Distribution of food stalls as Zimbabwe grain board lacks cash
Two-thirds of Zimbabwe's provinces face severe food shortages, the agriculture minister warned yesterday, adding hunger to a potentially lethal cocktail of poverty and mounting political violence.
Joseph Made said he had instructed the state-run Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to "move with speed" and start distributing grain to six of Zimbabwe's ten provinces. But the cash-strapped organisation says it has no money to transport supplies.
"We do not want any excuses when people are starving," said Mr Made, who has presided over the destruction of Zimbabwe's once-thriving agriculture sector following president Robert Mugabe's launch of white land seizures in 2000.
The official Herald daily newspaper said the GMB already owes transporters more than US$700,000 (about 430,000) and would require $300,000 per month to move the grain.
Mr Made insisted: "We have food to start helping our people." However, the United Nations has already appealed for $415 million to feed 1.7 million of Zimbabwe's 12 million people until crops are harvested in May.
A government crop assessment in January found that the country had more than two million hectares of maize planted and was expecting to harvest 1.7 million tonnes. But a dry spell in February and March, blamed on a cyclone that hit Madagascar, has seen crops wither.
The worst-affected areas are in the east and the south of Zimbabwe. More than 120,000 people face starvation in Buhera, prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai's home district. "We are already skipping meals and surviving on a single meal a day," said villager Emmanuel Mataka.
The district administrator, Rolland Mundondo, said: "Harvest is zero." And a traveller from the mountainous Nyanga district also confirmed yesterday crops there had failed.
Moving to quell panic, the National Bakers' Association of Zimbabwe insisted a bread shortage was not looming - but reports of an imminent price hike were not denied.
Mr Mugabe, 87, now blames all food shortages on "illegal sanctions" imposed by Britain, the European Union and the US, although his deputy, Joyce Mujuru, last month slammed black farmers for turning seized white properties into "trophy" farms where no crops are grown.
Tensions in a two-year coalition between Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Mugabe are at a high following weekend clashes between supporters as rival parties prepare for elections later this year.
Some 15 people were injured, one seriously, in Harare on Saturday when Tsvangirai supporters tried to gather for a Movement for Democratic Change rally that had been banned by police, the MDC confirmed yesterday.
Eyewitnesses said youths loyal to Mr Mugabe gathered at the venue and beat MDC supporters with logs, metal bars and whips.Police had banned the rally on the basis that Mr Mugabe's party was holding its own rally at its headquarters 500m away. But no such rally took place.
On Sunday, riot police also chased away supporters of a breakaway MDC faction that had tried to hold a rally in Chitungwiza, near Harare. Police threatened to beat up faction leader Welshman Ncube, said Moses Matenga of the local NewsDay paper. Mr Ncube's son is married to the daughter of South African president Jacob Zuma, the regionally-appointed mediator on the Zimbabwe crisis.
Mr Zuma is so "concerned" by the violence that he is sending in a mediation team this week, according to his international relations adviser, Lindiwe Zulu.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe and China yesterday signed agreements worth $585m aimed at reviving the former's health, mining and agriculture sectors.
Chinese vice-premier Wang Qishan, in Zimbabwe for an official visit, also said China would lobby for the removal of sanctions against the African nation.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 6 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west