REVELATIONS government appears to have done precious little to secure enough grain to feed more than half of the country’s population facing famine are not only disturbing, but quite shocking, to say the least.
Government recently told citizens that it had only a month’s supply of grain — 100 000 tonnes precisely, left in its Strategic Grain Reserves, while the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (Gmaz) also informed the nation that, as private players they were importing another 100 000 tonnes. Notwithstanding that the similarity in government and Gmaz’s tonnages may raise the nosiness of those super curious among us, the maize will only last the southern African nation just two months.
Despite this glaringly obvious unfolding disaster, government appears the least concerned that its 100 000 tonnes of grain is barely enough to nourish a fraction of the hungry population until the next harvest around April. It has taken the outside world to sound the alarm bells which is an indictment to government’s commitment to fending off hunger among its people. Outsiders closely monitoring the food situation in the country tell us that there is no sign of grain anywhere, on land, at sea or some foreign port, yet government keeps telling us that everything is under control.
The dichotomy of government’s position and that of the World Food Programme, as far as the food situation in the country is concerned, is extremely worrying and points to a government bent on playing Russian roulette with people’s lives. Why does President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration appear to be in denial at every turn?
Presently Zimbabwe’s economy is in dire straits, but the ruling Zanu PF party apparatchiks swarming government corridors see a booming economy, despite the all-round penury evidenced by the prevailing hunger situation. Those in government are seeing silos of food in a country that has failed to grow any due to corruption, poor planning and the vagaries of climate. The current rainfall season is already showing clear signs that the hunger problem will persist well into 2021.
What is most disquieting is the fact that the President appears fully aware that his ministers have — according to his own words — “been acting out of line lately and this has taken a toll on development”. Is it then farfetched to conclude that these Cabinet ministers, with their rampant and unbridled tendencies, could be lying to the President about the food situation? For instance, how far can we trust Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s bubbly assertions that “contracts have already been signed and we are already importing food”? While Ncube further brags: “We are well organised. We are ready…,” foreign aid officials are worried stiff and telling the country: “The (hunger) situation has not changed a bit. The fields are bare, livestock is dying and hope is running low.”
So which is which? Who is fooling who? If Mnangagwa is serious about fighting the impending hunger, he and his administration need to come down to mother earth and start appreciating the true situation on the ground. Lying to each other and the world that the hunger situation is under control will neither help them nor anyone else for that matter.