ZIMBABWE – The First Lady, Dr Grace Mugabe, has implored ZESA Holdings to stop the installation of pre-paid electricity meters on farms, arguing that the move was ill-informed and counter-productive, given its impact on various levels of agriculture across the country.
Pre-paid electricity meters were introduced on farms in June this year, with the power utility arguing that it was designed to keep the energy sector going.
Farmers criticised the move saying they should be asked to pre-pay electricity for domestic consumption not for production. They further berated the move saying it was at variance with regional, continental and international trends, and if not reversed would destroy commercial agriculture in the country.
“Do not switch off farmers. Whoever came up with the idea of installing pre-paid metres on the farms pasi naye. It does not work, and whoever is agitating for it wants to destroy the agriculture sector, which is the backbone of our economy,” said Amai Mugabe.
She argued that commercial agriculture in Zimbabwe was hugely reliant on irrigation and energy that compelling farmers to pre-pay electricity at a time they were not accessing lines of credits from banks or in cases where banks finance them, they do so at high interest rate, has a detrimental impact on productivity.
“Farmers need to irrigate and how can they irrigate when you ask them to pay first.
“How do you expect the farmers to pay when they do not have money to pay upfront? Give them time to produce and pay later.
“The land reform may fail if we take this route,” said Amai Mugabe. Pre-paid metres do not allow one to use electricity and pay later.
Dr Mugabe also handed over 10 tractors, sourced under the under the More Food for Africa Programme, to three irrigation schemes in Chimanimani.
Cashel Irrigation Scheme was allocated six tractors, six ploughs, one disc harrow, one planter, one fertiliser spreader and 120 knapsack sprayers.
Nyanyadzi and Chakohwa irrigation schemes were each allocated two tractors, two ploughs, one planter, one spreader and 120 knapsack sprayers.
In its heyday, Cashel Valley exported most of its products to the United Kingdom and was one of Zimbabwe’s top foreign currency-generating entities.
The firm comprised a vast farm that specialised in growing beans and encompassed a processing and packaging plant. It had 5 000 outgrowers.
The three schemes join four other schemes — Stage 3A (Middle Sabi), Premier, Brooksville (both Mutasa) and Alma (Mutare) — which have taken delivery of the equipment under the $98 million facility extended by Brazil.
The tillage equipment allocated to 18 irrigation schemes in Manicaland.
Some schemes earmarked to benefit from that same include Chibuwe Irrigation Scheme, Musikavanhu Irrigation Scheme, Maunganidze Irrigation Scheme and Tawona Irrigation Scheme (Chipinge); Chiduku-Ngove and Chiduku-Tikwiri Irrigation Schemes (Makoni); Marange Irrigation Scheme, Hamamaoko Irrigation Scheme and Arda Transau Irrigation Scheme (Mutare); Dewure Irrigation Scheme in Buhera; Mutambara Irrigation Scheme.
The olive branch by Brazil fits squarely in Zanu-PF Government’s thrust, as enshrined in its economic blueprint — Zim-Asset — to achieve food security and surplus to feed downstream industries.