KAROI– Heads rolled last week over suspected underhand dealings of ‘over-subscribed and underfunded’ Command Agriculture in Karoi under Hurungwe district here.
Three officials among them Agriculture Extension Officer Kevin Charehwa Charehwa, two security agencies assigned to the program have been redeployed following political pressure and bid by provincial affairs minister for Mashonaland West province Mary Mliswa-Chikoka to ‘expose corruption’ in Government.
According to sources, Charehwa who clashed with Mliswa-Chikoka in January claiming that Command Agriculture was ‘oversubscribed and underfunded’ was transferred to Chinhoyi.
He will be starting work this month.
Two juniors from Central Intelligence Organisation and Police Internal Security Unit have been transferred as well.
‘Charehwa is not the only transferred but one CIO operative and PISU member have been transferred as well,’ said one of our sources.
‘Charehwa was replaced by one Martin Mupariwa who was heading Kariba district,’ added another source speaking on condition that he is not named.
There was verbal clash between Charehwa and Mliswa-Chikoka in January during head of departments meeting.
Minister Mliswa-Chikoka blamed Arex officials for suspected of underhand dealings, corruption and abuse of office over Government sponsored Command Agriculture for several years.
However, besides political push from Government officials Zanu PF senior officials including a senator, Members of Parliament, councillors among others, Charehwa denied any wrongdoing claiming program is ‘over-scribed and underfunded’
He said he could not ‘manufacture unfounded statistics’
Mliswa-Chikoka charged, ‘We have received several reports of corruption and abuse of inputs under Command Agriculture. Arex is critical that they furnish us with required information that must be made public to everyone,’
But Charehwa differed saying Command Agriculture is ‘oversubscribed and underfunded’
‘‘Last farming season we had 3 250 farmers registered under Command Agriculture but this year we have 5 750 because of high demands from other districts including Kadoma, Sanyati among others. Farmers are coming here due to better rainfall pattern and good soil. Apart from that our target of over 57 000 hectares has not received adequate inputs including fertiliser and chemicals. The program is over-scribed and underfunded. People blame us but we can’t manufacture anything to please everyone here,’ said Charehwa.
He looked undeterred by allegations that contract forms are being sold in the streets.
According to statistics provided by Charehwa, Government provided over 10 percent of D fertilizer and a mere 8,7 percent for top dressing fertilizers in the district.
‘Whatever you may say has no evidence as the reality is that Command Agriculture is over-scribed in Hurungwe and is not meeting targets without adequate inputs,’ he concluded then.
Pandora box opened
As the Government moved in to transfer the officials, a pandora box has been opened exposing deep-rooted corruption linking some army officials, politicians among others.
Investigations made by Zim Morning Post have revealed that some top military officials are part of inputs scandal within Hurungwe, one of the prime and productive districts within Mashonaland West province.
‘The challenge we are facing is that those senior army officials seconded to Command Agriculture are feasting like lions after getting ailing buffalo as their prey. They are not accountable to anyone here. We have a Col (name supplied) abusing inputs scheme with other top officials allocated farms around Tengwe where they have plots. They are working in cahoots with Zanu PF youths who are not farmers at all. The transfer of these trio will not change anything,’ added one farmer who spoke on condition that he is not named.
It is alleged that Command Agriculture has seen vultures like losing Hurungwe Central candidate Ebbah Kuipa who contested under National Patriotic Front ticket in July polls.
‘Ebba facilitated distribution of inputs from Harare to some undesignated points like Mutoranhanga that has no Grain Marketing Board depot. She had all her paperwork approved at provincial and national level. Top military at provincial and national levels were her focal persons of late and nothing has been done. This scandal is bigger than what we see,’ added a Government official speaking on condition that he is not named.
Kuipa denied any wrongdoing saying she is a farmer.
‘I am a farmer and was being paid for transport of inputs. Please keep me out of this,’ was all she could say.
Fuelling Black Market
Some top army officials have been fuelling black market in the farming sector.
Part of our investigations revealed that some of army officials get fuel coupons that they give to ‘runners’ who sell fuel at black market.
One of the beneficiaries confirmed that they get fuel coupons at cheaper rates from their suppliers.
‘Generally, our suppliers do not ask for much, say for a 20 litters diesel coupon that goes for over $60 they need at least $40. They have monthly allocation in abundance,’ said our source.
It is alleged that some of the suspects used to get over 500 litres diesel allocation while majority of hard-working and productive farmers were denied the fuel.
‘We are not sure how the information will be exposed as we are dealing with suspects who created confusion and do not give public information at will so that they benefit,’ added a farmer in Hurungwe East.
It has been exposed that a house with leafy areas of Karoi town is used for inputs that include chemicals, fertilizers with some dating back three years ago have been kept as beneficiaries fuel inputs black market around Karoi.
‘We have houses used as storerooms in central town and the other one is in Chiedza where we get supplies from some army officers,’ added another runner.
Last year a top army official Major Phillip Kagona was redeployed to Kwekwe following exposure that he was putting the ‘military into disrepute’ over his suspected corruption cases.
‘We wonder if Minister Mliswa-Chikoka will have the guts to institute investigations of that magnitude as army seconded to Command Agriculture are part of the scam. It is deep rooted as they are not answerable,’ added another source.
Challenge for PSC
Some sources have challenged Public Service Commission to institute investigations so that suspects must be brought to book.
‘This is a national security issue as food security is a great concern so all other departments including PSC and other relevant institutions must help exposing the rot,’ said a source.
GMB can’t probe looters
Some Grain Marketing Board officials confirmed that it was hard for them to investigate on inputs loans as everything was done from other offices.
‘As it stands, this is a scandal as we can hardy verify how they will be repaying inputs loans as everything was not done at local depot. We can’t probe inputs looters,’ said one of sources.
As part of our long-term investigation of how inputs were distributed, there is lack of transparency, with subdued calls to expose corruption in the agriculture sector.
‘Last year in August a team of auditors was deployed in Hurungwe district covering Karoi farming town from the Ministry of Agriculture but fired blanks on the probe,’ added another source.
He added that the audit team was trying to verify if farmers got farming inputs they had requested and delivered to districts.
‘All was in vain and corruption will remain in the sector,’ concluded our sources.