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Opinion / Interviews

'I'm popular and well-known, victory is certain'

by Tichanona Zindoga
25 Jun 2016 at 09:12hrs | Views
Zanu-PF, recently nominated Minister of State for Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Advocate Martin Dinha (MD) as its candidate for the forthcoming July 23 Mazowe North by-election following the death of Edgar Chidavaenzi. Adv Dinha is set to see off his challenger,little-known Mr Elias Malukula of the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe. In a tête-à-tête with The Herald's Political Editor Tichaona Zindoga (TZ), he lays out his vision.

TZ: Dinha, you are Zanu-PF's choice for the forthcoming by election in Mazowe North but there have been some reports of you having been imposed by Zanu-PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and confusion on how you as Minister of State for the province can become a local legislator. May you just clarify these issues?
MD: This is a simple matter, as Minister appointed by His Excellency the President you become Minister when you have a constituency or you are appointed (as non-constituency MP). Those are the two entry points for you to serve in Government. I was minister at large having been generously appointed by His Excellency the President and this time around the party, Zanu-PF, deployed me to become Member of Parliament for Mazowe North after the untimely death of the then MP Edgar Chidavaenzi.

So it is an area I have already covered. It is not starting anew. I can stand anywhere in Mashonaland Central because I am popular and known everywhere because I was serving as the MP for Mashonaland Central at large. So I was deployed there, by the District of Mazowe, the Mashonaland Central election directorate and by Zanu-PF at large.

So as a loyal cadre of the party I take the party's instructions and commands. If the party wants me to represent the people there, I will represent the people there. It is nothing new, it is a blessing and an honour to serve the people there. That covers it.

TZ: But given the relatively short time before the by-election, is the party sufficiently united and focused behind you for the job at hand?
MD: In Mashonaland Central we have no opposition to talk about and we will not accept any internal dissent or any talk of disobeying a party directive or order. We are united as a party and take orders from the party. I am a loyal cadre of the party. Yes, I am aware that opposition Press has gone galore on this issue trying to give the impression that I was imposed by the commissar. This is far beyond the commissar. The commissar is an instrument of the party and the party makes decisions. A democratic decision was made by the Mazowe District election directorate and endorsed by the Mashonaland Central provincial election directorate and accepted by me. At the end of the day it is whether the people want you or not. The people in Mazowe North will be proving on July 23 whether they like their candidate and their party Zanu-PF.

TZ: Mazowe North Constituency looks diverse as it incorporates communal areas, urban areas and the resettlement farm community. What is the message that you are going to carry across that divide of diverse backgrounds?
MD: As a prefix, I must point to you that I have already been working in all constituencies in Mashonaland Central as Governor and Resident Minister initially, now as Minister of State. So I am well-known for initiating development projects all around the province, including this particular constituency.

I was working tirelessly here. I was instrumental together with others, in the establishment of Mvurwi Town Council from a rural district council of Mazowe. We granted Mvurwi town status which was a welcome development by the people there and now they have their own properties and stands. It is one of the cleanest towns in the whole of Zimbabwe at the moment, excelling in service delivery. So we are on top of the situation there.

Besides the urban set up, we have the resettled farmers. We include Galloway, around Heddington Farm. There are farms all around stretching to Mutorashanga and bordering Guruve on the other side. We have resettled farmers there who have specific needs. Their demands are simple: they would want to enhance productivity and celebrate the success of the Land Reform Programme. They want to produce. The usual problems faced by farmers, I also face as a resettled farmer; we need to address them. Irrigation developments, inputs supply, markets for produce and getting finance to be able to produce. We will attend and address those issues. I am very fortunate to sit for a constituency that has varied needs and we have the rural component which falls under Chief Makope and that area has different developing needs.

There is a bad road network there that needs upgrading. We have upgrading of schools, clinics and fortunately the fruits of the revolution are already on the ground there. Education was well-developed; infrastructure was well-developed but again we need to carry on board the demands of the rural people so that we arrest rural-urban migration. We also arrest the issue of youth unemployment in that area.

So we are on top of the situation in terms of addressing those issues with the traditional leader Chief Makope. We also have a commercial farm area covering the entire Forester Estate. There is the problem with the Foresters. We have a little Rhodesia in Zimbabwe.

We have von Pezold, a German national who owns that area. We have a situation of typical suppression of the people, the farm labourers there. We have stories of discrimination, racial discrimination, uncouth methods of treating the people there. And the owners are hiding under BIPPA and they then mistreat our people as if we are under Ian Smith. That is totally unacceptable and we will not accept that.

