PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is reported to have informed United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan that he would not allow the UN to use non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to assist with food relief efforts in Zimbabwe because “these ten
ded to politicise humanitarian assistance”.
Mugabe’s comments underline once again his indifference towards the suffering in Zimbabwe. Even in countries ravaged by civil strife NGOs are permitted to engage in humanitarian relief efforts.
Operation Murambatsvina and the continued obstinancy of the Mugabe government on the issue of securing food relief provide further confirmation that this is a government consciously waging war against its own people, especially the weak, the poor and the needy.
There is indeed widespread politicisation of humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe but this is not committed by NGOs; it is committed by ruling party officials and the traditional structures.
Mugabe even had the temerity to suggest to Annan that the UN could use the traditional structures to assist in food relief efforts. He failed to mention that in many parts of Zimbabwe traditional leaders have been at the vanguard of food aid manipulation. Traditional structures have by and large been co-opted into the structures of the ruling party.
Zimbabwe desperately needs food aid. Aid agencies have estimated that nearly five million people are suffering from chronic food shortages. Mugabe, however, is unaware of the magnitude of the crisis.
He has never visited any of the areas or met any of the people suffering from hunger. The only time he meets “the public” is when he stands on the podium at ostentatious Zanu PF rallies ranting about Tony Blair.
Mugabe is dangerously out of touch with reality, as demonstrated last year when he claimed over and over again that Zimbabwe was on course to produce a record maize crop of 2,5 million tonnes.
The man is deluded and Zimbabweans are paying a high price for this delusion. He may still be a hero to a number of African leaders but to the starving people on the ground he is playing Russian roulette with their lives.
We urge Annan not to be misled by Mugabe and to apply the necessary diplomatic pressure to ensure that food aid is delivered to the needy expeditiously.
Paul Themba Nyathi,
MDC information secretary.