Over the past couple of weeks, we have been hearing strange and bizarre things concerning grain and the GMB. First, we learnt that this year’s grain harvest was going to be bad thanks to climate change. Then we learnt that the war in Ukraine was going to have a profound negative effect on Zimbabwe’s grain supplies. Next, we leant that the government was considering using the army in order to ensure that farmers did not engage in side marketing but rather delivered everything they could spare to the GMB. Now we are being told farmers need to get an exemption if they want to even consume their own grain. Now that is bordering on the ridiculous.

Farmers/producers who intend to retain a portion of the product for farm feed or another commercial usage shall apply for exemption from GMB.

No one is allowed to sell or buy maize and any controlled product other than through GMB unless one is a bona fide contractor registered with the Agricultural Marketing Authority of Zimbabwe (AMA).

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Trading in controlled products (buying or selling) without the authority of the GMB is an offence.

All stores, millers, stock feeders and any other users of controlled products are required to register with the GMB before engaging in such business.

Another round of arrogant bad laws

The so-called second republic has made it a habit of relying on statutory instruments which they like to spring upon unsuspecting members of the public. Most of the contents of these laws are outrageous and draconian with the government being eventually forced to scrap them. Case in point are the bans on multicurrency which was eventually reversed. Then there is the kombi ban which was also introduced and reversed with little consultation. SI 127 which imposed an “official rate” that everyone including the government ignores. This ban on side marketing has been on the books for a while and no one has bothered to enforce it because frankly speaking there is very little wisdom in it. Then again nothing the government has done in recent years can be claimed to have any wisdom in it-least of all their statutory instruments.

The security forces are now over-stretched as they chase after a multitude of offenders as the government criminalises normal behaviour with one daft law after another. This one is the latest round of such laws. The government almost certainly doesn’t have the capacity to deal with such an inundation of applications for exemptions. The result will be chaos, confusion and a frail showing of bureaucracy as farmers run around trying to get a sense of what is expected of them. That creates conditions conducive to corruption and extortion. Eventually, like it has done many times before, the government will through in the towel and shrug at the smouldering carnage created by this episode. Naturally, someone else will be blamed for it all. Drought, the war in Ukraine or maybe sanctions. It is everyone and everything’s fault and never the men staring back in the mirror who are to blame.