President Ian Khama has instructed the Minister of Finance and Development Planning to tour the country and assess the extent of poor crop yield and its effects on farmers ÔÇô a responsibility which lies with the Minister of Agriculture.
But the Finance Minister has played down his newly assigned role by the President saying it would not be him but┬áofficials from his ministry and that of the Office of the President despite the fact that the President announced it was going to be him touring the country.
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, was present at the meeting when the President made the announcement.
“I am not going to be┬átouring the country doing the crop yield assessment. The people who are going to be doing that are officials from my Ministry and that of the Office of the President. It is going to be a team of government officials,” Matambo told The Telegraph.┬á┬á
The President assured a gathering of councillors recently in the South East District that he had instructed the Minister of Finance and Development Planning to tour the country with the aim of assessing the extent to which the poor crop yield due to erratic rainfalls has affected farmers.
Khama told councillors that he has instructed Matambo to come up with recommendations that would inform what interventions the government should make in order to assist affected farmers.┬á┬á
This was after the SED council chairperson, Anne Joubert, had informed the President during a recent Cabinet interactive meeting with councillors that farmers have experienced poor harvests from the just ended ploughing season due to low rainfall.┬á┬á
Asked why the President specifically instructed him and not the Minister of Agriculture, Matambo said Khama probably assigned him the responsibility because he is the chairperson of the government’s Rural Development Council. He could not say when the President gave him the instruction.
“I can’t remember the exact date. We met over the issue sometime in March,” was all Matambo could say.┬á┬á
Matambo said the government officials from his Ministry and that of the Office of the President are expected to begin the countrywide tour beginning 16 April until 5 May this year. Asked why the Ministry of Agriculture is not mentioned, Matambo said they will be “very much involved”.┬á┬á
Matambo did not wish to shed light onto what form of intervention the government hopes to come up with to assist farmers affected by drought.┬á┬á
“I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of the recommendations. If the situation is bad, the government will come up with appropriate measures to assist farmers,” he said.
The Finance Minister said the task team is expected to report back to the President during the course of May.┬á┬á
It was not possible to reach the Minister of Agriculture, Christian De Graaff, by the time of going to press.