Governance issue at heart of Zim woes



THIS beautiful and productive country has been plunged into crises that no one could have imagined only three years ago.



“>When the fuel shortage started in 1999, we were told it was a passing phase. Numerous deals were put in place. They all collapsed. At the moment the government has no idea how cars are moving.


It is often said that some managers make things happen, others watch things happen while another lot wonder what happened.

This government is wondering what is happening. Let us take sugar for example.


Zimbabwe still exports sugar. There is enough of it in the Lowveld. So why has there been a shortage for over two years now?


Who ever imagined we would be short of our own local currency? The problems besetting this country have a domino effect. Can we say that this regime is trying hard to resolve the problems but failing, or can we say that they have now given up and are bereft of any ideas?


We in MDC have said that the crises can only be resolved in a holistic manner. Presently, each minister of the so-called war cabinet is running round like a decapitated chicken trying to solve the problems besetting his ministry. The problem is a governance issue, period.


The purpose of this submission is to warn the nation that unless we enter into serious dialogue and resolve the governance issue, even if the country receives sufficient rains in the next four months, there will still be shortages of food to levels that have never been seen before. The factors that will contribute to that sorry state of affairs are the following; shortage of seed, shortage of fertilisers and cost of both seed and fertilisers. I will now expand.


There are approximately 800 000 active farmers in the country. These are mainly communal farmers and those who were properly resettled before the chaotic land reform.


These farmers can be relied upon because they have experience, they are good farmers and they may have their own draught power. If each of these farmers was to cultivate only two hactares, each would need a minimum 500kg of compound D, 400kg of AN and 50kg of maize seed.


At current prices, this translates to $540 000 per farmer. The average yield for communal farmers is about a tonne per hactare.

The total production would therefore be 1 600 000 tonnes. If this was to happen, other farmers would then produce maybe another 600 000 tonnes, giving us a total of 2 200 000 tonnes, sufficient for one year’s consumption.

This is easier said than done. Let us look at some facts.

With 800 000 farmers each tilling 2 ha means 1 600 000 ha. The seed required would be 40 000 tonnes at $800 000 per tonne equals $32 billion; compound D 400 000 tonnes at $600 000 per tonne equals $240 billion and AN 320 000 tonnes at $500 000 per tonne equals $160 billion. To finance maize production for next year, the farmers must raise $432 billion.


As we have seen above, each farmer must raise $540 000. We know that there is a shortage of local currency in the country. Communal farmers do not have cheque accounts. They operate on cash, which is now not available.


Even if the government was to print money to help farmers with inputs, I don’t believe there is enough printing capacity to produce the volumes of cash required.


But this assumes that the inputs are available. We do not have enough seed in the country. We do not have enough fertilisers either. Any scheme to revive agriculture should have long been put in place. Farmers should by now have received the bulk of their inputs. As nothing has been done, nothing of any significance can be done now.


Two years ago we produced about 240 000 tonnes of wheat. Last year, after much hype, only 140 000 tonnes were produced. This year the wheat which is in the ground will be enough to feed the nation for one month, a mere 40 000 tonnes.


Next year there will be no wheat at all.

What is the solution? The government, in its inherent malfeasance, is preoccupied with readmission to the Commonwealth in December. It is my submission that one of the most urgent matters is the growing of food next year.


We have only two months at most to put plans together. We have no fuel, we have no sugar, we have no cooking oil, we have no money, we have no mealie-meal. The costs of these items if they become available, are unaffordable.


The government has asked the World Food Programme for total food aid this year as they have no money! If this is not abrogation of responsibility and total admission of failure, then I don’t know what is.


The Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement is today, so late in the season, seeking foreign currency to import seed and fertilisers. Who is going to be responsible for the starvation of the people in this country next year? Who is planning for the food production for next year? Can we really say that we have a government that is in charge other than in charge of violence and repression?


I go back to my earlier point. The problems of this country cannot be solved in isolation of the governance issue. We in the MDC have plans that will address the economic meltdown, not piecemeal, but totally. We have already developed sub-strategies for each sector.


In agriculture, we can revive production within the shortest possible time provided it is part of the overall political solution. The political solution will bring back the rule of law, readmission into the comity of nations, access to international finance, return of donors and an opportunity to negotiate on what to do with our huge foreign debt. We will also rationalise the land reform to ensure productivity returns.


Like I said, because nothing has been done up to now, even though the weather forecasters are predicting a good season, we will embarassingly be begging for food again next year. What an indictment for a country endowed with such natural resources.


In the words of the erudite Pius Wakatama, those who have ears, let them hear.


Renson Gasela (MP),

MDC Shadow Minister of Lands & Agriculture.