Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

Yet another lost Zimbabwean farming season

Posted by CM on November 26, 2008

This is wishful thinking on my part, but it would have been nice to imagine that even in the midst of the long-running political stalemate, someone in the Mugabe government would have been paying a lot of attention to agriculture. It’s neglect accounts for a lot of the reason where are where we are today. And a well-functioning agriculture still offers the best hope of reducing the country’s many economic and social ills, and laying the foundations for eventual recovery when the politics are finally sorted out.

But of course, political survival by the Mugabe regime now comes before everything, although I would have thought that repression aside, success in agriculture would have strengthened the government’s hand rather than leave it as embattled and friendless as it has become. Political attention and economic resources are now mainly taken up by fighting off the many real and imagined enemies of the regime.

And when one or another grand agricultural scheme has been announced over the years, it has floundered for one or more of the many reasons that the rest of the country is in such a mess. Even when an idea has been good on paper, there are now so many other things wrong in the economy for such interventions to work as they would in relatively normal times. Hyper-inflation, fuel shortages, the high cost of forex, lack of security of tenure on farms, lack of trust and confidence in the political leadership: all these and more  have conspired against all the best laid plans of Mugabe fixer Gideon Gono and the rest of Mugabe’s machinery to try to kick-start agriculture.

Perhaps partly as an inducement to ZANU-PF and the MDC to find a resolution to their embarrassing sparring over how to divide political positions, the South African government recently announced having budgeted a $30 million assistance package  for Zimbabwean agriculture. At the beginning of the rain season, this was one of the most friendly gestures any government could offer to Zimbabwe at this time of great hunger and suffering.

Weeks after the offer, our politicians seem no closer to resolving their differences than they were months ago and quite  reasonably, the South Africans are not willing to sink support into a situation of such un- certainty and dysfunction.

The withdrawal of loan, grants and other kinds of agricultural assistance that Zimbabwe would normally expect has been described as part of “illegal sanctions” by Western countries by the Mugabe government. But it is not quite so easy to make the same charges against a South African government that has often seemed to bend over backwards to support the Mugabe government when much of the world was urging it to instead take a ‘get tough’ stance.

Years after the political fat cats of all parties have satisfied themselves that their personal needs have been taken care of in any settlement they reach with each other, Zimbabwe will still be paying for the ruin and neglect it has brought on its agriculture.

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