I was at the Foresters; we are going to attend to it. We gave part of the Foresters for resettlement but there was an agreement between the owners of the Foresters, the von Pezold family and the late Vice President Dr Joseph Msika for them to agree to share Foresters which was sitting on 22 000 hectares of land. They were supposed to give up 11 000 but they only offered a quarter of that land. They took Government and the resettled families we had given land to court, up until the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of our farmers that a Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA) cannot preclude Government from taking back land for resettlement purposes.

The only requirement is for Government to compensate them. Government will compensate for all the land at its leisure because we have no reason to compensate at all. But with regards to BIPPA we respect BIPPA. But we will not be compelled to compensate when our macroeconomic conditions are crippled by sanctions, by the same countries such as Germany and Europe.

We cannot be compelled to compensate at a faster pace because we want to appease those people. But I am taking a keen interest in the Foresters because of the reports that I heard from the farm labourers and the people there. We need to liberate the Foresters.

TZ: Let us go back to development projects that you mentioned. One of the marquee projects that you had as Minister of State was the cassava project which I understand falls within this constituency. What is the status now?
MD: The cassava production programme was inspired by President Mugabe in his thrust in terms of agricultural development. When Zim-Asset was introduced one of the primary aims was to enhance food nutrition among our people and the President alerted us that we are used to eating a lot of sadza as a starch provider. We are stuck with this theory that sadza is the only form of starch or carbohydrate we can get.

But we have other alternative forms of starch such as cassava, sweet potatoes and so forth that can also assist. Maize is basically a foreign product that came from abroad as a stockfeed. Maize wasn't supposed to be for human consumption. We got glued to maize over the years but we have traditional starch-providing foods including cassava, the small grains, rapoko, millet and so forth that are more nutritious than sadza and maize.

This is the route that we are trying to take. All around the region, you talk of Tanzania, you talk of Zambia, you talk of Malawi, of Mozambique; they use alternatives to maize and cassava is one of them, even in West Africa, Ghana up there.

The conditions for cassava production are available in Zimbabwe in terms of both the climate and the soils. So we are coming up with a pilot project for massive production of cassava.

Cassava can also be used as a biodiesel and the leaves are also used medicinally and as a form of relish. Cassava plant has by-products that can be used in agro industrial production.

So I am excited about the cassava and sweet potato projects. We have this project we are doing with the University of Zimbabwe, there is a professor we are engaging. We also have a funder, an NGO that comes in to fund massive production of cassava.

However, I am very concerned that (we are also doing this in Mbire district) because of bureaucracy, the approval process with the relevant Ministry has not been forthcoming and we want to call on the speedy ease of doing business that we are talking about in Government.

We need approval so that money can start coming in and we can do the project. Imagine if we have each and every household in the whole of the Makope area covering Chaona, Chingamvura, Chinehasha, even the resettled area up there, everyone with a plot or hectare of cassava!

You can only eat less than a quarter of that, then you market the rest. Many people believe that cassava can only be eaten as a whole but you can crush it into a powder. It can turn into a substance like mealie meal then you use it for porridge or make a form of sadza.

So I am very excited about cassava. For those who are ill, HIV and AIDS patients, those with nutritional problems, cassava is known scientifically to enhance the health conditions of ill people. Unlike zvihuta that we have heard myths about, cassava is proven to be good and nutritious.

TZ: Still on developmental issues, one of the biggest concerns has in Zimbabwe is the under-utilisation of dams and water bodies. In this constituency there are a couple of dams. What are you going to do so that the utilisation of such bodies and resources increases?
MD: This is very critical, the question of enhancing productivity and fully utilising irrigation systems. If you fly over Mash Central you will find dams littered all over and this was a post-independence development. There was a thrust by President Mugabe to ensure that we capture water all around. At a great cost, the newly-independent Government went out of its way to build dams.

The tragedy is that we have not truly utilised the dams. We have massive water bodies that are lying idle. The water is evaporating; the rivers are going down and the water is going to the ocean. Yet we have successive droughts and climate change which have made traditional farming methods very unreliable because normal rainfall is no longer as predictable as it used to be.

