By Elita Chikwati
Government has warned strategically positioned people to desist from interrupting operations at the Grain Marketing Board depots as the State will take stern measures to correct the situation. The warning was given by Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri during a recent tour of the GMB depots.
Minister Shiri heard that some politicians were in the habit of harassing GMB officials and threatening to take over distribution of Government-sponsored inputs scheme.
He said Government will not tolerate this and warned the perpetrators to leave GMB to perform its roles and duties.
“I am aware of the numerous interferences with some of these associated with what appears to be extortionist behaviour by influential people, especially politicians, who may want to take advantage of various schemes, which are superintended over by the GMB. They want to distribute the inputs themselves and obviously such distribution will have political bias disadvantaging some nationals.
“We shall be engaging various individuals and whenever you (GMB) have such challenges, bring them to our attention,” he said.
“We will not allow bullying of GMB officials. That is very much unacceptable. I am aware of the unit, which you defend yourselves from; there is need for the ministry to come in once in a while.
“I come from a background whereby one does not tolerate bullying of one’s staff by outsiders. It’s taboo. It’s a sign of failure on the part of management. There has to be a lot public relations exercises and if that fails we will take the political route to ensure harmony between GMB and various stakeholders,” he said.
Minister Shiri expressed appreciation to the GMB for its role in ensuring the Strategic Grain Reserve and said without this role, the country would not be food secure.
He said he was also aware of the challenges being faced by the GMB as a result of the delays in the release of funds to pay farmers by Treasury.
“I appreciate the roles played by GMB. I am also aware of the negative perception towards GMB, especially when it comes to being in charge of the Strategic Grain Reserve; delays in the payments of farmers. All this is associated with inefficiency of the GMB. When it’s not the GMB, it is very unfair.
“As a political head of the GMB, I shall endeavour to make sure that we correct that perception,” he said.
He said Government fully supported the new initiative aimed at separating the SGR from the commercial activities because once done it will be easy to judge the competence of its management.
He said there was nothing wrong in the GMB going commercial, but the move would increase competition and would ensure consumers get the commodity at affordable prices.
“As a ministry, we will ensure that GMB continues to exist and also perform its roles. We will do anything possible to support GMB,” he said.