Will the imperialists please feed us!

After our bungling Minister of Agriculture Dr Joseph Made profusely denied earlier on in the year that we would need food aid, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was recently reported to have appealed to our “development partners” (read the West) to assist us with $300 million in food aid.

Joseph Made
Joseph Made

Vince Musewe

Of course, this is only due to climate change and sanctions — nothing else! In addition, let’s forget that President Robert Mugabe incessantly insults the West at every turn while those vast tracts of land are sitting idle simply because of the pride of our politicians to admit that the whole land reform project has been a complete disaster.

But I am sure Russian President Vladimir Putin could protect us from the West and give us the funds to feed ourselves — well, that’s not about to happen. We are truly a sorry lot who are continually embarrassed by our politicians who seem oblivious to the damage they have caused — havanyare.

Of course, the impending food crisis has nothing to do with sheer mismanagement, incompetence and lack of planning by this government. It has nothing to do with the fact that small-scale farmers are mostly growing tobacco and not food.

It has nothing to with the fact that farmers cannot borrow because they do not have title to land, but permits that can be rescinded at any time depending on who they politically support. Added to that, investors are jittery investing in a sector where farms can be invaded at any time.

Again it has nothing to do with the ridiculous pricing of maize by GMB at $390 per tonne while the regional price is much cheaper than that. In addition, we will have to incentivise farmers to grow maize by ensuring that we do not get the finished product imported.

I have no doubt in my mind that if and when any food aid does come from these imperialists, it will be distributed through Zanu PF-aligned chiefs and branded as courtesy of the President who promised his people that they will not starve. Such is the ridiculous state of affairs and surely it must come to an end soon.

What makes me mad is that sorting out our food shortages is a very simple formula, especially with regard to maize.

According to the World Bank, we have in excess 4 million hectares of arable land and in excess 4 000 dams. Zimbabwe actually has the highest fresh water to land ratio in Africa by the way. All we need each year is to irrigate 200 000 hectares and if we get a yield of, say, 8-10 tonnes per hectare, we will have adequate food supplies for the country and then some.

There is therefore no logical excuse for this country to have to import maize at all.

The sad reality is that it is always the poor of the poorest who suffer from the incompetence and lack of planning by this government and yet they continue to support it. Something is wrong somewhere.

I always say that our country has all the resources and skills it needs to get out of this economic disaster created by Zanu PF. I pray that soon something will give so we can begin to rebuild what will one day be a leading nation in Africa.

There is no way we can ever reach our full potential as a country without the protection of private property and correcting the land reform disaster of 2000. We need people who can plan and not politicians who continually lie. We just need to get agriculture and the energy sector sorted and industry will certainly revive. Surely that is not that difficult.

I suspect that a significant number of those within Zanu PF know that they have completely bungled things, but can really do nothing about it as long as Mugabe is at the helm. If Mugabe really cared about you and me, he would at least give room for those who know to do what they must. Instead we have men and women who are effectively doing nothing as they are scared to buck the system while the country is edging to the brink of collapse. It is clear that there will never be a paradigm shift there.

Zimbabwe is surely poised for a fantastic turnaround and it’s a matter of planning now and waiting, but don’t hold your breath because it appears that Mugabe is going nowhere. We’ve got problems.

I have been contemplating on two scenarios for Zimbabwe. The best-case scenario would be the exit of Mugabe and the establishment of a coalition government that appoints technical people to turn things around. In this scenario, within two years we would be back on our feet, but we would have to reverse the land reform programme or at least rationalise it so that large industrial farms that include small-scale farmers can start operating again and create employment and food security.

We would also have to suspend, if not repeal, the Indigenisation Act that is limiting foreign investments. We would need the rule of law and a less corrupt police. We must reduce perceived country risk by pursuing sound and reasonable economic policy.

The worst-case scenario is that nothing changes in the short to medium term and the country gets broke. In the scenario, the Zimbabwe dollar is re-introduced in desperation and this would result in many leaving the country and we would create a ghost country with poverty and unemployment spreading. No new investments would be forthcoming and we certainly would be a totally failed State. Without new jobs, chaos could ensue resulting in a military coup which would make us a Democratic Republic of Congo. God forbid!

I certainly hope the latter does not happen because we have so much going for us. We must all do our best to avoid things getting worse because in that scenario nobody wins.

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis

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