Erich Bloch: The Mother Of All Disasters

THE unmitigated gall of government knows no bounds.

By now there cannot conceivably be any in Zimbabwe who do not know that the 2007/2008 agricultural season has been a disastrous failure, but nevertheless the state-controlled media continues its endless trumpeting that it is (or was): “The Mother of All Agricultural Seasons”. 

How government can so brazenly continue with such blatantly specious propaganda is incomprehensible in the extreme. 

The hard, distressing facts are that as against a national need for at least 1,8 million tonnes of maize, and as against government’s pre-season confident forecasts of a crop of at least 1,5 million tones, actual production is well under 500 000 tonnes.

Once again, Zimbabwe (which used to be the breadbasket for the entire region) has to resort to vast maize imports in order to feed the populace.

And it is not only the maize crop that is a failure. 

As against government’s forecasts (which it claimed were conservative) of a tobacco crop of at least 110 million kg, the tobacco industry now envisages that, at best, the harvest will be 70 million kg, and could well be significantly less than that. 

Similarly, Zimbabwe is confronted with pronounced scarcities of sugar, milk, eggs, poultry, meat, vegetables, and of most other agricultural produce.

It was Shakespeare who said “Methinks thou doest protest too much” (admittedly, some slight poetic licence with that quotation!), and that is undoubtedly doubly so insofar as the Zimbabwean government is concerned.

The first of its pronouncedly false, recurrent protests is that Zimbabwe is enjoying “The Mother of All Agricultural Seasons”.

All those connected with the agricultural sector, even if only remotely so connected, and all consumers, know otherwise.

They know that irrefutably Zimbabwe is experiencing yet another catastrophic agricultural season (and even a government that is so arrogant as to believe that whatever it says will be accepted as fact, knows that it would lose all credibility — if it has any — if it sought to blame the appalling outturn of this latest season upon climatic conditions).

Therefore, it unceasingly resorts to its second protest, which is a nauseatingly frequent, vitriolic contention that Britain wishes to recolonise Zimbabwe and that, to that end, it does everything it can conceivably do to destroy the Zimbabwean economy, impoverish the Zimbabwean populace, and reduce the lives of all Zimbabweans to boundless misery and distress and, in order to do this, and to achieve its Machiavellian objectives, Britain is aided and abetted by the malevolent European Union, US, and many Commonwealth countries.

But even the most gullible cannot give any credence to such blatantly false allegations. 

Not only would it be contrary to Britain’s interests to destroy Zimbabwe and its economy, if it really wished to acquire Zimbabwe as a colony, but for over 60 years Britain has been ridding itself of all its colonies and, instead, has vigorously promoted the concepts of the Commonwealth, founded upon commonality of interests and reciprocally beneficial interactions, with substantive assistance from the developed and well-endowed countries to the under-developed, developing, and less-endowed member states.

But Zimbabwe’s government would have one believe its wild fictions, in order to divert attention from its near total culpability for Zimbabwe’s distraught conditions.

That culpability includes innumerable ill-considered, counterproductive policies and actions, some driven wholly by crass political objectives and policies, and others by pathological craving for power of omnipotent proportions, or — in the case of many — self enrichment.

And, of all of these, the most destructive has been, and continues to be, Zimbabwe’s land policies.

None can convincingly deny that Zimbabwe was in desperate need of land reform.

The abominable Land Apportionment Act which, for almost half of the last century barred any of the black population from owning land in rural areas should never, ever have been enacted and, having been unjustly and racialistically promulgated, should have been very rapidly repealed. 

The tragedy is that that rectification was not effected constructively, but extraordinarily destructively, and without any regard for justice, with contemptuous disregard for human and property rights, and devoid of any consideration for economic realities. 

In order to create a façade of legality for the intended acts of expropriation and theft, the Land Acquisition Act, and subsidiary legislation, was progressively enacted. 

More than three-quarters of the experienced, productive farmers were summarily deprived of their farms, their homes, their equipment, and most of their personal assets. 

In many, many instances such deprivation was effected not even under the enacted legislation, and without compliance with the legislation’s provisions, and without government’s required authorization. 

Instead, individuals driven only by whim and fancy, and by intents of very rapid self-enrichment, supported by “law unto themselves” war veterans (actual and pseudo), or by high-ranking military, arrogantly helped themselves to the farms, and to their contents and crops, all identified solely by their covetous eyes. 

Other lands were acquired by the state (but without compensation, it alleging the liability for compensation being that of Britain, notwithstanding more than 40 million pounds provided by that country for land acquisition shortly after Zimbabwe’s Independence, conveniently forgotten by the Zimbabwean government, and much of it unaccounted for!). 

Some of the acquired land was then distributed by government, albeit only under non-transferable leases, without any entrenched security of title, and without collateral value, but millions of acres of land remain undistributed.

Some of those who had unilaterally expropriated farms, and some of those “lawfully” settled upon farms have, and are, working the farms, but very many are not.

Instead, the farms have been denuded of all that was of value thereon, and they have since lain fallow, the “new farmers” having sought only rapid, unearned wealth.

Some have wished to use the lands, but had not the resources with which to do so and, with rare exception, had little chance of access to those resources, unless they had the “right” political affiliations, or appropriate sycophantic relations with political hierarchy. 

The result of the dictatorial eviction of productive farmers, and their reduction to near poverty, and of inequitable and irrational redistribution policies, concurrently with blatant condonation of land piracy, was the destruction of the very foundation of the Zimbabwean economy.

That which had provided employment for over 300 000 farm workers, a livelihood for nearly two million people, food to sustain the whole nation and much of the region, and very considerable, critically needed, foreign exchange, was decimated cataclysmically.

That which was a major fuellant of other economic sectors, including industry, the distributive trades, financial services, sand others, was brought to near-total destruction levels.. That which had been the foundation of the Zimbabwean economy was shattered by governmental action and inaction of severe earthquake proportions.

But a government which believes that it is both omnipotent and infallible cannot, even tacitly or implicitly, admit to error, and therefore Zimbabwe’s government persists in its claims of having restored wealth to the people, undermined only by imaginary diabolically contrived actions of Britain and its allies.  

Thus, when immediately following the so-called free and fair, democratic elections of March 29, 2008 yet others, with avaricious intents, took the law into their own hands by forcing more than 30 of the few remaining white farmers to abandon their farms, and once again government did nothing to halt them from so doing but, to all intents and purposes, tacitly approved.  

By its dogmatic defiance of the fundamentals of justice, that which government has heralded as “The Mother of All Agricultural Seasons” is actually “The Mother of All National, Man-Made, Disasters”.