The article by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira, which appeared in this week’s Sunday Mail (February 7 2016) titled Food for all is our goal makes interesting reading. Interesting first because it reveals that if Zimbabwe goes hungry it has no capacity to feed its own people and therefore depends on NGOs and donor countries contrary to the mantra by President Robert Mugabe that they must leave us alone.
Trevor Saruwaka Mutasa Central MP
The statement by Mupfumira also attempts to pronounce a policy position on who must get this aid by boldly declaring that food is for all. This message is obviously misunderstood by most Zanu PF leaders and supporters who believe that one has to be their party member in order to access government support.
The third interesting part is her celebration that we have imported and the assurance that some of the grain is already on its way. From Zambia and does Zambia experience such a different weather pattern from what we enjoy here that has enabled them to have a surplus? No, the answer is that the farmers we chased from Zimbabwe are the ones responsible for Zambia’s surplus maize. I am going to discuss each interesting point in more detail below.
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee report of August 2015 revealed that 16% or 1,5million people would be food insecure between January and March 2016, hence they would need food assistance. The hope was that after March the situation would improve as the summer maize crop is harvested.
I am sure the El Nino-induced drought has put paid to those expectations and it is now apparent that more people are going to require assistance and more significantly for a longer period, by an extra 12 months to after next year’s harvest, at the very least, if the drought does not recur. Revised estimates range from three million to over five million. This is where the first interesting point comes in.
How are we going to fund the feeding of our people from our empty coffers? The minister said of the 105 000 metric tonnes initially wanted government was going to provide 40 000 tonnes (38%) leaving the remaining 60 000 tonnes to NGOs (62%). Is it not ironical that only a week ago Mugabe was bellowing at the airport on his return from Addis Ababa where he had “reluctantly” handed over the continent’s chairmanship to 63-year-old Idriss Deby of Chad? Addressing his crowd he thundered that more than 3 000 NGOs in the country are serving the interests of the West to advance a regime change agenda. Are they doing that by feeding your starving nation, Mr President? This man is only good at biting the hand that feeds him. He must make a public apology to the NGOs and make a humble appeal for help.
It was only after Nelson Chamisa, suggested to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa that government declares the food situation a state of disaster that our government was jolted into action. A statement attributed to Mugabe declaring the same was splashed in the newspapers, radio and television the following day. What is clear is that now that the appeal has been made our usual “all-weather friends” from the East are going to stand on the terraces whilst our “detractors from the West” mobilise food and money to feed our people.
Our self-induced poverty and food shortage is once again going to be alleviated by foreigners. For a nation blessed with so many mineral and natural resources it is a shame that we are failing to do the basic responsibility of a government, which is to feed its own people. We have surrendered our sovereignty to foreigners, Mr President, by your failure to feed our own citizens.
The second interesting point is the, obvious but sadly inaccurate, pronouncement by the minister that the food is for all people. My experience over the years is that Zanu PF has developed a tendency of hijacking government programmes turning them to become party ones. The ill-fated land reform was done and continues to be implemented on a partisan manner.
This failure to distinguish party and government business has resulted in the party shamelessly running down government institutions like the National Railways of Zimbawe (NRZ), Zupco, Air Zimbabwe, Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and Arda. Zupco buses used to ferry Zanu PF supporters to their rallies, conferences and congresses for free. Last year, during the First Lady Grace Mugabe frenzy, some of these public buses were pasted with Mugabe’s wife’s posters. Ask them how much they received for the advert? Nothing, I bet. The same way Zanu PF treated NRZ to its collapse, is the same manner they handle GMB. Grain meant for all Zimbabweans is sadly in more than 80% of the cases, distributed in a partisan manner. I have raised the issue of the partisan distribution of the Presidential Inputs Scheme and the Social Welfare grain countless times in the past in parliament with little success.
The third very sad issue is the fact that Zimbabwe now depends on Zambia for grain. It is also a fact that Zambia’s capacity to feed her people was boosted by their civil and progressive gesture of accepting the farmers who were terrorised and hounded off their farms during another ‘moment of madness’ that characterised Zanu PF’s land reform. Among these farmers is our own Roy “Pachedu” Bennett whose farm used to support the economic activities and livelihoods of people in Chimanimani area and beyond. We forfeited all those Bennett benefits to Zambia. The truth of the matter is we are worse off now than before the reform.
My advice is that Mr President uses the forthcoming birthday party to apologise to the nation for leading us into hunger, take action on the land audit information resident in his office about under utilised land, multiple farm ownership and allow those who are serious about tilling the land, regardless of race or political opinion to do so on behalf of the 14 million Zimbabweans. Hunger is a security issue.