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Mutasa fires at food experts

Itai Mushekwe

NATIONAL Security minister Didymus Mutasa has fired salvoes at food experts who have criticised government’s centralised food management system as a strategy to control the population through politicisation

of food distribution.

Food experts have attributed the current food crisis besieging the country partly to government’s failure to allow more players other than the state monopoly Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to trade in grain.

Mutasa told the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday that such claims were ill-founded and imperialistic. The intelligence minister said it was incumbent upon government to provide food to the people and there was no politicisation of food.

Mutasa said food production and security were part of national security, dismissing observations by the food experts that “Zimbabwe is among a few countries in the world where food production had become a national security issue”.

“You must not listen to those lies,” said Mutasa.

“Food security has always been a national security issue. I’m the Minister of National Security and it’s not something new. There is no country in the world where food is not part of national security.”

He said government was not playing food politics with the people as a way to control them but had an obligation to provide enough food to feed the nation.

“There is no controlling of food and any politics involved. Imi ndosaka makuda kupiwa sadza nemaBritish. Itai vana kwavo kwete kufurirwa naBlair. (That is why you now want Britain to give you food. Act like well-mannered children, and don’t be fooled by Blair).”

“The GMB has been there ever since, so I don’t agree with you or that report from so-called experts,’ Mutasa said.

“It (GMB) was in fact created before our time and used to subsidise white farmers. It’s a question of allowing every farmer to produce abundantly so that the GMB ends up running out of storage space. Besides, the population itself can produce their own food and no one forces them to sell their produce to GMB, so where is the food control?”

Government has militarised the grain parastatal, which is run by Colonel Samuel Muvhuti as acting chief executive. There are also reports that soldiers were recently deployed to round up villagers ordering them to release their
grain to boost dwindling reserves at GMB.

As part of its grip on food production, government last year launched Operation Maguta/Sisuthi — a project conceived by the Joint Operations Command (JOC) to avert Zimbabwe’s perennial food woes.

According to experts, the country requires about 1,8 million tonnes of maize annually to meet national requirements and another 500 000 tonnes for strategic reserves. Contrary to government’s projected harvest of 2,4 million tonnes this year, international food agencies have put the 2005/2006 harvest at between 600 000 and 800 000 tonnes.

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