LEGACY debts owed to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) are scuttling efforts by private sector players and displaced white farmers to enter into joint venture operations with resettled farmers.
The government has encouraged resettled farmers under the A1 and A2 models to find experienced partners particularly former white farmers displaced during the fast track land reform exercise to assist them in bolstering productivity.
“To redress this, the Transitional Stabilisation Programme targets embracing the former displaced white farmers to form joint venture partnerships with the beneficiary A1 and A2 farmers. Former Farmers should act as anchor farmers to other beneficiaries of the land reform programme in order to ensure increased production on the farms,” notes the government in the TSP.
However, most of the A2 farms are in arrears with ZINWA and ZESA and the entities are reportedly demanding payment before reconnecting.
PHI agriculture director Graeme Murdoch whose company contracts for summer and winter crops said while the joint venture initiative was noble it was fraught with a number of challenges.
“The JVs have many challenges especially the legacy debts, once you are on the ground ZINWA will come and disconnect and when you reach an understanding with them ZESA comes along and hit you with a hefty bill and as the partner you are expected to take care of that,” said Murdoch.
Deputy Minister for agriculture Vangelis Haritatos acknowledged that the legacy debts poised a challenge to forming joint venture partnerships and government had approached the two entities to ring-fence the debts.
“Water and electricity are a huge challenge and I was in touch with ZINWA over the issue of debts and those will be ring fenced and paid over time and should not be a liability for the joint venture partners. We shall also be talking to ZESA soon for them to ring fence the debts and allow production to commence on the farms”.