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Food factor could hold sway in poll

Loughty Dube

“ZIMBABWEANS should know that no one formed the MDC but Mugabe’s failures that have ruined this once beautiful country. But the MDC is here to deliver Zimbabweans to freedom.”

That is the message MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai took to Matabeleland South in his campaign to garner support for the party’s parliamentary candidates in the March 31 election.

The opposition leader last weekend addressed four rallies in Matabeleland South province where his message to the electorate was the restoration of Zimbabwe to the pre-2000 era of peace and prosperity.

“As the MDC we do not abhor Mugabe but we are against him because he has brought hunger and famine to the people of Zimbabwe. The MDC will move Zimbabweans from ‘Egypt to their new Canaan’,” Tsvangirai told thousands of cheering supporters at Dulibadzimu stadium in Beitbridge.

Tsvangirai, who was travelling in his bulletproof vehicle with a single security vehicle, on Sunday addressed rallies in Insiza and Insuza before travelling the following day to Ntepe in Gwanda and to Beitbridge.

At Ntepe, Tsvangirai addressed over 5 000 people, composed mainly of youths whom he told the MDC would bring back non-governmental organisations if elected to power.

“Hunger is killing people in the country but Mugabe has been saying he does not want people to be fed by international donor agencies. Once the MDC is in power, the NGOs will come back and operate normally in the country,” he said.

Mugabe last year stopped donor agencies from giving out food aid and ordered that they take their donations elsewhere saying the country had enough food.

The food factor is likely to play a crucial role in the current election as people who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent on the sidelines of the rally said they were angry with Mugabe’s forced withdrawal of food aid.

“As we speak right now there is no food in the rural areas and the shops have no food. I travelled all the way from Shashe, 40 kilometres away, to buy mealie-meal because there is nothing in the rural shops,” said Linah Muleya, a mother of three.

“We were getting the mealie-meal for free from World Vision and the World Food Programme (WFP) before Mugabe banned the food handouts. We are now forced to fork out money from our little resources,” she said.

Muleya said people in rural areas would punish Mugabe by voting for the opposition.

“WFP and World Vision food was free but now we are forced to buy expensive grain from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and sometimes the grain does not arrive for a long time,” she said.

She said the GMB visited an area once every two months and in some cases after three months.

“As we speak right now, we have not seen the GMB in the area for close to two months. And they allow a family to buy only one bag of maize and the bag lasts two weeks,” she said. Muleya said apart from her three children and husband, she was also supporting an extended family of eight.

“Adults can fend for themselves but the children suffer because when the grain is about to run out we reserve the little for porridge for the children,” she said.

Themba, a teacher in the area, said life was becoming difficult for villagers as grain stocks were scarce due to poor harvests in the semi-arid region.

“Children do not come to school these days because of hunger. Most people are angry with Mugabe and it is going to translate into votes for the opposition,” Themba said.

Tsvangirai, who was travelling with the MP for Mbare West, Tichaona Munyanyi, said the MDC would restore law and order in the country and ensure that Zimbabweans enjoyed peace.

He said the MDC would draft a new constitution that would limit presidential terms to two.

“Mugabe keeps attacking Tony Blair but shockingly he is still using a British constitution 25 years down the line. The MDC will draft a new Zimbabwean constitution once in power,” Tsvangirai said to applause from about 5 000 party supporters who packed Dulibadzimu stadium.

“President Mugabe thinks the country is Zimbabwe Private Ltd and that is why he refers to it as ‘my Zimbabwe’ and that is wrong,” Tsvangirai said.

He said the MDC would revive the economy as a matter of urgency once in power and create jobs for thousands of unemployed youths in the country,

“The first option is to revive tourism and agriculture and once that is done, the next option is to bring in investors and everyone should know that only the MDC can bring investors into the country,” Tsvangirai said.

Turning to the land issue, Tsvangirai said if the MDC had not been formed Zimbabweans were not going to be given land by Mugabe’s government.

“If the MDC was not formed, Mugabe was not going to give people land but the MDC is saying the manner the exercise was carried out was barbaric. Once in power, we are going to implement the one-person one-farm policy where all Zimbabweans with the agricultural expertise will benefit.”

The MDC leader said there was need to repeal repressive laws that were enacted in parliament. He also took a swipe at the nationwide computer donations being done by President Mugabe.

“The president is not a donor but we see him giving out computers to schools that do not even have electricity and proper infrastructure. It is clear that this is a campaign strategy.” He said there was need to compensate all those who lost parents and dependants during the 1980s Gukurahundi campaign, as a form of reconciliation.

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