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Zimbabwe Lawmakers Spar Over Farm Input Inquiry

A Zimbabwean parliamentary inquiry degenerated into chaos and ended prematurely Tuesday after Zanu PF legislators in the agriculture portfolio committee clashed over the questioning of central bank governor, Gideon Gono.

Gono had appeared to shed light over the farm mechanization program, a $200-million scheme under which the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe parceled out tractors, combine harvesters and planters, among other implements to farmers.

But he brushed aside the pressure and refused to divulge the names of beneficiaries, citing secrecy and confidentiality as provided under the RBZ and the Banking Act.

Gono's stance angered some legislators, including committee chairman, Moses Jiri of the MDC-T and Paddy Zhanda of Zanu PF who reminded him that he was under oath, and that parliamentary rules were superior to the legislation he had cited.

"There is no way you can conceal the information because this committee wants it, Jiri said. "We don't need anything from government, we just need the information of the mechanization program that you led as governor."

Zhanda also warned Gono that parliament had powers to charge him with contempt if he did not comply.

"If you are under oath in a committee of parliament," said Zhanda, "you are subject to be held responsible for that evidence should you be found to have given information which is not right."

Zhanda's tough talk drew sharp criticism from his Zanu PF colleagues, Bright Matonga and Sarah Mahoka who, speaking at the top of their voices, sided with Gono, disregarding orders from chairman Jiri calling them to order.

Zhanda then stormed out of the chamber in protest.

Despite the emotion-charged drama, Gono eventually promised to comply, saying though that he needed as much as six months to compile the list of the beneficiaries, most of them Zanu PF politicians.