Hunger in Zimbabwe: drought or disastrous policies?

via Hunger in Zimbabwe: drought or disastrous policies? – The Zimbabwean 28/01/2016

As over 1.5 million people – over 16% of the population – in Zimbabwe face food insecurity this year, which is an increase of 164% compared to the previous season, one can not help but wonder if this is solely as a result of drought or there are other factors involved.

Statistics released by the World Food Programme (WFP) on the situation in Zimbabwe are nothing short of disturbing, as 28% of children under the age of five years are said to be stunted – have heights too low for their age because of malnutrition.

It is also reported that 56% of all children between the ages of six and 59 months suffer from anaemia, whilst less than 17.3% of Zimbabwe children between six and 23 months receive recommended minimum acceptable diet for adequate nutrition.

So what could be the root cause of all this?

There are so many factors involved in a nation becoming food deficient, but in Zimbabwe, the main reasons are the very disastrous economic and political policies by the President Robert Mugabe-led ZANU PF government since 1980.

Zimbabweans have over the course of history been made to believe that the armed liberation struggle of the 1960s and 70s was primary about Black majority rule and land.

During colonialism, the vast majority of arable land was confined to a very few White people, whilst the majority of Black people were crammed into small arid unproductive areas.

The liberation struggle was meant to resolve such ‘colonial imbalances’, but what was the result?

At the Lancaster House conference of 1979, the ZANU PF party agreed to a compromise that defied all logic.

Why after the loss of thousands of innocent men, women, and children in a war that put land at the core of the struggle, and then at end of it all compromise to have the land reclaimed after 10 years?

And even after the 10 years, the ZANU PF government never seemed at all serious about addressing these ‘historical imbalances’, as they played footsie on the land issue.

What was going on?

This week I had the good fortune of communicating with two renowned former cabinet ministers who served in the first government of the newly independent Zimbabwe, and were veterans of the struggle for the country.

One of these former ministers expressed his gravest disappointment with how everything fell apart at the Lancaster House conference, as that is when he realised the true intentions of his leaders.

He said that it was then that he realised that the so-called liberation struggle was never about the land or the people, but about
individual power.

That is why at that conference there was no 10 year compromise on power, but there was a compromise on the land.

The leaders wanted to obtain power immediately, but the majority of the landless and economically disadvantaged majority could wait for another 10 years.

The ex-minister was close to tears as he expressed his regret at being part of the betrayal of the people of Zimbabwe – whilst the other ex-minister concurred, saying the manner in which ZANU PF ruled the country since 1980 was not what they fought for.

They proved to have been correct in their assertions, as the ZANU PF government ended up not waiting for 10 years to take the land issue seriously, but 20 years – leading to a panicky, impromptu, disastrous, and poorly planned land redistribution programme.

The way in which this land redistribution programme was so poorly carried out clearly showed that the ZANU PF government had not planned to redistribute land even in 2000 – and had no intention of doing so in the foreseeable future.

The only reason it embarked on that ill-planned disastrous programme was that the party’s leaders’ own grip on power was seriously under threat from the newly-formed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and they had to come up with something to save themselves with.

(The same applies to another panicky and ill-planned scheme, the war victims compensation and the  pensions given to war veterans, as these people who bore the brunt of the liberation struggle had also been dumped and forgotten until they demonstrated in the mid-1990s.

Only then were they remembered – 15 years after independence.)

The lack of regard concerning the serious issue of the land and agriculture by the ZANU PF government is primarily why there is such food insecurity in Zimbabwe.

Had the government been serious about balancing the issues of redressing colonial imbalances and ensuring food security for the country, the 10 years that they had agreed to compromise on the land question at the Lancaster House conference would have been more than adequate to prepare the new farmers.

They could have used that time to identify and train those Black people who had the passion and capabilities to be great farmers.

There was time to work with interested commercial farmers who would train those identified Black potential farmers in the proper management of farms.

10 years would have been more than enough to properly identify underutilised arable land and earmark it for acquisition.

Similarly, 10 years would have been adequate in providing appropriate notices to any other farmers of the government’s intention in acquiring the farm, and thereby, putting in place measures that would have ensured a smooth and well-planned transfer.

The fact that all this was not done, clearly showed that the ZANU PF government was not planning at all to redistribute land.

Had it not been for the formation of the MDC, even today there would still had been no redistribution of land.

As such, the haphazard manner in which government carried out the redistribution programme – whereby untrained people were given previously productive commercial agricultural land to experiment with – is the main reason there is so much food insecurity in this country.

The other reason for the current food insecurity is the fact that the government never bothered with building any infrastructure that would cater for the eventuality of drought periods like this season.

No significant – if any – dams were built in most if those agricultural areas.

Most farmers still heavily rely on rain-fed agriculture, something that is tragically myopic in this age of global warming.

There has seldom been any season whereby there was a complete lack of significant total rainfall in this country, such that, had dams been constructed, there would have been enough water for irrigation.

Similarly, other policies, such as land tenure, that would have enabled farmers to borrow money from banks were not put in place, as such these farmers continually had to beg for inputs from the government – something clearly unsustainable.

Only 2,8 million hectares of land was cultivated in the 2014/15 agricultural season, out of a total of 4.3 million hectares of arable land in Zimbabwe.

