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If they can’t eat sadza, let them eat rice’

I AM told President Robert Mugabe told a foreign journalist interviewing him on the sidelines of a recent UN summit in New York that Zimbabweans were starving not because there is lack of food in

the country.

According to him they are starving because they love their sadza so much that they do not want to eat other foods that are in abundance. Rice and potatoes for instance.

Now, those that are familiar with history, particularly history of the French revolution, will tell you that the president’s remarks are tragically reminiscent of those of Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XIV, the king who was overthrown in a revolution.

She was told that the poor were demonstrating because they had no bread and she is said to have famously remarked: “If they can’t eat bread let them eat cake.”

It got me wondering whether Mugabe’s assertion that we are a nation of sadza junkies is something that was whispered to him by our own Queen Marie Antoinette.

My history student friend tells me that the French Marie and the Zimbabwean one have a lot in common. The ostentatious dress sense. The scant regard for the starving peasants. And their husbands’ appalling governance records. How history likes to repeat itself! Particularly political history.

But it also got me thinking about the starvation bit. Some months ago the City of Bulawayo’s health department released a report that gave figures of people that it said were dying of starvation. Mugabe’s acolytes went bonkers about it. They accused Bulawayo mayor Japhet Ndabeni Ncube and Archbishop Pius Ncube of cooking up the figures to jolt the Brits and the Americans into sending marines to Harare Iraq-style!

The then Information minister, Jonathan Moyo, the one with the acerbic tongue, went to town about the issue and even threatened the Bulawayo City Council with unspecified action. I even feared then that Moyo would charge them under the draconian Public Order and Security Act — that obnoxious piece of legislation that can have you sent to prison for mentioning the president’s age in a petrol queue.

The president went further and challenged inquisitive journalists to show him the bodies of those that had died of starvation. And they could not because the dead were already buried.

Mugabe and his henchmen have an inherent disdain for the truth for obvious reasons. Remember the days when they used to deny the shortages that we face day in and day out?

We were even challenged to show them the queues of cars at the petrol stations. And we could not. There were no cars in the fuel queues because people had given up hope of ever getting the commodity.

And now the official line is that yes there is no fuel but you cannot blame it on the ruling party. It’s Tony Blair and his hamburger-chomping imperialist friends that are diverting the commodity to destabilise the country because Mugabe took land away from their kith and kin!

The truth Mr President is that we are not starving because we like our sadza so much that we cannot substitute it with rice or potatoes. We are starving because we cannot afford to buy the rice and the potatoes. A 15-kilogramme pack of potatoes costs between $300 000 and $500 000.

How many of us can afford that?

This business of creating the impression that Zimbabwe is a paradise when people are suffering is not on. Ian Smith was presiding over the “the happiest Africans”. And Mugabe says Zimbabweans are a happy lot.

Curiously Smith said there would never be majority rule. Not in a thousand years. And today Mugabe tells us that the bunch of Blair puppets calling themselves movement for something will never rule this country! Never, never, ever! Did I mention history has a tendency of repeating itself?

Particularly political history!

Charles Mangongera,


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