By Professor Matodzi
Harare, September 22, 2015 – Zimbabwe’s media hangman, Tafataona
Mahoso is enduring a torrid time after prominent human rights lawyer
Beatrice Mtetwa bombarded him over the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
(RBZ)’s failure to comply with her request for the identities of
beneficiaries of the government’s controversial farm mechanisation
In a period of two months, the feisty Mtetwa has delivered a total of
three letters to Mahoso, the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) chief
executive officer as she sought to compel him to issue an order to the
RBZ directing the apex bank to provide her with a list and details of
the beneficiaries of the farm mechanization programme.
The RBZ launched and bankrolled the farm mechanisation programme in
2006 and under the controversial scheme, the apex bank purchased
various farming implements ranging from ox-drawn ploughs,
wheelbarrows, tractors to combine harvesters which were dished out to
mostly ruling ZANU PF supporters and top government bureaucrats who
seized large tracts of farms during the land grab exercise.
In July, President Robert Mugabe signed into law the RBZ Debt
Assumption Bill following heated debate in Parliament where opposition
MDC-T legislators opposed the piece of legislation and demanded the
publication of the identities of the central bank’s debtors.
The passage of the RBZ Debt Assumption Bill paves way for the
government to take liability of an estimated $1.35 billion debts
incurred by the central bank before December 2008. Legislators and
economic justice and human rights campaigners had argued it was unfair
for citizens to take over such a huge debt without appreciating how it
was incurred and without revealing the beneficiaries of the RBZ farm
But Mtetwa in May instituted moves to compel the RBZ to disclose the
beneficiaries of the farm mechanisation scheme by asking the central
bank to provide her with a schedule of all the beneficiaries, their
particulars including full names and addresses.
Mtetwa also demanded to be furnished with full details of the
equipment delivered to each beneficiary including date of delivery and
value of the farming equipment delivered.
In demanding all the beneficiary details, the human rights lawyer said
she was acting on the aegis of Section 5 of the Access to Information
and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
After finding no joy from the RBZ, Mtetwa then petitioned Mahoso in
July requesting him to direct the central bank to release the
information she indicated was required by her aggrieved client.
“As you will be aware, a failure to respond to a request for access to
information is deemed to be a refusal in terms of Section 54 of the
Act and we now request that you issue an order to the Reserve Bank
directing that it provide us with the requested information in terms
of the powers that you have under Section 52 A (1) (b) (i) of the
Act,” reads part of the letter written to Mahoso by Mtetwa on 30 July
and seen by Radio VOP.
On 12 August, Mtetwa followed up Mahoso with another letter before
serving him with a third correspondence on 19 August protesting
against the ZMC boss’ reluctance to order the RBZ to release the
required information detailing the beneficiaries of the farm
“In the circumstances, it is our view that your Commission has failed
to discharge its duties and we shall therefore proceed in the best
interests of our client, “ wrote Mtetwa in her 19 August letter.
On his part, RBZ Governor John Mangudya turned down Mtetwa’s request
and claimed that the farm mechanisation programme was executed as one
of the “survival strategies” adopted by the government to “defend the
integrity and sovereignty” of the country.
“In our view, the information requested cannot be released because
doing so is not in the public interest…..It is common cause that
Parliament debated the propriety of releasing this information and
decided by a clear majority not to release the said information,”
reads part of a letter written to Mtetwa by Mangudya on 28 August.
In arriving at such a decision, Mangudya disclosed that he had studied
the human rights lawyer’s request and had “consulted a number of
stakeholders who have a direct interest in this matter.”
Prior to his departure from the central bank and following the
replacement of the Zimbabwe dollar with multiple foreign currencies,
former RBZ Governor Gideon Gono had demanded that the beneficiaries of
the farm implements should pay back and had planned to serve detailed
statements and invoices, along with the payment modalities at each
and every farm gate.
Zimbabwe has grappled severe food shortages since 2000 after President
Mugabe’s controversial farm seizure programme destabilised the
mainstay agricultural sector and knocked down food production.
Once a regional breadbasket, the southern African country has largely
survived on food handouts from international humanitarian
organisations for the past fifteen years.
According to the World Food Programme, an estimated 1.5 million
Zimbabweans out of 14 million are facing starvation and the United
Nations food agency recently launched a $56 million appeal to feed
some famished families.