- Southern Africa
- Food Security - Politics - Governance
Zimbabweans: Why they Starve
Robert Mugabe’s brutal thirty year-old reign in Zimbabwe, compounded by a frenzied ten-year mutilation of property rights is once again on the cover page of the country’s annals of food insecurity.
The pillaging, plunder of strategic commercial farms and national resources by privileged political elite has over the past decade emaciated our country’s productive capacity. At the epicentre of this carnage is central bank governor Dr Gideon Gordon who masqueraded as the benevolent bankroller of the curiously named ‘farm mechanisation programme’ that mostly looted NGO funds to prop up Mugabe’s plummeting political fortunes.
To rub salt to injury, habitual ZANU-PF choirmaster Dr Joseph Made, now head of an apparition termed ‘ministry of agricultural mechanisation’ has been spewing brain-damaging propaganda via the Mugabe-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. He trumpets the discredited theory that ‘illegal Western-imposed sanctions’ are to blame for all our harvest misfortunes.
Progressive Zimbabweans know that white farmers were evicted overnight from their properties with no time to pack, and then whole villages frog-marched to vast tracts of arable land that now lie fallow. Confronted with high-value assets but no expertise, these Mugabe foot soldiers looted the once profitable farms, unplugging irrigation pumps, uprooting pipes and stripping electrical fittings for quick disposal on the black market. Now, in a show of award-winning naivety, Joseph Made tells the world that ‘resettled farmers fail to produce because Western-imposed sanctions limit their access to equipment spares’. He must think we Africans are daft!
The Red Cross and World Food Program predict patched lips for Zimbabwe’s legion of rural citizens in 2010. Ironically, sophisticated farmer and MDC agriculture minister-designate Roy Bennet faces the hangman’s noose for a yet-to-be-substantiated terrorism charge while his counterpart, Tendai Biti conspires an epic cap-in-hand safari in search of food aid. My question: if ZANU-PF moguls are hoarding multi-million US dollar diamond mine claims in Marange, why would a sensible government want to further burden suffering citizens with more debts?
The cause of inevitable starvation is not all about scrappy weather patterns and as ZANU-PF apologists would like to claim, ‘illegal sanctions’. For almost a decade, Gideon Gono and Robert Mugabe poisoned our minds with a false doctrine that ‘Government is God’ so much so that dependency became habitual. Now that a more sustainable fiscal management and national accountability system is in place, ZANU-PF’s seemingly eternal pool of benevolence has evaporated. In any case, for all the so-called investment in farming that Gono spearheaded, there is nothing to show for it except a ‘ministry of mechanisation’, de-forestation, the first lady’s Gushungo Dairy Estates and two million vulnerable citizens! Zimbabwean villagers stare starvation in the eye, yet there is a cruel twist to fate linked with this plot.
It was in the year 2000 that Robert Mugabe and his militant gang of ‘war veterans’ dismantled organised farming. To achieve their sinister political motive, they exploited idle village idiots, wherefore this rhythm of destruction was replicated in subsequent elections, causing internal and external displacement of millions of Zimbabweans. Ironically, these Jurassic ZANU-PF outcasts and their families also now face starvation. Arguing from a pedestal of high moral ground, the Tsvangirayi half of government cannot worry only about the welfare of their supporters, even where most beneficiaries of free land, free fertiliser, free seed and free fuel were ONLY ZANU-PF activists. The machinery of patronage, running right from the president’s office through to provincial governors, district administrators, chiefs, headmen was and still has ZANU-PF imprints. Former military officers control the Grain Marketing Board to compliment this toxic cycle of patronage. Remember that in all election years, Mugabe used to ‘ban’ NGOs from rural areas, claiming that food humanitarian agencies were ‘advancing a regime change agenda!”
Now here is my rationale. In Somalia, Uganda, Sudan and DR Congo, food relief is known to be routinely ‘hijacked’ by insurgents either for re-sale or personal use. More often than not, these are the same clowns responsible for food insecurity in those regions, but are first in handout queues when peace prevails. Now that Morgan Tsvangirayi and Tendai Biti are – to use ZANU-PF lingo - in ‘control of food relief’, Mugabe supporters are screaming ‘murder!’ and yet those are the same marauding gangs responsible for causing the current food production deficit in the first place! My humble submission is that these shameless citizens and members of their families should not be allowed within a fifty-kilometre radius of ‘MDC or NGO-sourced’ food distribution. Instead, Gideon Gono and Joseph Made must be hauled before a court of law to explain how the so-called ‘farm mechanisation’ and the freebies doled out since 2000 have added zilch to our country’s strategic food reserves. What we see, however, is Mugabe and his cronies persistently refusing to allow an official land audit in the hope that this gigantic fraud called ‘land reform’ will remain confined to a sealed black box. I want to ask: of what use is a land revolution if all it produces is mass starvation, a tattered country reputation, few wealthy political elites, broken families and half a million displaced farm workers?
So what am I saying: the cruel reality is that everyone who participated in the plunder and destruction of Zimbabwe’s food productive capacity must not taste a single morsel of food relief. Those who are in the current echelons of governance like Made, Gono and even Mugabe – must be subject to a Parliamentary enquiry to explain why millions of US dollar investments in free agriculture inputs over the past ten years have failed to yield sustainable food surpluses. The sanctions story will be excluded from the repertoire of defence. It is not only an excuse of small minds but an insult to our intelligence. Community-based organisations and progressive activists can identify ZANU-PF collaborators who beat up, maimed and exiled villagers, publish names to inform them that they will not receive anything from an MDC-inspired humanitarian effort. Just for once, we Africans must learn to be responsible for our actions and refrain from time-worn scapegoats.
Mr. Ngwenya is President of COMALISO, a libertarian think tank in Zimbabwe and an affiliate of African Liberty.