Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Zim doomed to another bad harvest

from the UKIndependent


Zimbabwe's food comes, when it does come, by road: either emergency shipments of maize meal from the UN's World Food Programme or family remittances packed with loving care into the overloaded minibuses, which make up the lifeline to South Africa.

Brian (not his real name), formerly a senior official in Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers' Union, estimates that only 5 per cent of the food production that peaked in the early 1980s, during Robert Mugabe's honeymoon with the white farmers, now remains.

The sophisticated agricultural sector that formed the backbone of the economy has been "stripped for parts", the irrigation systems destroyed, machinery and storehouses dismantled, he adds. Even if power were to change hands today, farming would take "more than five years" to recover.

Agriculture needs "inputs", he says, and it needs that at the right time. But the planning and know-how have been systematically dismantled. "This will be by far the worst harvest," Brian says. This sector was the one that Mr Mugabe, when he was a guerrilla leader, was famously warned by Mozambique's President Samora Machel not to destroy, otherwise "you will face ruin".

He heeded that advice, until it was expedient after 2000 to cash in the commercial farms to shore up his political base. The farms, almost all white-owned, were seized and after much anti-colonial posturing the lion's share of them was handed out to his cronies for them to treat as their playgrounds.

Since then farmland and food have been used as weapons to starve Mr Mugabe's enemies and enrich his allies. The country is in ruins, but the ruling clique is still in power.....

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