Zimbabwe: You can't be 'sovereign' when you depend on food handouts from your 'enemies'

Dec 2, 2010

One of Robert Mugabe's most consistent refrains is how Zimbabwe 'will never be a colony again.' This is usually said in the context of how the country, or at least his government, is besieged by hostile western forces trying to dictate Zimbabwe's progression, for instance by 'reversing the course of the revolution' by overturning the land reforms that controversially led to expropriations from white landholders.

Along with this is the frequent allusion to 'sovereignty,' as in 'the west and others may not like us and the course we have charted, but they should butt out of our affairs, we are a sovereign nation.'

Some have argued that these nationalistic blandishments by Mugabe have less to do with concern for the country than they do with his latching on to any gambit to justify his hold on power after 30 years in which his polarity is arguably a fraction of what it once was.

But no one can argue against the yearning of especially small recent colonies to run their own affairs free of the interference of other countries, particularly their former colonial masters. Zimbabwe's pre and post-independence peculiarities explain why this is a particularly prickly issue for it, especially with regards to relations with Britain.     

Yet Zimbabwe is as shamefully donor-dependent as any other African country, and arguably with much less excuse for it than most others given its potential and its many assets that have not been managed effectively for its own benefits.

An example of how Zimbabwe's present-day reality makes a mockery of Mugabe's impassioned cries of 'sovereignty:'

Zimbabwe needs $415 mln in food aid
The United Nations on (December 2 2010) appealed for 415 million dollars (315 million euros) to feed almost two million Zimbabweans facing near immediate malnutrition.

"An estimated 1.7 million Zimbabweans will face severe food insecurity in the peak hunger period of January to March 2011," Alain Noudehou, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Zimbabwe, told journalists in Harare. "To assist the most vulnerable with humanitarian and early recovery assistance, the 2011 consolidated appeal requests a total of 415 million dollars."

Noudehou said one in every three children in Zimbabwe is chronically malnourished and hunger contributes to nearly 12,000 child deaths each year.

Zimbabwe has experienced a decade of acute food shortages brought on by drought and President Robert Mugabe's land reforms, which crippled farm production. 

However, the sum requested for 2011 is down on the 478 million dollars asked to feed 2.17 million people last year, and marks a significant improvement from the disastrous 2008 harvest, which left seven million people needing food aid.

The southern African country has been showing signs of recovery since the formation of a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai to ease political tensions and mend an economy ravaged by years of hyperinflation.

This more-sovereign-than-thou country owes the basic biological subsistence of a major chunk of its population to food handouts from the rest of the world! The Mugabe government's now standard response to embarrassments like this is to claim that 'illegal western sanctions are the cause of all our problems, including the ability to feed ourselves.' But that cannot take away the sting of the fact not only of the food aid dependence, but of the fact that a lot of that food aid comes from the US and Britain, the two countries Mugabe & Co insist are their greatest enemies.

There could not be a greater humiliation than this to a regime that acts as if it invented the concept of sovereignty. There is no way you can be 'sovereign' when you depend on your 'enemies' for food!  


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