Biti approved funding of Command Agriculture he is bashing

MDC vice president and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee chairperson Tendai Biti

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Dr John Mangudya last week produced evidence in Parliament which suggests that former Finance Minister Tendai Biti approved the funding of Government’s agricultural support programmes that he is now attacking.

Mr Biti, who was finance minister during the inclusive Government when he approved the funding structure for agricultural subsidies on inputs, is now the leading critic of the programmes. This prompted Dr Mangudya to remind Mr Biti of the role he played in sanctioning transactions for agricultural inputs.

He said this while giving oral evidence before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Mr Biti.

Dr Mangudya sought to read out a letter signed by Mr Biti where he approved the issuance of farming inputs, directing that a 50kg bag of fertiliser be sold to A1, old resettlement farmers and small-scale farmers for US$7, while maize and sorghum seed were to be available at less than US$1 per kg.

“It does not inspire confidence that our MPs do not listen when others are talking,” said Dr Mangudya.

“You see this letter? This letter, colleagues, shows that the agriculture you are talking about today, the Presidential Inputs Scheme started way back in 2009 during Government of National Unity, and the funding of this scheme was almost on the similar principle.

“I also want you to go on the annals of history to see whether . . .”

Dr Mangudya could not finish his statement after Mr Biti interjected and drowned his voice during the tension-filled hearing.

“That is not important,” said Mr Biti.

“It is not important. Even assuming that there was Command Agriculture in 2009, the law has to be complied with. No, John, you can’t ascribe misdemeanour on my part. You are being petty and childish. This is not an inquiry about Tendai Biti.”

But Dr Mangudya stuck to his guns, saying it was important because this idea of singlinging others for attack was not fair.

“Sometimes it is like a pot calling the kettle black,” said Dr Mangudya.

Chirumhanzu MP Barbra Rwodzi (Zanu-PF) had to implore the two to be calm. “Can we all be calm,” she said.

“It seems there is a fight between the two of you. It seems the whole exercise is between the two of you, can you both be calm. It is not about personal issues, we are just conducting a parliamentary inquiry.”

In his evidence, Dr Mangudya said all the Treasury Bills issued were released on the instruction of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. He was responding to accusations that the central bank could not legitimately issue Treasury Bills as that was the responsibility of Treasury.

“We never spent any money that was not authorised,” said Dr Mangudya.

“Inflation was not high last year. All what I am saying is simple, during the time that you are referring to in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 this economy required stimulus of the fiscus to do what the Government of Zimbabwe through Cabinet has done. The Executive was right to spend this money. How do you expect the farmer to be paid?”

Dr Mangudya said they had paid US$51 million for the procurement of four aircraft from Malaysia and two of them were fully paid for. He said delivery of all the four planes was expected later this year.

Source – the herald