HARARE--The Zimbabwe Parliamewnt's Legal Committtee says the government cannot institute criminal proceedings against farmers who misuse agricultural inputs and produce under the Command Agriculture Scheme, as the contracts between the two parties are of a civil nature and can only attract civil remedies.
In July last year, the government gazetted Statutory Instrument (SI) 79 of 2017 which provided for the criminalization of unauthorized purchase, selling or disposal of inputs and crops linked to the programme, with offenders facing three months' imprisonment.
Command Agriculture is a government scheme in which farmers are provided with inputs to produce an agreed amount of produce but the Legal Committee, led by respected lawyer Jonathan Samukange, says the scheme was governed by a civil contract between the government and the farmers similar to any civil contract regulated by the law of contract.
Thus, there is no need to create a criminal offence under a Statute where it is already provided for in terms of a contract, the committee said in an adverse report issued after deliberating on the SI.
For example, the committee said, if a person failed to pay back money borrowed from a bank, the aggrieved party's only right was to approach the civil court to attach and sell securities or properties to recover the defaulted loan.
It added that criminalisation of breach of contracts would not strengthen debt recovery laws or speedy recovery of loans in cases of breach of contract or default in the repayment of a loan. "The aggrieved party cannot seek recourse from the criminal court because the cause of action emanates from a purely civil contract and thus attracts civil remedies not punishment, it said.
Despite reports of alleged corruption, the Command Agriculture scheme has largely been successful, and has assisted Zimbabwe regain food self-sufficiency. The programme, which started off with maize only, has now been expanded to include other crops such as wheat and soybeans as well as livestock.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK