Dubious distinction

Joram Nyathi


ZIMBABWE has gained another dubious distinction. Four times it has been awarded a prize for outstanding performance in agriculture in recent years. The latest is a gold award offered by a Spanish organisation.
According to a Newsnet report on Mon

day, two GMB officials, one of them the managing director, were in Spain for the award. Unfortunately I was unable to find the citation. We have heard reports in the past of sponsors requiring payment for such awards.
It is not only a dubious honour, it is also embarrassing coming at a time when Zimbabwe is relying on food imports and millions of people face starvation. The award is far different from that given to Prime Minister Robert Mugabe in 1982/3 for his leadership in the fight against hunger. Back then we were an exemplary African country.
In 1983 Zimbabwe had lots of competent farmers, it doesn’t now; it had plenty of friends, it doesn’t now; it enjoyed a lot of international goodwill, it has lost everything now. Zimbabwe today is poor, isolated and a virtual outcast.
This reversal of fortune has been in inverse proportion to the country’s craving for, and lost stature and consequently influence, in regional and international affairs. Yet all this could have been avoided with a bit of elementary planning and foresight in executing the land reform programme. But as they say, that is now water under the bridge.
The trouble is that we don’t seem able to get ourselves out of the rut of poverty. There is a certain deadly inertia that appears to enervate even the highest authority in the land. I recall that it was in July 2003 when President Mugabe said those who had grabbed more than one farm should surrender the surplus properties. To all intents and purposes, nothing has happened. Several land audits have been set up to identify who owns what farm and what they are doing. Nobody has had the guts so far to name and shame the culprits. This has punctured the myth nurtured over the years of Mugabe as a leader who brooks no corruption and inspires fear in his ministers. Clearly no one takes him seriously.
Take Agriculture minister Joseph Made as a case in point. President Mugabe told the Zanu PF party people’s conference in Esigodini in December that lack of planning was the cause of perennial food shortages. He fingered him again in the Newsnet interview on his 82nd birthday, along with a number of other non-performing ministers.
You would expect that to “strike terror” in their hearts. Not in a thousand years. Mugabe has quietly retreated into his shell at State House. Occasionally he pokes his head out as his motorcade thunders down Rotten Row at psychedelic speed to the safety of Shake Shake building.
My point is that the gold award in Spain is a mockery of what Zimbabwe could be but cannot be so long as no one wants to accept responsibility for the country’s current parlous food situation. We know the raw truth better than the Spaniards to be fooled by so-called gold awards when people are starving nationwide.
One thing that I have learnt is that a nation whose political leadership has lost all sense of shame is a nation in trouble indeed and bound to get worse. In other countries, Made’s failure to revive agriculture over the past six years would have forced a resignation. Without sufficient recovery in that sector, the war on inflation is going to be bloody and a long-drawn out one for therein lies the bulk of the foreign currency we need to import fuel, medicines, fertilisers and all other chemicals.
Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono is acutely aware of this. He has splurged over $6 trillion in the sector hoping that a speedy recovery there would shore up his own monetary policies. Yet there is evidence of failure in his admission recently that government had spent a further US$135 million in food imports. Yet in terms of natural resources endowment as a country, we should be the last one in the region to import food even during a drought year.
The last time we had a minister doing the honourable thing was when Edmund Garwe quit after his daughter stumbled upon examination question papers. Since then that conduct has been condemned as a sign of spinelessness not befitting “amadoda sibili”. So it is that we can proudly receive worthless awards for agriculture even as the nation spends millions in priceless foreign currency on food imports. It’s a crowning shame.