Command Agriculture was ‘opaque’, Ncube says as new model announced

HARARE – The government’s Command Agriculture programme was being used as a vehicle to siphon public funds by corrupt individuals and it needs major reform, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Monday.

Ncube told a post-cabinet briefing that the programme was being implemented in an opaque manner, and often without accountability.

“Transparency has been the beef in the Command Agriculture and fair enough it was opaque,” Ncube told journalists. “It was opaque, but we have opened it up. It’s on the table, it’s in the budget.”

The new financing model approved by ministers revolves around banks and not an individual funder. Previously, Sakunda Holdings owned by petroleum tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei was the principal funder of the project.

Sakunda was paid hundreds of millions in treasury bills.

Outlining the proposed new financing model for Command Agriculture, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said beneficiaries would now take out loans from participating banks, with a requirement to pay back.

“The model is premised on the provision of funding to farmers by commercial banks, with the government providing the necessary guarantees. So far, three commercial banks – CBZ, Stanbic and Agribank – are participating in the programme,” Mutsvangwa said.

The government has invited other commercial banks to also sign up for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s signature scheme which was hailed as the panacea to Zimbabwe’s food shortages, but has been bogged down in a fog of corruption and incompetence.

“All farmers are invited to approach the aforementioned banks for financial assistance in preparation for the imminent summer agricultural season. This model will go a long way in ensuring transparency, accountability and sustainability of the programme,” said Mutsvangwa.