The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Reporter
UNSCRUPULOUS individuals in Binga District, Matabeleland North Province are allegedly crossing the Zambezi River to sell in Zambia farming inputs they received under the Presidential Inputs Scheme.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Mr Nick Mangwana told Sunday News that the Government has received reports of rampant abuse of Presidential Inputs in Binga and a team has been tasked to sensitise communities in the district about the importance of the programme.
“I can confirm that there are people that are selling our inputs across the (Zambezi) river. There is a team that comprises Zanu-PF officials and local leadership made up of chiefs and other authorities to educate the locals,” said Mr Mangwana.
Government is targeting 1,8 million households for the Presidential Inputs Scheme for maize and sorghum and 400 000 for cotton in the 2018/ 19 agricultural season. For maize each household is getting 10 kilogrammes (kgs) seed maize, 5kgs sorghum seed, one 50 kg bag of Compound D and one bag top dressing fertiliser. Mr Mangwana said the team’s task was firstly to raise awareness and educate.
“Our focus right now is not a blame game. Our first focus is to educate the community because the last thing that we want as a Government is to put them in a bad light. It’s a perceived marginalised community as it is so if we take an attitude to say there are ignorant and a whole lot of other things, it won’t work. We will end up putting a negative spot on them, which is not our intention,” said Mr Mangwana.
He, however, said if the engagement process does not yield the intended results perpetrators risk being arrested and prosecuted.
Mr Mangwana said the abuse of various Government inputs support schemes has been going on in some communities across the country and when the Government launched the Special Grain Programme popularly referred to as the Command Agriculture Programme in 2016. Department of Crop and Livestock Production Matabeleland North provincial officer Mr Dumisani Nyoni said reports of farm inputs abuse have been received from virtually all the districts in the province over the years. Mr Nyoni also confirmed that some people in the province have been arrested for abusing input schemes.
“We have heard of people who have been arrested before, after having abused these inputs facilities especially the selling of fertilisers.”
Under the new regulations, provided in the Statutory Instrument 274 of 2018 gazetted recently, it is now a criminal offence to be found in possession of any agricultural inputs in excess of what the farmers need, unlawful sale, purchase and possession of agricultural produce or contracted crop and the misuse of farm inputs.
“Any farmer who, misappropriates any agricultural inputs or being in possession of any agricultural input in excess of what he or she needs to produce or contracted to produce . . . (or) any person who deals in or handles agricultural inputs or contract produce in contravention of a scheme contract, that is to say, purchases, receives, stores, sells, obtains, possesses or otherwise disposes of agricultural inputs (or) purchases, receives, stores, sells, obtains, possesses or otherwise disposes agricultural produce. Shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 4 or imprisonment not exceeding three months or both such fine and imprisonment,” read part of the regulations.