President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday said his government had paid for more than 400 tonnes of maize from Zambia and Malawi but blamed Lusaka’s “lack of urgency” for slowing down efforts to fight off hunger.
Addressing a campaign rally of about 6 000 supporters at Mahusekwa rural business centre, about 90km south-east of Harare, Mugabe said his government would dispatch a team of officials to Zambia to assist authorities there to speed up delivery of maize. “We are trying (to provide food) but our maize is still across the Zambezi (river between Zambia and Zimbabwe),” Mugabe said. “It seems they have no sense of urgency. They are working as if everything is normal.
We have talked to the Zambian government and they have agreed to be assisted so we are sending our team there. We have set up an emergency team because of the high level of hunger,” he said. Mugabe – who urged the villagers not to vote for former finance minister Simba Makoni because he was a “man of no principles” – said the government paid for 150 000 tonnes of maize from Zambia, 300 000 tonnes from Malawi and a “few thousand” tonnes from South Africa.
Zimbabwe, also in the grip of its worst ever economic crisis, has battled severe food shortages for the past eight years after Mugabe’s controversial land reforms displaced established white commercial farmers and replaced them with either incompetent or inadequately funded black peasant farmers.
A joint crop assessment report by the agriculture ministry and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released this week says Zimbabwe could face another grain shortfall this year because if a shortage of seed and fertilizers that affected the cropping season. International relief agencies say up to four million Zimbabweans or a quarter of the country’s 12 million people require food aid between now and the next harvest in about a month’s time.
Mugabe said his government sympathised with the people’s worsening plight telling the rural voters who have been loyal to his party not to be swayed by Makoni, who rebelled to challenge the veteran leader in the March 29 presidential poll. “If you vote for him (Makoni) you are lost, this is the truth. You do not have to join a man of no principles,” said Mugabe, who mocked his challenger as a dreamer who thinks he could just wake up as the new president of the country.
Mugabe, who could clock more than three decades in office if he is re-elected for another five-year term, denied responsibility for Zimbabwe’s economic crisis and instead blamed a profiteering business community of unjustifiably hiking prices to worsen the misery of consumers.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of an acute economic recession critics blame on mismanagement by Mugabe and seen in the world’s highest inflation rate of more than 100 000 percent, 80 percent unemployment and shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency. However, analysts say an unfair playing field guarantees Mugabe victory at the polls. The 84-year old Mugabe has promised a landslide victory against Makoni and main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.