NEWLY-appointed ministers, Anxious Jongwe Masuka and Soda Zhemu, yesterday pledged to enhance value addition and institute import substitution to improve the livelihoods of Zimbabweans through increased production and provision of energy in a sustainable way.
Dr Masuka, an agricultural technocrat, took over as Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister following the death of Retired Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri last month, while Cde Zhemu, who is also Muzarabani North legislator, assumes duty as Energy and Power Development Minister, taking over from Cde Fortune Chasi who was relieved of his duties last week.
The two were sworn-in by President Mnangagwa at State House yesterday at a function attended by Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi.
In an interview soon after a closed-door meeting with President Mnangagwa, Dr Masuka said it was high time the country stops importing food, something that could be achieved through increased production.
Dr Masuka said there was need to restore agriculture as the backbone of the economy and anchor of economic transformation through import substitution. His major thrust was to build on the successes already achieved in the sector.
“We are just coming up from a successful winter programme where we had an expanded wheat crop unprecedented in the past few seasons. So we can build on those successes and ensure that we start the preparation for the summer season now. The short-term and immediate objective is to ensure that we have increased production this season but the overall scheme of things is that the broader strategy in pursuit of Vision 2030 is to make agriculture central again to the development of the country.
“There will be focus on food security, import substitution, diversified and expanded exports, value addition and beneficiation employment creation and improvement of rural livelihood in pursuit of that vision,” said Dr Masuka.
“We have hit the ground running. There is no option, people need to eat every day, and we cannot continue to import what we eat.”
Minister Zhemu said his thrust was to push President Mnangagwa’s vision through ensuring that there was sustainable availability of energy, which was central to the development of the economy across all sectors.
“Obviously issues to do with electricity, energy and power are very critical. The President has enunciated the vision where we are looking at adequate and sustainable power generation. Obviously we will have to follow what has been put forward by the President in order to achieve the vision. I know certainly people are interested to know about issues about power because they are key enablers towards the achievement of Vision 2030.
“Talk of agriculture, mining, all the processes that we are looking at as a nation, power is a prerequisite. I will work harder to ensure that the vision is achieved but obviously it is a process,” said Minister Zhemu.
Zimbabwe, under the leadership of President Mnangagwa is pursuing Vision 2030, to be a middle class income with signs already showing that notwithstanding setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic the country will achieve its goals.
Dr Masuka, who has national and regional reputation, has held several research and management posts, mostly at high level, in his career.
He began in the teaching field as a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe in the Department of Biological Sciences as well as at the Zimbabwe College of Forestry.
He has also worked at the Forestry Commission, the Tobacco Research Board where he rose to general manager, and before his appointment he was the chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society.
Dr Masuka has cumulatively sat on over 30 boards and associations, and has been involved in consultancy work to projects in the field of agriculture, forestry, environment, public health and rural development in Zimbabwe, in SADC region and beyond.
He is a founding fellow of the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences in 2004.
Minister Zhemu is expected to bring quality management skills. He is a holder of a Masters’ in Business Administration, and has a certificate in quality management systems.