HomeEditorial CommentBananas won’t end starvation

Bananas won’t end starvation

The number of Zimbabweans requiring food assistance following poor harvests caused by the El Niño-induced drought continues to grow and the government is yet to roll out visible programmes to alleviate hunger.

THE STANDARD EDITORIAL

Thousands of vulnerable people are already finding it difficult to have three square meals a day and were it not for donor agencies that have mobilised funding for humanitarian assistance; we could be talking of hunger-related deaths by now.

President Robert Mugabe on Friday visited Masvingo Province — one of the areas hardest hit by the drought — where he repeated his hollow statement that no one would die of hunger.

Mugabe went on to give the villagers cassava, bananas, 50 bales of clothes and 90 tonnes of maize.

The handouts were delivered at a Zanu PF rally and this means that not all deserving people in Gutu would benefit.

For years, the Zanu PF government has been accused of distributing food along partisan lines and this is mainly done to force people that are tired of Mugabe’s misrule to vote for the ruling party during elections.

A political rally like the one Mugabe held in Gutu should not be used to distribute food, not only because it is discriminatory but because it also abets the abuse of State resources.

There is no doubt that the money used to buy the food handouts came from State resources and that means all Zimbabweans, regardless of political affiliation, must benefit.

First Lady Grace Mugabe has been making similar donations at her own rallies and more often than not, the handouts end up in the hands of greedy ruling party officials.

The government has no mechanisms in place to follow up on such abuse of donations because the handouts are not governed by its regulations.

If Mugabe and his family have excess food or clothes they would want to give fellow Zimbabweans, it would be more dignified if they distributed them through channels that promote transparency and fairness.

The donations also do not have to strip the vulnerable people of their dignity.

Mugabe’s government last year made moves to ban the importation of second-hand clothes, arguing that they posed health risks.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa vigorously defended the ban despite concerns by informal traders that it would impact negatively on their business and for a moment we thought the government cared for its people.

However, to our surprise the bales of clothes seized by authorities at the country’s borders are now being shamelessly distributed by Mugabe and his wife.

The poor cross-border traders were deprived of their livelihood by a government that is more interested in preserving the president’s rule than making the lives of citizens better.

Mugabe’s donation of cassava and bananas was also a new low for him.

The starving villagers are not looking for any luxuries such as bananas but basics like maize and cooking oil because their children are already malnourished.

Mugabe and his government have to be serious about drought mitigation to save lives and livestock.

Bananas can never be part of the matrix in addressing hunger that is stalking nearly four million Zimbabweans.

A proper drought relief programme has to be rolled out simultaneously across the country targeting the most vulnerable people and this does not have to wait for Mugabe to travel for his family or party business.

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