By Kudzai Kuwaza
THE National Social Security Authority (Nssa) has injected US$20 million into fertiliser companies Windmill and Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC) to boost production and meet demand for government’s command agriculture programme, businessdigest has learnt.
Command agriculture is a government scheme that targets farmers near water bodies who can put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize per farmer.
The two received US$10 million each for raw materials, according to Labour permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka who last week told an Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) meeting held in Harare on the social contract.
“Government through Nssa has provided US$20 million to Windmill and ZFC. They each received US$10 million for raw materials for fertiliser production which will complement the command agriculture programme,” Masoka said. “We are going to request for more money from Nssa to address the shortage of top dressing.”
One of the participants at the meeting asked Masoka whether the funding provided to the two fertiliser companies by Nssa was in the form of a loan or a donation to the national programme. Masoka in response said the two fertiliser companies had received the funding in the form of a loan.
“There is no donation about it,” Masoka said. “Nssa gave the loan through a bank which will then lend it to Windmill and ZFC.” He, however, did not give details on the interest rate at which the two fertiliser companies will repay the loan.
The country has been hard hit by the shortage of fertiliser among other critical inputs threatening to derail government’s programme aimed at ensuring food self-sufficiency.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made has said that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe should prioritise fertiliser manufacturers in the allocation of foreign currency.
Meanwhile, sharp differences emerged during the meeting between government and business over the plan to introduce the national health insurance scheme.
Government is pushing through plans to introduce the scheme despite concerns by both business and labour. Cabinet last year approved the principles of the scheme.
Emcoz executive director John Mufukare told Masoka it would not be prudent to introduce such a scheme at a time government is struggling to pay its workers.
“The national health scheme is a sore point with employers,” Mufukare said. “The elephant in the room is government expenditure. There is no question that it benefits everyone but we have government who as an employer is struggling to meet their current wage bill.”
Emcoz vice-president Matthew Chimbgandah weighed in, saying government was not sincere in its consultation as they are implementing the scheme without agreeing with business.
“Consultation should build trust to the extent that we are in total agreement. If the consultation is for public relations purposes, it becomes very difficult,” Chimbgandah said.
“Trust is at the core of the social contract. You cannot build an economy by steamrolling other partners. You hear but you do not listen and this puts our efforts in jeopardy.”
However, Masoka said although government will continue to consult over the scheme, they “could not keep our head buried in the sand”.
“If you took at all employees’ medical aid, it amounts to less than 9%. If we implement this scheme it will benefit more than 40% of the country.”