Parly to probe food shortages

HARARE - Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo, the mainstream MDC shadow minister for Agriculture, Land and Water Development, on Tuesday tabled a motion in the House of Assembly calling for the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee to enquire about the food shortage crisis engulfing Zimbabwe.

At least  2,2 million people are in urgent need of food aid, according to the United nations.

Nkomo’s motion was seconded by Lucia Matibenga.

Nkomo said Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of southern Africa and but has now been reduced to a basket case, noting government’s lack of precautionary programmes to avert hunger in the face of a poor rain season.

He said cases of multiple farm ownership and the subsequent under-utilisation of land were detrimental to crop and livestock production.

“The victims have been the ordinary villagers of Kezi and Siyachilaba who have had to contend with debilitating food shortages following the dysfunctionality of a hitherto well laid out food market chain,” Nkomo said.

“Though undoubtedly a noble  programme, it has become apparent over the years that the land reform programme was not well-thought out. But, it was a sporadic reaction to a political capital in light of the energies of the new political players in a hitherto monopolised political landscape.

“Food handouts by non-governmental organisations have been an annual feature in the country’s calendar of events.”

Sipepa-Nkomo said although food shortages follow some of the poorest weather conditions, the crisis was mostly man-made and it was a very frustrating practice which has been repeated since the year 2000.

Nkomo said it was disheartening to note the Zanu PF government has been partisan in food distribution during drought and starvation mitigation programmes.

“It is indeed sad and primitive that a government can deliberately starve its own populace for purposes of political expedience,” Nkomo said.

“It is the essence of democracy to have divergent political ideologies with government having the capability to rise above party politics and provide food to all deserving and bona fide Zimbabweans.

“It has become a common trend that the government churns out millions of dollars annually in support of farmers, who 13 years after the land reform programme, are still being referred to as ‘new farmers’ and are hand-held with no indication of self-sustaining operations in the near future.

“While government has an obligation to support farmers, the current support mechanisms are not sustainable as they are characterised by an endless cycle of one way financial and input injections which are not matched by equivalent returns.

“It does not, therefore, come as a surprise that Zimbabwe is now a basket case from its rightful position as the bread basket of southern Africa. If current practices in the agricultural sector are anything to go by, Zimbabwe is poised to suffer even more food deficits in the future."

“There are no mechanisms in place by government to bridge the knowledge gap which presents a valid and very serious threat to our national food security,” he said.

“It is indeed deplorable and points to failed leadership and policies. I duly move a motion that this august House sets up a committee to inquire into the food shortage crisis that is currently engulfing Zimbabwe,” he said.

In her address, Matibenga said the dire food security situation needed a major rethink in terms of the country’s agricultural policies.

“Making Zimbabwe’s agriculture work again requires favourable socio-political climate, adequate governance and macro-economic fundamentals underpinned by robust and responsive institutions,” she said.

“It will crucially be vital for government to invest in irrigation infrastructure to offset drought vulnerability, institute reforms to ensure timely supply of inputs, a pricing and market policy that balances incentives between food and cash crops.”

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