Although most southern African counties are being adversely affected by this season’s El Nino-induced drought, there is no doubt that Zimbabwe is being affected more mainly due to these poor government policies – which has so callously turned a once prosperous bread basket of Africa into a basket case of Africa.

Zimbabwe is endowed with so much resources, minerals being some of the most outstanding – however plundering and poor policies have led to the majority of people not benefiting at all from these resources – only benefitting the powerful.

The government’s half-hearted and confused economic policies have also led to the majority of people in Zimbabwe living in abject poverty – with at least 76% of rural households, and 38% of urban dwellers, surviving on less than US$1.25 per day.

If the government had sincerely embarked on sound policies that seriously economically empowered the people, the effects of drought would hardly have been felt, as people would have been able to import their own food.

That is how people in arid/desert countries, like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc survive – we do not hear them crying about drought every year.

As such, the ZANU PF  government needs to seriously look itself in the mirror and question its sincerity in serving the interests of the people of Zimbabwe.

If a government is so cruel towards its own people to such an extent of not caring whether they live or die, that is cause for extreme concern.

All politicians love power, but most, at least, take good care of their people, but ZANU PF’s love for power with utter contempt for the people is sickening to say the least – and it is time that the people also started questioning their allegiances.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications specialist, journalist, and writer. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes feedback. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email:


  • comment-avatar
    Mazano Rewayi 5 years ago

    Tendai, in every “struggle” true leaders start the fight and impostors finish it. Zimbabwe is no different, it’s only unique in that it has glorified the impostors for an entire generation. To these thieves, land was an excuse to grab power as sanctions are an excuse to keep it. It’s a pity the ordinary Zimbo does not see these charlatans for what they really are.

  • comment-avatar
    Ngoto Zimbwa 5 years ago

    What does it take to light a fire under the average Zimbo’s backside?
    Never mind events before the ill-fated GNU.
    There is the matter of stolen elections in ’13, not even a squeak in protest.
    The exposed looting on an industrial scale of 2014, yeah, yeah.
    Then the blatant neglect of workers who have gone unpaid for months, whilst these idiots go on expensive holidays abroad.
    So what, muface?

    Now millions face starvation, all because of an irresponsible government.
    But the Zimbo plods on.

  • comment-avatar
    IAN SMITH 5 years ago

    Jewish leader about Blacks.
    Why are blacks so behind Economically?
    The only thing blacks understand is Consumption. Blacks don’t understand the importance of creating and building wealth.
    The fundamental rule is to keep your money within your racial group. We the Jews build Jewish business, hire Jewish, buy Jewish and spend Jewish. There is nothing wrong with that but it is a basic rule blacks cannot comprehend and follow; “He kills his fellow blacks daily instead of wanting to see his fellow black do succeed” 93% of blacks killed in America are by other blacks.
    Their leaders steal from their people and send the money back to their colonial master from whom they borrow the same money from.
    Every successful black want to spend his money in the country of his colonial masters. They go on holiday abroad, buy houses abroad, school abroad, go for medical treatment abroad etc instead of spending this money in their own country to benefit their people.
    Statistics show that the Jew’s money exchanges hands 18 times before leaving his community while for blacks it is probably a maximum of once or even zero.
    Only 6% of black money goes back into their community. This is why Jews are at the top and blacks are at the bottom of every ladder of society.
    Instead of buying Louis Vuitton, Hermes, expensive cars, shoes, houses, dresses etc, blacks could industralize Africa, build banks and get rid of colonial institutions by putting them out of business.
    What is your thought on failure of blacks after 150yrs?
    Well, nothing is ever the blackman’s fault. His compulsive habit of killing his own, compulsive material consumption. His inability to build businesses or preserve wealth are usually somebody else’s fault.
    So what can blacks do to liberate themselves
    JEWISH LEADER: Blacks must take responsibility. Blacks must unite. And vehemently fight corrupt leaders who run down their country and run to IMF as though IMF is Father Christmas.
    Pls. forward this until it goes round the continent of Africa & particularly to our parasitic leaders.
    We all need to learn our lessons quick and build our Nation.

    • comment-avatar
      The Truth 5 years ago

      Bro. These guys are primitive cavemen still talking about black and white in 2016. They are still calling this dessert “country”. Good luck with that………………..

  • comment-avatar

    @Ian Smith
    What you say is very true.
    It all stems from our leaders not setting an example.
    This tanzanian chap might be the beggining of new road for us on the continent.
    A road where we can think, “Country” and be proud.

    Where I live, a black guy set up shop in competition with a Pakistani, selling fruit and veg plus the obligatory “Hair products”.
    Most of my compadres were going into the Asian’s shop, neglecting their own, to my thinking.
    In an effort to buck the trend, I went to spend my money in my black bro’s, only to be disappointed.
    Guy was rude to me and me wife and his prices were over-inflatted and sadly, my dollar is going to the Asian.

    Morale of story?
    We still have a long way to go in almost everything.

  • comment-avatar
    Paula 5 years ago

    I enjoyed reading Mr Mbofana’s story, having lived in Zimbabwe in 1977 and experiencing a priviledged life in one of the most beautiful countries on earth. My lasting memories of that time include the ever-present fear of terrorist strikes, the thundering majesty of Victoria Falls, but most of all the beautiful local people who have suffered so much loss and pain over so many generations. This is not the way life should be. My thoughts are with you as you continue your struggle for what is right and for what you truly deserve.