Ncube castigates ‘heartless’ Mugabe

pius_ncubeBY MARTINE STEMERICK As Zanu (PF) squandered desperately needed funds on yet another fraudulent election, Archbishop Pius Ncube pleads with the world to feed Zimbabwe's starving millions. "Yesterday President Mugabe was here in Bulawayo and he was saying, 'No one will starve.' But some people have a

lready starved to death, and some people are staying four or five days without food, so it’s just an empty promise,” accused the Archbishop. “There’s been very little rain. It’s very hot: 36 degrees Centigrade. Things are bad. Cattle are dying in the rural areas, especially in Matabeleland. I’ve seen dead cattle by the side of the road, and others so thin you could see their ribs and so weak they could hardly stand.” Two weeks ago the Archbishop saw the ravages of hunger in the rural homelands, when he met with 20 local priests on a spiritual retreat in Empendene to pray for his starving people. “I saw a little girl who was very, very thin. I asked her, ‘Did you eat yesterday?’ She said ‘no.’ ‘Did you eat this morning before you came to school?’ The child had walked 7 kilometers to get to school. ‘No, I didn’t eat.’ “‘When you get back, will you eat anything?” ‘No,’ she answered, ‘for the last three days we have had no mealie meal.” “Tell your mother to come and see me tomorrow.” The next day, the Archbishop emptied his pockets so that the child’s mother could go and buy mealie meal. While individual acts of kindness can meet the needs of a starving child, there is no real study of how widespread the famine is. “This government is lacking transparency. There is no real systematic study of the amount of starvation, but the United Nations has estimated the 5.5 million people are in need of food aid. And this was worsened by what Mugabe did – smashing buildings so that 700,000 people will not only need food, but they will also need shelter. “And this operation Garakai is merely lip service. It’s nothing concrete. And even those little houses that they have built are so small that a family wouldn’t fit in there. It seems these houses have been prepared for government forces and the militia and police,” the Archbishop concluded. Pastors in Bulawayo have been actively searching for the people displaced from Killarney and other squatter settlements. The Archbishop had high praise for their efforts, especially for Pastor Albert Chatindo, the pastor of Killarney squatter camp, who has searched endlessly for his scattered flock. “In Bulawayo, some pastors have gone out to find the people. It was hard to locate them; it took three or four weeks before they found them. They had been dumped in the middle of nowhere, some 130 kilometers from Bulawayo, where there was no food, no water supply and no shelter.” Sheba Dube, whose charity works with Aids orphans and widows in remote impoverished areas of Avoca, Filabusi, Masenane and with some child-headed households in Mzilikazi, recently returned from supplying orphans and grannies with small packets of maize meal. But the food meant for two mouths is often forced to stretch to feed many, many more. In one case, there were seven more orphans living in the same household, and in another, 16 more children. Ten kilos of maize meal won’t stretch that far. What are these orphans and grannies supposed to do? The Archbishop castigated Mugabe’s heartless refusal to accept aid in a timely manner. “If our government had been reasonable, they were meant to accept the food aid being offered by the United Nations. But because they are proud, they don’t like it to appear that they have failed in their land resettlement program and they want to appear that they are managing very well. So that’s why they blocked food distribution by churches, by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), and the World Food Program.” If the UN envoy, Jan Egeland, can get the government to agree to distribute food, and the food is distributed through the government rather than the NGOs and the churches, will the food aid get to the starving who need it, or will it go to prop up the military and those who oppress the people? Pius Ncube was clear: “The practice of Zanu (PF) has been to politicize the food. You are dealing here with murderers who do not care about the welfare of the people. They only care about the welfare of their own stomachs and their own party.”

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