HomeEditorial CommentErich Bloch: Genocidal Food Shortages

Erich Bloch: Genocidal Food Shortages

LAST week Zimbabwe’s parliamentarians declared that the country’s food shortages are a national disaster.

None can deny that the critical scarcities of food, and that the little that is available is unaffordable for many, is disastrous. But dubbing the shortages “a national disaster” is a gross understatement. The reality is that the paucity of food availability is a pronounced act of genocide on the part of government.
The current genocidal catastrophe is neither a sudden development, nor is it the first in the 28 year history of independent Zimbabwe. The actions of the Zimbabwean army, led by the Fifth Brigade, in the mid-1980s, condoned by government, if not in fact motivated by it, subjected tens of thousands of Ndebeles to diabolically cruel mutilations and death.
Moreover, it severely impacted negatively upon what had then been a growing economy, in consequence of which many were subjected to such intense poverty that significant numbers succumbed to the resultant ill-health and death.
And the current wave of genocide commenced more than eight years ago, and has progressively become more and more intense. The first of the genocidal actions embarked upon was an ill-considered, destructively pursued, programme of land reform. It cannot be credibly denied that a dynamic pursuit of land reform was very necessary.
For many, many decades the majority of the populace had been barred from the ownership of land, and the abysmal barriers to land ownership had very necessarily to be demolished, and the previously deprived enabled to become possessed of land.
But this very real need did not justify the and reform being such as would transform  Zimbabwe from being  the bread basket of the region, feeding not only all its people, but also many millions in neighbouring  territories, into a country producing less than a third of its needs. It did not justify blatant disregard for human and property rights.
It did not justify the destruction of the very foundation of the national economy,  a foundation which contributed more than a third of the total economic outputs of the country (Gross Domestic  Product), which generated the predominant portion of the foreign exchange  necessary for essential imports, access to energy supplies, and for infrastructural development, and which provided not only employment for more than 300 000 Zimbabweans, but thereby the support and sustenance for over two million of the population. In addition, it was the mainstay of the downstream economy which, in turn, was the source of livelihood of many millions more.
Had the land reform programme been such as retained the developed agricultural infrastructure, instead of reducing it to near total destruction, and had it retained the skilled and experienced farming community, which would have continued to be extraordinarily productive, whilst facilitating the training and development of skills of new farmers, Zimbabwean agriculture would have soared to ever greater heights, instead of plummeting to all-time lows.
Had the programme continued to respect property rights, and thereby according qualifying new farmers with not only the incentive to develop and enhance the lands, but would also have provided  them with the collateral  security needed to source essential developmental and working capital,  agriculture  would have grown from strength  to strength. In contrast to the prevailing cataclysmic food shortages, Zimbabwe would have had even greater surpluses than were characteristic of the pre-land reform era.
The attainment of the land reform  objectives was further negated by the magnitude  of nepotistically based allocation of farms, and the extent to which farm occupancy changed by non-governmentally authorised, but undoubtedly condoned, assumption of farms by innumerable war veterans (actual and pseudo), autocratically, violently at the point of the gun, and tyrannically applying the principles of “self-service”.
Government compounded the emasculation of agricultural production by criminal mismanagement of the procurement and distribution of  inputs, be they seed, fertilisers and chemicals, or otherwise, and by the endless  prescription of speciously low, non-viable, producer prices for what little agricultural  production was forthcoming.
Although all these actions of commission and omission by government were extremely major contributants to the gargantuan scarcity of food that afflicts Zimbabwe today, and which are the principal causes of the massive, malnutrition that exists in Zimbabwe today, government is irrefutably guilty of adding thereto by other grievous misdeeds.  
It has progressively destroyed much of the other sectors of the economy, including  mining, industry, and tourism, by ill-conceived, counterproductive economic policies, by almost total failure to contain corruption, by horrendous mismanagement of most of its parastatals, by allowing intense infrastructural  collapse, and by grossly excessive taxation.
It has done so by even more excessive (and highly destructive) economic regulation, by a near-total absence of fiscal probity, by usurping the autonomous determination functions of the central bank (instead obligating it endlessly to undertake quasi-fiscal activities, uncharacteristic of an independent, viable, central bank). It has exacerbated the economic collapse by alienating most of the international community in general, and the donor community in particular, and by the creation of a non-conducive investment environment.
The result is that more than four-fifths of the population are desperately striving to survive on resources below the Poverty Datum Line, and more than half of those are struggling to exist below the Food Datum Line. But the desperate attempts to survive do not succeed for all, and diverse estimates suggest that an average of up to 6 000 Zimbabweans a week are subjected to unrecorded death.
Those deaths are undeniably the consequence of all that government has done, but should not have done, and of the actions that should have been taken by government but which it has studiously failed to do.
As if all this was not a sufficiency of genocidal actions and failures, the circumstances were worsened and intensified by government barring the distribution of food by innumerable international concerned well-wisher organisations during the months preceding the so-called “harmonised” elections, and the subsequent presidential “run-off” election.
Government was determined to influence the electorate by its distribution of food, but only to those that it perceived would support it, and therefore it precluded others from engaging in food distribution.
Moreover, it itself having sought to use food as a vehicle  for vote-buying, it was paranoically convinced that the international aid agencies would do likewise, and therefore  hindered, obstructed and prevented  their engagement in bringing the food relief desperately needed for the survival of many. Was not this a genocidal act?
Hence, the parliamentarians are correct when they refer to the food scarcity crisis as a national disaster, but that  is a minimisation of the reality.  That reality is that yet again many Zimbabweans are the victims of genocide!
Not, as government repeatedly contends, the victims of drought, of sanctions, of Tony Blair, of Gordon Brown, George Bush and the European Union, but of genocide.

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