Cletus Mushanawani in MUTARE
VULNERABLE households will start receiving cash grants pegged at a higher level than the price of roller meal to enable them to source the basic commodity from any place of their choice, President Mnangagwa has said.
Government recently stopped the subsidy on roller meal after realisation that some top officials and those in positions of influence were abusing the facility and benefiting at the expense of targeted groups.
Speaking during a briefing on the Cyclone Idai Recovery programme in Mutare last night, the President said Cabinet this week approved the new method of assisting vulnerable households with cash grants which will be availed through the Department of Social Welfare.
The department is expected to compile a database of all vulnerable households countrywide before the money is disbursed.
“On the roller meal issue raised by Minister (Ellen) Gwaradzimba (Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution), initially this roller-meal programme was subsidised, but we realised that there was no mechanism in place of identifying the persons which we had in mind to benefit from it.
“It became apparent that even us in this room, especially us on the top table, were also buying that roller-meal at subsidised prices and yet we have the capacity to buy without the subsidy,” said President Mnangagwa.
He added: “Now we have decided to increase the money that we will be giving to vulnerable groups. That money will be distributed by the Department of Social Welfare. That amount from Social Welfare will be enough to buy unsubsidised roller meal. That will exclude people like me who do not qualify to be given that money, so that is the model we are taking now. Cabinet yesterday (Tuesday) approved that households who need that assistance will be registered countrywide and these are the people who will be given this money which will be more than the cost of unsubsidised roller meal. This will assist us to target the correct people.”
In an earlier presentation, Dr Gwaradzimba had said Manicaland had registered 53 997 households as being food insecure to benefit under the drought relief programme.
“Grain allocations to cater for a large number is inadequate and the situation has been worsened by the non-availability of subsidised roller meal and urban dwellers are having a torrid time in this regard. People are hungry as they cannot afford the roller meal being sold in big retail shops and in some cases, sold in hard currency ranging from US$4.20 to US$4.50 per 10kg.
“These food shortages have been worsened by the recent by the imposition of Value Added Tax on rice which has astronomically driven up the price of rice. Rice is not supposed to be considered a luxury, but an alternative staple food taken instead of sadza. We recommend the scrapping of VAT on rice or for it to be reinstated after the bumper harvest expected from the Pfumvudza Programme,” said Dr Gwaradzimba.
Rice was exempted from paying VAT in 2017 by the then Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, but suppliers and packers of 25kg or less recently received requests for VAT payment backdated to 2017.
President Mnangagwa and his entourage including Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and several Cabinet ministers will today tour Chimanimani to commission infrastructure rehabilitated by the Government after the March 2019 Cyclone Idai disaster that left hundreds of people dead and infrastructure worth millions of dollars destroyed or badly damaged.
Treasury has so far released $28,2 million towards the infrastructure rehabilitation programme.