe that we have is just one country and if we develop a culture of accepting inflated figures that can be sold out there in other countries, for example $2 billion or $3 billion. Let me give an example, if we say $20 billion or $30 billion, such issues are very retrogressive,” Raidza said.
“I think that is abuse of office because those people who come here to Parliament and give us evidence rely on us and trust us that indeed, it will be confidential information that can only be released when the right time comes. This is the issue that I would like to address that as honourable members of Parliament, we must be factual and speak the truth that can be relied on.”
“Sometimes we hear of billions of monies being stolen and everyone questions in their mind as to who could have stolen it and the answer will be on names flying around. During this time of sanctions, we will have very few people willing to work with us. If people go outside spreading falsehoods, that is not good, we will be tarnishing those people who work with us as government.”
“I would like to encourage the use of truth when such information is released.”