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Mavima cornered over false food security claims



ACTING leader of government business in Parliament and Skills Audit minister Paul Mavima was cornered by legislators on Wednesday for misleading statements that Zimbabwe is food secure yet grain silos were recently found empty in Banket by a committee of MPs.


 Last month, reports emerged from USAID that due to a shortage of grain, Zimbabwe is supposed to import 450 000 metric tonnes of maize this season to reach the 2.2 million metric tonnes required per year.

This excludes the mandate to maintain a minimum strategic reserve of 500 000 metric tonnes of grain in physical stocks.

The dire situation has been worsened by the climate crisis whose effects the government is grappling to contain. In Parliament on Wednesday, Citizens’ Coalition for Change Mbizo MP Corban Madzivanyika was the first to take Mavima to task over the issue of food security.

 “My question is a follow-up to the issue of the availability of grain reserves in this country in light of the pending drought that we are facing.

Just last week or two weeks ago, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development had a meeting with the Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe indicating that they have enough grain reserves.

“A week later, the Portfolio Committee travelled across the country in particular to Norton and Banket, but then we realised that there were no grain reserves in those areas…” he asked. Mberengwa Zanu PF MP Tafanana Zhou tried to interrupt.

 “On a point of order! The member is now pre-empting the work of the committee. The committee will present the report here in Parliament,” he said.

However, deputy speaker Tsitsi Gezi protected the MP and allowed him to proceed.

“So, this work was beamed live on social media, specifically on Open Parliament, and that is where I took this information that I am talking about. So, when this Portfolio Committee visited our grain reserve, they realised that there was no grain reserve. Can the leader of government business reconcile what was found physically versus the submission that he made that we have enough grain reserve in Zimbabwe?” Cornered, Mavima tried to water down the question.

 “The honourable member premised his question with an indication that GMAZ, which is an association of private millers, indicated that they had grain and that is the information that the government has that the private millers are holding grain for their purposes.

“It will also interest this House to know that the government has allowed private millers, in anticipation of the drought that we are faced with right now, to continue to import for their purposes. So, there is a difference between what private millers hold and what is in the strategic grain reserve. The other aspect is that this honourable member is referring to anecdotal data that is coming from two silos, one of them being Banket.

“On the basis of whatever they found there, and he then said there is no grain in the Strategic Grain Reserve of this nation. A person cannot conclude after visiting two storage facilities and then conclude for the whole country does not have grain. The honourable member has to be logical in making his conclusion. The truth of the matter is, we are currently…”

 Before he could finish, the CCC MP for Nkayi South, Jabulani Hadebe, interrupted.

“The honourable minister is misleading the House. He should tell us which silos have got grain.”

Mavima responded: “My question is that we are currently distributing grains coming out of that strategic grain reserve. There are lots of areas this past week that received grain for those that are facing food deficit in this country. So, there is grain in the National Strategic Grain Reserve.”

Pelandaba-Tshabalala MP Joseph Tshuma of Zanu PF weighed in.

 “While appreciating the government’s position on the security of our grain, my question to the leader of government business today is: what is the government’s policy and position on the same grain getting to the urban areas because we are very much affected by this drought? Mavima at this stage said the government has begun distributing grain in the rural areas because a process of ascertaining the levels of food insecurity in communal was completed.

“We have just received information to the effect that the urban assessment has also been completed, but the report is still to be finalised and brought before cabinet. It is upon this basis on which interventions in the urban areas will be undertaken. The programme is not leaving anyone behind among the urban households that are food insecure.”

 Zimbabwe is in the grip of a massive hunger crisis which is coming in the middle of a worsening economic meltdown. The El Niño-induced disaster is threatening to bring the country to its knees.

According to international humanitarian institutions, about 2.6 million people, including 1.7 million children, are expected to require urgent humanitarian assistance.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems (Fewsnet’s) forecast for February to May, food insecurity across the country is set to worsen, with parts of Matabeleland, Mashonaland West, East and Central provinces being among the worst affected.

 A food Security and Markets Monitoring Report issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in January painted a gloomy picture.

“If the dry conditions persist, parts of the southern region are likely to see an increase in food insecurity as well as challenges in accessing water for both human and livestock consumption,” reads the report.

According to a situational report released by the World Food Programme recently, about 4.4 million Zimbabweans face hunger. The WFP said the desperate hunger situation is exacerbated by the harsh economic situation.

“Below-normal access to income and ongoing macro-economic challenges will likely deepen the challenges faced by vulnerable households in accessing essential needs,” reads part of the report.

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