HARARE – Food-short peasants have all the reason to smile following a declaration of intent to punish those that abuse a well-intentioned government input assistance programme by deputy minister of Agriculture, David Marapira.
For rather too long, little or no action has been taken to penalise either party apparatchiks, village leaders, chiefs or government bureaucrats who have taken advantage of their position to sell grain and other inputs meant to benefit resource-short peasants.
The most brazen tactic of these greedy individuals has been to use political partisanship to deny deserving villagers what represents their only source of sustenance.
In most cases, it has been individuals that least need assistance who have bulldozed their way to the feeding trough out of a desire to gain more than a fair share of the government farming inputs when thousands go without.
The result has been cyclic poverty among peasants which has entailed importing grain to bridge food gaps at enormous cost when the core aim of the programme is to wean the poor from routine dependency on the state.
Now Marapira has come up with a refreshing change of tack to ensure a fair distribution of these inputs.
Marapira minced no words when he said abusers of the inputs scheme will be jailed. This is a refreshing assurance from an official who means business and intends to sweep the usual slate of input theft and corruption clean.
By ordering traditional leaders to back off distribution of farming inputs, the deputy minister has dealt a telling blow to the source of problems that have bedevilled the scheme in the past.
Some of the traditional leaders have deliberately perpetuated an impression that government largesse programmes are meant to benefit members of a particular political party or their favourite clansmen.
These leaders have tarnished a noble humanitarian government programme out of sheer greed as well as erode public confidence in government with their biased approach.
Marapira’s innovative intervention to task government employees in the district with distribution should be applauded provided these civil servants have the requisite probity to undertake impartial distribution.
Arex officers, provincial and district administrators possess auditable data of the people in each area which can be interrogated in case of leakages.
As civil servants, they have jobs to protect unlike traditional leaders who are a law unto themselves in the area of jurisdiction.
We sincerely hope the Agriculture ministry walks the talk.