Zanu PF enticing women's vote

HARARE - Government has opened discussions with countries in the BRICs with a view to acquiring 100 000 tractors for distribution to women.

The BRICs is made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

These are countries deemed to be at similar stage of newly advanced economic development.

Observers reason that the initiative could be another vote-buying gimmick by the ruling Zanu PF party ahead of crucial elections in 2018.

Lately, government has been rolling out a number of initiatives targeting the youths, civil servants and the war veterans, all seen as meant to shore up its political ratings with the harmonised polls in mind.

President Robert Mugabe’s administration insists, however, that it has a duty to deliver on its election promises, and that those who accuse it of vote buying were ignorant of the role that governments, the world over, must play.

Women Affairs minister Nyasha Chikwinya revealed in Parliament this week that government, through the ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, was negotiating the acquisition of 100 000 tractors on behalf of Zimbabwean women through a loan facility.

She said a number of countries, among them Brazil and China, which are part of the BRICs bloc, had expressed interests in providing both the funding and the equipment to capacitate women, who form the bulk of the country’s population.

Speaking in the Senate on Wednesday, the legislator for Mutare South said her ministry would assist the beneficiaries of the tractors to run income-generating projects that would enable them to service the loans.

Her ministry also plans to launch a Women’s Bank to support female entrepreneurs. The launch, initially slated to coincide with the International Women’s Day celebrations in March, was postponed indefinitely.

“Anyone who wants to own a tractor from that programme should be trained first for a fee of $65 and then we give you an offer on the type of crops that you will plant and the market for the final products. This is done so that women will be able to repay the loan, which they will have taken,” she said.

She said while they were hopeful of getting tractors in the region of $18 000 each, with a bit of lady luck they may get better prices.

She said women in Zimbabwe were renowned for being hard workers, who pioneered a number of projects, including poultry.

“I think we have 70 percent of poultry farmers in this country who are women. So, women will do a lot of poultry and they will be distributed to markets without taking long to sell; we already have a ready market,” she said.

Observers say the project could be another vote-buying gimmick by Zanu PF ahead of the forthcoming polls, with the latest initiative targeting women.

Recently, government promised to buy new vehicles for the country’s 226 chiefs to fulfil promises made by Zanu PF after the 2013 polls.

“It (buying new cars) is something we are working on. We are going to give them (chiefs) very shortly . . . all the 226 registered chiefs will get the cars,” revealed Rural Development minister Abedinico Ncube in May.

Zanu PF’s rivals accuse the party of abusing traditional leaders as extensions of its commissariat department used to mobilise supporters when they are supposed to be apolitical.

Traditional leaders stand accused of aiding the ruling party to retain power through terror campaigns and partisan food distribution in rural areas.

Along with village heads, chiefs get monthly allowances from government.

Should government succeed in securing tractors from Brazil and China, this would not be the first time it has done so.

In 2015, the country secured a $98 million loan from Brazil which they used to buy irrigation equipment, tractors and implements through Brazil’s More Food for Africa programme.

However, the equipment was controversially distributed to Zanu PF supporters by First Lady Grace Mugabe at her nation-wide rallies.

In 2007, the central bank embarked on an agricultural mechanisation programme, rolling out an input supply scheme targeting the black commercial and small-scale farmers after getting support from China.

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