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Hunger painfully exposes food security propaganda



GOVERNMENT has now done away with its unsophisticated propaganda that Zimbabwe had attained food security, amid an official appeal for assistance by cabinet to domestic and international well-wishers to bail out the country from the El Niño-induced drought that President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a state of national disaster.


During Tuesday’s post-cabinet briefing, Information minister Jenfan Muswere said Local Government and Public Works minister Daniel Garwe presented the 2024 El Niño-induced drought report for domestic and international appeal, which was adopted by Cabinet.

“The public is informed that the His Excellency the President, Cde. Dr. E.D. Mnangagwa declared a State of Disaster on 3 April, 2024. The declaration was made in terms of section 27(1) of the Civil Protection Act as a result of the prevalent drought brought about by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

“The state of disaster exists in all rural and urban areas in Zimbabwe. The Appeal is premised on three areas, namely: Search and Rescue; Mitigation; and Resilience Building,” said Muswere.

He further stated that search and rescue involves the identification and provision of assistance to beneficiaries, while mitigation relates to the measures put in place to avert the impact of the El Niño-induced drought.

“Resilience pertains to initiatives aimed at strengthening community capacities for sustainable livelihoods in order to cope with the disaster. A full Appeal statement will be issued in due course,” he said.

The whole of last year, President Mnangagwa repeatedly boasted that Zimbabwe had attained food security. As early as last month, during the official opening of a grain milling plant co-owned by his younger brother Patrick Mnangagwa and businessman Douglas Kwande, the Mnangagwa’s government maintained the propaganda that Zimbabwe was food secure.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as existing when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

There are four main dimensions to food security, namely that the food must be physically available, the food must be economically affordable to all people, the food must be nutritionally balanced, and these three must be stable over a period of time.

In his campaign speeches ahead of last year’s general elections, Mnangagwa repeatedly said Zimbabwe was on course to achieving food security to the extent that non-governmental organisations distributing food aid would be rendered redundant.

“In spite of sanctions imposed on us by some Western countries, Zimbabwe has been the fastest-growing economy in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) for the past three years. All sectors — mining, construction, manufacturing, and tourism — are all growing,” Mnangagwa told a rally in Harare on 9 August.

He added that his Pfumvudza/Intwasa agricultural policy had succeeded.

“We are confident that in spite of climate change, we will be food secure because we have built dams and are promoting irrigation to give us enough food each year,” he said.

But a day before his Harare rally, the World Food Programme (WFP) representative and country director Francesca Erdelmann had warned that Zimbabwe’s poor population still suffered from food insecurity.

“While the country celebrates the availability of adequate cereal stocks to meet the overall national requirements, we also acknowledge that many poor households struggle to meet their food needs,” Erdelmann said.

On 29 July 2023, Mnangagwa was quoted as saying: “Forget about the maize surplus. We have that alright. Forget about the fiscal surplus. That’s no longer breaking news. For the first time ever, we have a wheat surplus of 40 000 metric tonnes. How about that? Does anyone still doubt these results that speak for themselves?”

Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka, whom Mnangagwa rated as the best in his cabinet for two consecutive years on several occasions, also misled the nation that Zimbabwe was food secure.

Continuing with the un-strategic propaganda, last month the acting leader of government business in Parliament and Skills Audit minister Paul Mavima maintained that the country was food secure. He pushed back on repeated questions by legislators after their visit to grain silos in Banket showed that the state granaries were empty and with no reserves as claimed by government officials.

However, in an embarrassing somersault, Mnangagwa on Wednesday pleaded with various sectors including donors, churches and foreign-based citizens to help Zimbabwe with food aid he estimated at US$2 billion.

“By this declaration, I also call upon all Zimbabweans of goodwill, including those in the diaspora, the international community, United Nations agencies, development and humanitarian partners, international financial institutions, the private sector, churches and other faith-based organisations, as well as individuals, to generously donate towards ameliorating this state of national disaster,” he said.

According to the WFP, up to a third of Zimbabweans in urban areas are unable to afford a nutritious diet, and programmes by the European Union, WFP and other development programmes have been assisting vulnerable communities to be food secure through mobile money stipends, agricultural support programmes and food handouts.

Speaking to The NewsHawks, a renowned food expert remarked: “In reality, Zimbabwe is far from attaining a semblance of food security. You can check the annual hunger statistics, from the likes of ZimStat, ZimVac, World Food Programme and the World Bank.

Government has failed to: sufficiently develop Zimbabwe’s irrigation capacity; implement agricultural policies that place farmers (particularly small-scale farmers) at the centre of the food security agenda; incentivise farmers to expand the production of drought-tolerant small grains like sorghum and millet; tackle corruption in the agriculture value chain, for instance Command Agriculture looters went scot-free.Propaganda has its limits; what is needed in the food security discourse is honest and pragmatic leadership.”

According to fresh figures from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the cost of food in Zimbabwe increased 84.4% in February of 2024 over the same month in the previous year.

Last year, the World Bank confirmed that Zimbabwe had the highest food price inflation in the world. But the country has seen more shocking prices after the turn of the millennium.

Food price inflation averaged 1540753.44% from 2003 until 2024, reaching an all-time high of 353131459.30% in July of 2008 and a record low of -15.1% in December of 2009.

According to the World Bank’s February 2024 update on food inflation, Zimbabwe led the pack in Africa, with food inflation at a staggering 26% year-on-year, followed closely by Egypt at 18% and Guinea at 7%.

The statistics showed that Zimbabwe, Egypt, and Malawi are on the lost of the top 10 food inflation hardest-hit nations globally.

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