THE case of former Police Deputy Commissioner-General Innocent Matibiri being dragged to court for failing to pay back a US$189 000 debt is not only very intriguing, but it is also infuriating in a big way.

NewsDay Comment

In the matter, it is stated that in May 2013, Tian Ze Tobacco contracted Matibiri to grow some tobacco for them during the 2014-15 agricultural season. Tian Ze tells us that: “The contract was a novation of previous similar contracts between the plaintiff (Tian Ze Tobacco) and the defendant (Innocent Matibiri), with an aggregate value of US$189 083,82 made up of inputs and cash advanced to the defendant during the 2014/2015 and previous tobacco farming seasons.”

But for some reasons, probably to be made known during the course of the trial, Matibiri defaulted paying back the loan given to him by Tian Ze. While we are yet to understand why the former police boss failed to pay back the money, we see in this case the crux of why this country has dismally performed as far as agriculture is concerned.

Here was a whole police boss involving himself in farming and we then wonder how he was managing to juggle the two: The intense demands of farming and the equally arduous police work? In our view, the two can only be possible if one is able to work 24/7, which is impossible. But here was a man who thought he could be a jack of all trades. In the end, we are sure it affected both his chosen trades. He failed to farm the tobacco as he had promised and we can wildly guess that his in-tray at Police General Headquarters was always overflowing.

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The saddest and most exasperating issue about all this is that Matibiri was not the only one, but many hundreds other bigwigs with unfettered access to money let the nation down by accessing millions of dollars as well as inputs and machinery which they never put to any meaningful use, which has led to Zimbabwe turning from a bread basket nation to a basket case.

This year alone, nearly half the nation is hungry and our main export crop, tobacco, is an embarrassment, thanks to people who have been masquerading as farmers. It is now increasingly becoming apparent why our agriculture has been such a dismal failure.

We shudder when we wonder whether the country has learnt anything from our poor showing in the past. Last week, Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri told us that those with land are now allowed to lease it. This move only tells us one thing: Much of the country’s arable land is idling in the hands of people who haven’t got the slightest idea what they are supposed to do with it. It is also apparent that Shiri and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is not keen to repossess that land and give it to those who are able to productively utilise it, which is very sad, indeed, to say the least.