Muckraker: Food Security is the Greater Good

UNDER the heading “ZDF to safeguard land reform”, the Herald last week carried a story in which Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, addressing students at the army Staff College, said the ZDF “as a matter of priority” will ensure the land reform programme is not reversed “because it is the country’s heritage and source of pride”.

This is an extraordinary statement for a minister with a legal background.

 

The land policy will be determined, according to the GPA, by the government of national unity acting in concert, not by ministerial fiat.

Central to the GPA is a land audit to determine who among Zimbabwe’s avaricious elite got what. It is the duty of the ZDF to uphold constitutional governance. Greedy politicians and officials from the old regime cannot be allowed to retain their ill-gotten gains.

Declarations that “the land reform programme is one of the major priorities of the country’s defence forces” is nothing more than populist drum-beating. The ZDF must be a non-partisan professional force committed to the well-being of all Zimbabweans. Mnangagwa had a duty to spell that out.

We saw Nelson Chamisa spouting the same brand of populism at the Quill Club last Friday. Land reform could not be reversed because “it is an important national issue”, he declared.

Important national issues are those so-determined by the GNU. Land reform has been plagued by cronyism and corruption. Are those features to remain an “important national issue”? What should be an important national issue is cleaning out the Augean stable that Zanu PF has bequeathed to the nation.

Chamisa must stop propitiating the beneficiaries of misrule. Land reform is what the people will decide in drafting a new constitution. It is what we decide as a nation, not what people like Mnangagwa decide.

Agriculture minister Joseph Made has said the land audit was premature because new farmers weren’t ready. But they were ready when it came to diverting fuel supplies and selling farm fertiliser, seed and implements.

What do Mnangagwa, Chamisa and Made think of the seizure of Kondozi Estate and lately Matuntska banana estates? Is that calculated theft part of the “irreversible” land reform? Is it a source of “national pride” that a huge black-owned horticultural operation was occupied and pillaged by ministers?

And what do they make of Zimbabwean diplomats helping themselves to banana estates in the Burma Valley that are supposed to be protected by Bippas? Is that what they mean by “no going back”?

It is time we stopped this spurious patriotic idiocy. Land seizures and theft of equipment and produce cannot be a source of national pride. Nor can the destruction of commercial agriculture. People like Chamisa need the courage to say so instead of pandering to Zanu PF demands.

In the same vein, we were surprised to hear Justice Bharat Patel’s decision that enforcing the Sadc tribunal’s ruling on land reform would be against Zimbabwe’s domestic laws and agrarian policies. He declared that “the greater public good must prevail”.

We are at liberty to question court judgements, we understand, so long as such criticism is couched in moderate terms.

What does the “greater public good” mean when agriculture has been decimated? What if land reform has been partisan, violent and destructive? How have farm workers fared in terms of “the public good”?

What can we say of a land reform policy where more people have been dispossessed than resettled? What public good is there when we have been reduced to importing maize and milk? The greater public good is food security and greater investment in agriculture.

On another matter, why did Zimbabwe nominate a judge to sit on the Sadc tribunal when the government disputes the legality of that tribunal’s rulings? The answer is very simple. It rejects the tribunal’s rulings when they don’t suit its political purpose.

That is misrule writ large and the message will not have been lost on the investor community.

There have been a series of calls recently for sanctions to be lifted. These include Arthur Mutambara recently returned from Davos. He believes all sanctions should be removed immediately.

What did the business community gathered in the Swiss resort make of this Zimbabwean leader, we wonder, who ignores the pillage of Bippa-protected farms and the assaults on law-abiding and productive farmers? Let’s hope he spared them his “jokes” about half-pregnant women!

Mutambara has been clear on the land issue in the past but now engages in tom-foolery at a Miss Zimbabwe Tourism event which signals to investors a complete lack of seriousness at the top of the GNU.
It was funny watching him in Davos at the BBC debate looking for the camera as it panned across the room. When it did finally stop at him his question was less than earth-shattering.

Mutambara is a clever guy who seems unable to get serious. The unrelenting seizure of farms in the Burma Valley offers him an opportunity for statesmanship. Instead he gave us demagoguery.

The message should be: No change in sanctions until theft and violence cease.

Why does he think Zanu PF should be rewarded with the lifting of sanctions when they refuse to stop seizing other people’s property? Why should people invest in Zimbabwe when its leadership refuses to obey the rule of law and treats regional courts with scorn?

The Herald on Wednesday reported the last-minute switch of clubs by Warriors captain Benjani Mwaruwaru. The 31-year-old striker moved from Manchester City to Sunderland on Tuesday in a deal that was concluded at the 11th hour.

Not that there is anything amiss with Benjani’s switch to a new club to earn more game play but it is the attempt by the Herald to exaggerate his scoring prowess in the English Premier League which caught our attention.
“Benjani earned his move to City after shining for Portsmouth, where he had scored 19 times in 70 appearances, in January 2008”, the Herald gushed on Wednesday.

While we appreciate that Benjani is a good player who has kept the Zimbabwean flag flying in the Premier League, we find it unconvincing for the Herald to suggest that a striker who scores 19 goals in 70 outings is a shining example of goal scoring in a league where other strikers have already banged in 20 goals in 24 outings.

Let’s hope Benjani does not have a personal relationship with the reporter because we have heard reports of Zimbabwean foreign-based football players showering sports journalists with all sorts of gifts in return for positive coverage.

Who is responsible for the mess at Beitbridge? For year after year successive  Finance ministers and Zimra officials failed or didn’t bother to come to grips with this disaster. What a shop window for Zimbabwe greeting visitors to the country!

Now we have the dynamic Tendai Biti in office can we expect some change? It needs a take-charge person who can sort things out. Will Biti rise to the challenge? And what does Gershom Pasi do apart from making piles of money? Please guys, let’s see some action. Beitbridge is a  national disgrace.

Poor old Gabriel Chaibva. He hasn’t learnt the basic law of Zimbabwe politics: Nobody likes a turncoat however loud they bleat their loyalty to their new masters. The suspicion always is they’ll turn again.

Defecting to Zanu PF is rather like leaping from the frying pan into the fire. Chaibva can’t even tell which way the wind is blowing. Evidently not  a very bright politician!

Congratulations to Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Mishek Sibanda for introducing strict curbs on officials travelling outside the country, and in particular slashing delegation sizes.

This is all with a view to reducing the government’s massive travel bill. Air Zimbabwe was being abused, we are told.

Sibanda’s letter was sent to officials at the Public Service Commission, parliament, permanent secretaries, the Reserve Bank, the police, Zimra, and chairpersons of parastatals.

The restrictions include a reduction of the number of official delegations to only necessary members, we gather.

But is there not one department missing from the list? Dr Sibanda’s own?
It was reported that President Mugabe took delegations of up to 60 people on his trips to Rome and Copenhagen last year.

Many of these people were wives and hangers on, news agencies reported. If these reports are true we would expect these economies to start at the top.

Perhaps Dr Sibanda can confirm that he will take the axe to all levels of government.

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