Election talk overshadows bread and butter issues

HARARE - Why must we have this perennial guessing game about when elections will be held?

What’s the big secret?

As we were in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008, the whole country has gone back into ‘hold’ mode.

No one is spending money or making longterm decisions, no one is hiring or firing, businesses are struggling to keep up with increases in the prices of fuel, utilities and wages while everyone waits to hear when the elections will actually be held.

While the intrigue over the date of elections drags on, much-needed attention is being detracted from the dire situation currently unfolding on the fields of rural Zimbabweans who are in the process of bringing in their harvest.

So far it’s not looking good in a lot of areas.

While some farmers are bringing in reasonable harvests, others are reaping far less than normal or even nothing at all.

A report by IRIN three weeks ago quoted a village elder in Wedza who said he had travelled across the district and found a very bad situation.

Simon Maveza said that Wedza villagers would, for the fourth year in a row, be looking to well-wishers for food aid.

“There is no hope of a good harvest this year again,” he said.

In other parts of Mashonaland East, villagers are saying that only five percent of communal farmers in their areas are reaping enough maize to feed their families until next harvest.

Most are harvesting less than 100 kg of shelled maize from fields where plants are stunted, poorly nourished and cobs as small as a man’s hand.

Working on the assumption that an average family needs 40kg of maize meal a month, those two bags of shelled maize won’t last them more than three months.     

The former president of the Grain and Cereals Producers Association, Denford Chimbwanda, said recently that many parts of the country are going to suffer poor harvests this year.

Chimbwanda estimates that a third of the land planted in summer 2012 has been seriously affected and there will be a national cereal shortage.

Looming hunger is due to the usual cocktail of reasons ranging from people waiting for free inputs and handouts from government to erratic rains, insufficient fertiliser and just not enough people bothering to plant food anymore.

For months, alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear, particularly when we learnt that the amount of land planted with food crops has dropped from 1,9 million hectares in 2012 to 1,5 million hectares this season.

That’s a dramatic decline of almost half a million hectares which translates into a lot of lost food and hungry stomachs.

Since 2009 when the unity government was formed, there has been a sickening lethargy and disinterest by our leaders about Zimbabwe’s continuing inability to feed itself.

Year-after-year the food rolls in across the border on giant trucks which chew up our highways, wasting precious currency, bringing grain to our country which for decades was known as the breadbasket of Africa.

Derelict farms, weed infested fields and empty silos are the legacy being left behind by the unity government when they leave office in the next few weeks.

The irony of the unfolding harvest tragedy and the argument over election dates is not lost on the long-suffering, election-weary Zimbabweans.

If Zanu PF have their way and we vote at the end of June, people will still have a few cobs of maize to eat.

If the MDC has it their way and we vote in mid September we will again be a hungry nation. - Cathy Buckle

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