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Zimbabwe need food aid?
There is no
question that food aid is necessary in this country; the lethal
cocktail of aids, poverty and malnutrition is quietly killing 3500
every week. While the Mugabe regime is clearly the responsible party
for these killings, the victims of this regime cannot be made to
suffer more by withholding food aid from them in a bid to punish
If anyone needs
to be convinced of the need for food aid, they should read the latest
Fews Net report on the hunger situation:
- 1.4 million
rural people (perhaps even more) will not have adequate food during
the peak hunger period
- the CSO
food poverty line went up almost ten times between December 2005
and November 2006; it increased by an average of 23 percent every
month during this period
- in November
2006, more than 3 000 MT of food was distributed to at least 500
- The forecast
is for below normal rainfall for almost the whole country
wheat production is expected to yield less than 135 000 MT, against
a requirement of about 265 000 MT, with the highest deficits in
the southern districts and the western and eastern margins of
This makes grim
The main problem,
then, lies not in the granting of food aid, but rather in the way
in which the EU and the West have kowtowed to the Zanu PF regime.
Millions of (US) dollars worth of food aid has been used as a weapon
by the regime, and of this we have numerous examples:
- Zanu PF
MP's and councilors clearly have a degree of control over distributors
of food aid, and have used this control to manipulate distribution
in the run up to all the elections held in this decade
- in the most
recent RDC elections, the chiefs told villagers that they would
'wait to see how the election result turns out' before distribution
- Andrew Langa
(the Zanu PF MP for Insiza) is often in attendance at functions
held by some of the food-distributing NGO's
- Binga has
consistently been sidelined for its obstinacy in not recognizing
the supremacy of the ruling party
corruption exists around the sourcing and sale of grain
- Sale of
donated food to the GMB takes place
Added to this,
The Grain Marketing Board, through which all maize must pass, appears
to be bankrupt. They have failed to pay farmers for their 2005 maize
crop (at $40 - revalued - per tonne) and for their 2006 crop (at
$4 000 - revalued - per tonne); in many instances this maize was
seized at gunpoint by the parastatal.
In many instances,
former Agritex workers are the ones employed by NGO's to organize
and distribute food aid - a bitter irony as these are the very people
who facilitated the farm invasions, and who now drive around in
fancy 4x4 vehicles and earn US$-linked salaries. Quite apart from
the utter inappropriateness of the situation, they are hardly likely
to be impartial in their work of distribution.
are reporting the Catch-22 situation which they are caught in, courtesy
of the NGO's misguided policies: their farm workers are resigning
from their jobs because they will receive more food for their families
if they are unemployed.
We have no argument
then, with the fact of distribution of food by the NGO's, but the
manner in which this is being done is flawed, and we believe that
it is incumbent upon the West to find more responsible ways of distributing
food, through apolitical means.
We suggest that
the churches are best placed to assist in this task, and should
be the international community's first port of call - remember that
over 90% of Zimbabweans belong to a religious group. Many religious
organizations have developed infrastructure which, with help, could
handle the logistics of food distribution. They have some means
or another of transport, and their church buildings could be used
for short term storage, and as distribution centres.
the neutral NGO's could be brought in to assist. Zimbabwe boasts
some of the best civic and social organizations in Africa, such
as Orap, The Legal Resources Foundation, various Aids organizations,
mission hospitals and mission schools. Again, these have existing
links to the rural communities which they serve, and could provide
an impartial service, linking the donors with the beneficiaries.
It is also imperative
that the NGO's engaged in food aid bring independent monitors into
the field to ensure fair distribution.
If the regime
baulks at such threats to its control over food supply, the donor
countries should become more strident in their demands: increasing
international pressure on Mugabe to put an end to human rights abuses
in his country, publicly and vocally linking human rights abuses
to the humanitarian crisis, and demonizing him in the international
forum. The food must still come in, but Mugabe must be made to suffer.
We are moving
towards catastrophe with the current dry spell, and drought is now
a reality. The regime will of course use this to their advantage,
by blaming the starvation on drought and on the West. But the reality
is that people are dying, and food needs to get to them. It is not
enough that the food is brought in by the international NGO's, it
must get to the people in need, and not be hijacked by politicians
and their cronies - lives are at stake!
the Sokwanele fact
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