Emptying the Food Basket – we know the Culprits

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

By Rejoice Ngwenya

RejoiceFollow the spoor of Robert Mugabe’s agricultural policies from 1999 onwards and you appreciate why his recent posturing at the food summit in Rome was nothing more than grandiose political gimmick.

Seven million of Mugabe’ fellow citizens will soon have to face a bloody and confrontational electoral run off on empty stomachs, yet Mugabe has managed to expel humanitarian agencies from rural areas to safeguard his receding political empire. Poverty, political mileage and food are an inextricable conundrum of survivalist patronage in Zimbabwe understood only by those who are collective victims.

The ageing dictator’s self-serving ideological delusions that America, England and EU are responsible for Zimbabwe’s food woes surprisingly ring tones of sympathy with many so-called anti-globalisation and anti-neo-liberal converts who conspire to camouflage Mugabe’s policy deficiencies under a collective global banner.

Yet the facts are evident. Before his disastrous ‘land reform’ of 1999, Zimbabwe was a net exporter of food. The abused white commercial farmers – whose human resource policies were not half as demonic as the current ‘indigenous’ ones – merely, paid the price of dabbling in opposition politics. If the current ‘settlers’ are Mugabe’s cronies or eternally grateful perennial praise singers, how different are they from their predecessors in the context of democratic right of freedom of association?

At a closer look, Zimbabwe’s beneficiaries of ‘land reform’, in US dollar terms, have received ten times as much in input support than previous farm owners. Between 1980 and 1999, farming was considered a business, not part of a complex web of political philanthropy.

Investors went to seek loans from commercial banks, traded and exported on the open market. Nowadays, Gideon Gono, Central Bank Governor of Zimbabwe is complicit to a broader scheme of highly politicised handouts of tractors, fertilisers, seed and diesel that easily find their way onto the black market.

Meanwhile, this public charade of policy misdemeanors has driven inflation beyond the two million percent mark and decimated Zimbabwe’s food baskets. If Horace Campbell, the acclaimed Pan-Africanist says "food riots in Senegal, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Egypt, Somalia and

Cameroon are the outward signs of the stirrings of a new liberation movement where the peoples of Africa are demanding food, clothing, shelter and access to proper health care", I argue that in Zimbabwe, just restore the sanctity of property rights and we will smile all the way to the grain silos!

The uncanny propensity of Africans to seek scapegoats for policy failures that has manifested itself in xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans by South African hooligans, bankrolled with COSATU’s socialist rhetoric.

Pan Africanist Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem says ‘unpatriotic national leaders sell Africa to anti-people globalisation and neo-liberal policies that continue to impoverish Africans’, but my question is how can Zimbabwe, with so much arable land, be poorer than Namibia with so many sand dunes?

I insist that African liberation and nationhood can co-exist with globalisation, trade and privatisation otherwise how else can we fuel economic growth and self-sufficiency? Robert Mugabe and his fellow revolutionaries have studied Maoist dogma long enough to remember that it is easier to control starving masses than an enlightened well-off middle class.

Zimbabwean NGOs that have been, since 1980, covering up his policy deficits are now criminalised for supplying food to starving citizens. Bright Matonga, self-appointed minister for misinformation alleges that NGOs use food to buy votes for opposition to ultimately discredit Robert Mugabe. But when it comes to Gideon Gono’s lavish ‘farm mechanization scheme’, government spin doctors call label it ‘food security’. Monumental hypocrisy!

Rejoice Ngwenya is a regular columnist for www.AfricanLiberty.org. He is a Zimbabwean Freemarket Activist and Political Analyst based in Harare. Send him an email at rejoice@earth.co.zw