via Succession overshadows a potentially severe drought – NewsDay Zimbabwe January 18, 2016
The Zanu PF succession race has eclipsed other very important issues affecting our people. Reading through Zimbabwe news, one would be mistaken to think that all is well in the southern African country except the succession issue.
Political pre-positioning, out-strategising each other and recriminations have become the order of the day. Other countries are already busy putting in place contingency plans to respond to the drought in 2016.
Death, death and death occupies the minds of those who are supposed to lead the nation and make life better for the people. The victim card has suddenly become the trump card for those who claim to be heroes of the liberation struggle. Our emotional attention is drawn to how so and so continues to escape from poisoning, traffic accidents, break-ins etc. Heroes don’t yell.
On the other side, it is all about scheming and breaking the opponent into pieces of meat ahead of the undated succession — whenever it happens. When did comrades start scheming against each other when MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders are there? Comrades cover each other’s back.
Our politics is now about a few people and not anymore about the more than 13 million people across the country who are looking forward to government to help them improve their lives. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has been neglected in dealing with civil servants issues on his own. He is fighting a lone battle as everyone is busy on the succession dance floor.
The Ministry of Agriculture too suffers the same fate with millions of people likely to face hunger, disease and death due to drought.
Both predictions and indications show that we are headed for a major drought. Two weeks ago, I had a chance to drive to some of the areas in the countryside — the places politicians will visit to secure votes in 2018. It was evident that delays in the start of rains, poor distribution of rainfall and very high temperatures have curtailed normal cropping.
Crops are wilting and livestock thinning. Zimbabwe is among the countries in southern Africa predicted to face erratic rainfall and dry spells which will affect both livestock and crop farming. El Niño conditions are here and our people will suffer. Some have begun to sell their cattle at cheap prices to raise food money. These are bad signs of worst things to come.
Early warning information on the impact of El Niño conditions was shared in good time last year but our leaders’ eyes were and are still fixed on another clock — the succession clock instead of the seasonal clock that will affect millions of their people. They don’t share that early warning information for newspapers headlines, but for governments and other policy makers to make decisions.
If the El Niño conditions persist, millions of lives are at stake. Some are already feeling the heat. Go to Beitbridge today, people are fleeing the country in droves. Neighbouring countries are aware and preparing for the severe impact of drought.
We are not doing anything, but burdening other countries simply because the succession clock needs undivided attention of everyone in government and the politburo.
Plans to import food from neighbouring countries are reactive, political gimmicking and do not seem candid as most of those countries such as Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zambia are facing similar conditions. It would be foolhardy for them to sell their food when their people are hungry. This simply means come April, harvest time, we will be the only country unprepared and witnessing the brutal wrath of El Niño. We will blame our neighbours for not wanting to help us. We will call upon Western countries, whose kin and kith we chased away nearly two decades ago to come and feed our people.
There is a lot that our government could do or have done to mitigate the impact of El Niño. With the benefit of early information, they could have encouraged short season varieties to enable farmers to have at least a harvest. The government could have promoted irrigation farming where possible. Over the past year, they could have topped up the cereal reserves by importing food before the drought hits. With the rand at its lowest, it means that our people can buy more food from South Africa for storage before the South African government decides to limit food exports.
However, for lack of shame, we will invite non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the same ones we rebuked a few years ago, to come and deliver a bag of maize at the door steps of our starving people to keep them alive ahead of elections. We will tell the world that this is a humanitarian situation beyond our control in order to hide our incompetence.
We will blame the casualties from the drought on donors for not providing funding in time and NGOs for bureaucratic processes.
That we did not do our own homework and sound the alarm bells will be immaterial for as long as our leaders need to spend those all-night succession vigils. Once that phase is over, we will blame donors and NGOs for meddling into our internal politics.
But we will be the ones counting the costs.
●Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa