|Harvest of Hunger|
There is a massive, massive crisis underway in Zimbabwe. As I write this letter on Saturday the 26th November 2005, history will remember this date as the one on which elections for a Senate that we didn't want and couldn't afford were being held. Ordinary people, however, will remember this as the time when MDC leaders were tearing their party apart and Zanu
PF were squabbling for the last few scraps on the political bone. This is the November when both the MDC and Zanu PF seem to have lost track of the most important struggle in Zimbabwe: the one for food, food and more food.
The rains have begun, the soils are wet, the temperatures high and yet only weeds are growing as each precious day ticks past. All around us peasant farmers in the communal areas and new farmers on seized commercial land, have still not been given seeds to plant. It is ludicrous that five years into Zimbabwe's land take-overs, these new farmers are still unable to plough the land they were allocated or even buy their own seed. In a country where inflation is over 400% and great convoys of trucks stream endlessly over our borders bringing in food in from other countries, Zimbabwe it seems is not even going to try and save herself this year.
The question that every Zimbabwean asks their neighbour in November is how much rain they've had and how their crop is doing. It doesn't matter if the "crop" is a few lines of maize plants in the back garden, seven acres in the rural village or a hundred acres on a farm. This year, the answer to the question is - "what crop." When you ask new farmers or rural
villagers how their crop is coming on, they say they haven't planted yet and are still waiting for the government to come and give them seed. If you comment that it's a month into the growing season and virtually too late to plant, they sigh and shrug their shoulders and say there is "nothing to do." So far, in Marondera, we've had six inches of rain and have the makings of a perfect season. "It's looking good for farmers," I said to one man this week but he just shook his head, laughed sadly and said "But these farmers they are playing, just playing!"
To make this desperate crisis even worse, there continue to be seizures of the few productive farms still operating. Every day we hear of another farmer being evicted by some arbitrary bloke who arrives with "a letter from the governmment." As it has for five years, these evictions happen just after the farmer has planted the crop, when the fields are covered
with newly germinated seed. It is plain, outright theft of another man's labour, seed and fertilizer and yet no one does anything because, "it is political". This week the former president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Kumbirai Katsande said:
"As we sit right here I do not hear any senior government official condemning the farm invasions which are taking place across the country...It's criminal when we do not do what we are supposed to do."
Times are very hard for ordinary Zimbabweans in November 2005 but as the days pass and crops do not get planted, it does not bear thinking what things will be like this time next year. A harvest of hunger in 2006 seems inevitable and yet all our combined leaders talk about is the Senate.