So indeed one of our thrusts as Mashonaland Central province and specifically as Mazowe North is to ensure that we promote irrigation schemes around all water bodies. Here we don't have a single irrigation scheme running yet have water bodies at Galloway Farm where resettled farmers can benefit. We have Chinehasha and Chigwida areas where there are big dams and a river flows through and there is nothing there. The irrigation schemes that were introduced in the early 1980s are all non-functional. So these are the areas that we need to seriously resuscitate. The other day I was at Donje Farm, as we go to Centenary, we have a very big dam there, Donje dam that was built by Government and there is nothing, there is no activity. The farms are run down, people have small issues such as electricity connections. People need tractors to till the land. So it is one of the great areas of concern that the new member of parliament in my person should introduce and work on and I am calling on Government to support this effort fully.

We can come out with four irrigation schemes around the entire constituency and from our estimation the four irrigation schemes per average can feed not less that 10 000 people in the constituency.

These will be at Chinehasha, Galloway, Donje Farm and between Chaona and Chigwida. So we are earmarking the four critical irrigation schemes.

The Galloway that covers our resettlement farms and the other three that are in the rural communities. Those are critical irrigation schemes that we can immediately implement if we renovate.

The Galloway one is exciting it was introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. There are centre pivots all around. We have settlers who have agreed to let out 4500 hectares of their land for purposes of irrigation through modern methods. We are sitting on money, we are sitting on development and we are sitting on employment opportunities for our people.

We can create employment for 10 000 people around the irrigation schemes. We are doing a scientific assessment on irrigation schemes to look at the production we can come out with in those four schemes. This is an imperative.

TZ: Lastly, regarding the issue of land and resettlement. Many people are still hungry for land out there and there are also issues tenure and offer letters all have called into question the need for finality. What are you going to do in this area to make sure that you bring closure?
MD: Certainly I agree with you that we must bring finality to the land reform chapter. Of course it will continue to be a topical issue in terms of tidying up the various areas. But there are two critical areas that need attention in terms of the land reform programme.

The question of security of tenure, that a person must have a legal document giving him legal right to a piece of land, then we can unlock the value of land. Right now we have made zero value out of land. Honestly, because that land is not tradable, it is not transferable and again there are legal issues around it which Government has now addressed.

I am happy Government addressed the issue of security of tenure. But we must be able to clean up the whole process. As you are aware it was a revolution that led to the land reform programme and obviously along the way mistakes were made which we need to tidy up. The President has been open about that. We need to do an audit of the land reform programme so that we weed out multiple farm owners. We have cases of people who were holding land for relatives in the diaspora, getting pieces of land and the lands have been under utilised. We need to weed out those people.

We also need to conform to the maximum farm size. This is an exercise that is already underway in Mashonaland Central. A valuation team from the Ministry is in the province going to each and every farm, surveying the land, seeing the status of the land and mapping the way forward.

It will soon finish its work; I am advised by the Minister of Lands. Besides that issue people must have documentation. Offer letters must be given to each and every person be they A1 or A2 so that they know their entitlement to the land. That process must be speedily done.

We have a lot of disputes around land, very petty disputes at times ranging from boundary disputes to personality clashes and all those issues. We don't need that because our main focus on the land reform programme is production.

That is another area that we must now start addressing. Those who have no capacity must give way to those with capacity or they must scale down their land size to allow other Zimbabweans to get in.

The number of people needing land is continuing to swell. Last time in the province we had more than 42 000 on our list for A2 farms and hundreds of thousands for A1 plots. But people must know that everyone cannot get land, it's impossible.

Not everyone can become a farmer. The land reform programme has succeeded to make nearly each extended family in Zimbabwe, one member owns land. So, that is a massive contribution to ownership and transfer of land.

But it is practically impossible for everyone to be a farmer. Some will have to go into other areas of land reform such as agro-processing, support services, inputs, and so on. You talk of winding and rewinding of motors, engineering services for farming; etc. All those areas were once held by the white farmers.

In each provincial capital you used to have businesses around the land supporting the then white commercial farmers. Our people must take over those businesses and run them.

But we must also satisfy the hunger of those who are willing and able to own land. One way of opening up the land is to have a maximum farm size of 400 hectares and less plots according to the means of the people. Twenty-five hectares is a model in the province.

We no longer want to give people more than 30 hectares because we have seen that a 50 hectare plot of land in a rich region such as Mashonaland Central can be as productive as a 2000 hectare land in Midlands or Mat South.

We want to reduce the land size to enable more people to come on the land and have resources implemented on the land. So we will have a lot of land around as we do the audit because persons cannot keep land as status symbols.



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Source - the herald
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