SEVERAL Western diplomats abruptly departed the funeral of the late Sabina Mugabe, sister of president Robert Mugabe, after Mugabe availed himself of his obituary speech to berate Western countries, and to tell them to “go to hell, to hell, to hell, to hell!”
The Foreign Affairs minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi subsequently summoned those diplomats to a session of castigation for having done so. However, if the state-controlled media is to be believed (which is not always possible, but probably justifiable in this instance), two weeks ago the minister again demanded the presence of those diplomats in order once again to spew a diatribe of hatred upon them.
The media claims that the minister aggressively reproved the ambassadors, alleging that all that their countries were intent upon doing was to bring about regime change in Zimbabwe and attain unhindered control over Zimbabwe and its wealth. He alleged that their strategy to achieve these objectives was to destroy the economy, primarily by imposing non-existent illegal sanctions upon that economy. Non-existent because such sanctions as do exist are not illegal, but within the unequivocal rights of imposition of the countries applying them, and barely targeted at the economy. Those sanctions are focused upon the Zimbabwean politicians, their families and their associates, as are seen to have contempt for international norms of democracy, human rights, respect for law and order, justice and property rights. And the economic consequences of the sanctions are generally minimal. However, this did not deter the Foreign Affairs minister from vigorously reiterating the specious allegations against the Western countries.
Moreover, in doing so the minister claimed that those Western countries, having deliberately imposed hardship upon the Zimbabwean population, then try to endear themselves to that population by recourse to provision of humanitarian aid. The minister is reported by the state media as having emphatically stated to the diplomats that Zimbabwe does not need that aid from the West, for it is wholly able to look after its own people. He energetically implied that the Western countries were not entitled to any gratitude and appreciation from Zimbabwe and its people for the Western largesse, which was only being given as a salve to conscience for having caused the hardships, and in order to create a sense of indebtedness to them on the part of the Zimbabwean populace. He also stated vociferously that Zimbabwe was not in need of such aid, for it could look after its own people.
Such a contention by the minister, and to all intents by government, for he was speaking for and on behalf of government, must provoke the query in the minds of the world in general, and of Zimbabweans in particular, as to whether government and the minister are living in cloud cuckoo-land, are victims of self-deception, and purveyors of fiction and myth. Is it that — contrary to all national and international impressions and perceptions — Zimbabweans are devoid of poverty, hardships and suffering? What is the reality?
The reality is indisputably that poverty is extremely pronounced and widespread. The reality is that if the Zimbabwean government is able to look after the people, as the minister claimed (notwithstanding government’s state of undoubted bankruptcy), it is failing to do so. In a recent issued national crop food situation report, released on August 9, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) stated that although Zimbabwe’s production of maize, has improved “significantly”, the country is still food insecure.
The report states that about 1,68 million people will require food assistance in the first quarter of 2011. Although there has been a marked improvement and increase in food production, at least 15% of Zimbabwe’s population will require food aid in rural areas. In addition, although not addressed in the FAO/WFP report, it is generally believed that more than half of the urban population of Zimbabwe has income below the food datum line, and therefore unable to adequately sustain itself, and desperately in need of aid.
And, it is not only food aid that is necessary, but also aid to produce food. In the 2009/2010 agricultural season, United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organisations distributed nearly 140 000 tonnes of fertiliser and top dressing, and 22 373 tonnes of maize seed, to more than 700 000 households. This contributed substantially to Zimbabwe achieving a production, in the last season, of 1,66 million tonnes of cereals, as against total needs of 2,09 million tonnes, resulting in a shortfall of 428 000 tonnes.
This was a major improvement in production volumes as against the previous season, which had resulted in seven million Zimbabweans being dependent upon food assistance, but that improvement could not have been attained if it had not been for the immense provision of inputs by the international community, despite the minister’s claim that Zimbabwe can look after its own people, and does not need international aid. Also, it cannot be overlooked that despite the significant increase in production volumes, the total output was still not sufficient to meet the needs of the rural population, let alone also to satisfy the requirements of even those urban residents as could afford to purchase their cereal requirements. Hence, the impoverished economy, with its minimal foreign exchange resources, had to resort to food importations, to the prejudice of innumerable other critical needs, and to general economic wellbeing and combating of the poverty that is so widespread that it is believed approximately 87% of Zimbabweans are struggling to survive below the poverty datum line (the minimum income necessary for survival without endangering health).
The government is allowing its fanatical hatred of Western countries to blind itself to realities, and instead to enunciate claims which are total fiction and myths. It convinces itself that the West has nothing but evil intents and machinations against Zimbabwe and its government. It believes that any and all Zimbabwean ills are wholly attributable to those intents and machinations (the only exception being acts of God, such as droughts-actual and imaginary, and deviously conceptualised and implemented strategies of political opponents, who are believed to be as Machiavellian in their actions as is government).
If, as the minister claimed, the government is able, unassisted, to look after all Zimbabweans in need, why does it not do so? If the government is genuinely concerned about the welfare and the wellbeing of the populace, why does it not recognise that it is bankrupt (financially and morally) and therefore is unable to address that welfare and wellbeing. If the government’s concerns for the wellbeing of all Zimbabweans were not fictitious and totally mythical, but a real reality, it would graciously accept the international aid, instead of castigating the donors. Concurrently, it would make real and meaningful, politically sound, efforts to achieve the long-awaited, greatly needed, economic turnaround. For this it is necessary to engage the West.