LANDS and Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka has ordered members of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) to work together with sugar company Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe to investigate theft of maize from fields.

Masuka said this last Friday during a tour of the Tongaat Hulett fields, where 700 hectares of sorghum and over 1 500 hectares of maize were planted by the Masvingo Development Trust (MDT ) in a project which is being supported by Tongaat Hulet and the government.

The project is meant to boost food security to support vulnerable people in Masvingo province.

“Theft of one maize cob is a threat to the district, theft of another cob is a threat to the province and theft of yet another is a national security threat. So I would like you as the JOC to investigate such theft while working together with your partner, Tongaat Hulett,” Masuka said.

The Lands and Agriculture minister offered a state-of-the-art combine harvester to Tongaat Hulett to help during the harvesting of crops.

The harvester is expected to be delivered today.

Masuka’s utterances come hardly a year after the MDT chairperson, Lovemore Matuke, who is also the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare deputy minister, confirmed the theft of 1 446 tonnes of maize last year during a handover ceremony of winter maize by MDT to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) in Chiredzi.

Although Matuke initially blamed power cuts on the increased theft of maize, he later blamed the surrounding communities for stealing the maize.

But unconfirmed reports alleged that the Zanu-PF leadership in the province was responsible for the theft, which it sold for personal benefit.

Chiredzi West MP Farai Musikavanhu, who is on the technical team of the MDT committee, told Masuka that some of the maize that was harvested was delivered to various wards in Chiredzi North constituency and might not have been stolen.

Last year, MDT was forced to deliver only 1 186 tonnes of maize, instead of the projected 2 632 tonnes. This was after about 1 446 tonnes were not accounted for in suspected cases of theft.

This year, it is suspected that more tonnes of maize would be lost through theft.

There are also reports that the MDT operates without a secretariat and a bank account and yet the organisation is one of the beneficiaries of the command agriculture programme.

Meanwhile, Tongaat Agriculture operations director Tarisai Mudambanuki said this year, the company was expecting a maize yield of over 10 000 metric tonnes.

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