THE plea by prominent Matabeleland South traditional leader Chief Malaba for non-governmental (NGOs) to come to the rescue of starving villagers is a serious indictment on the Zanu PF government.
One of the first statements uttered by new Matabeleland Provincial Affairs minister Abedico Ncube after his appointment last year was last year was a threat to expel NGOs operating in the drought prone province.
Ncube, without proffering any shred of evidence, accused NGOs of dabbling in politics. The new minister was certainly reading from the Zanu PF hymn book as the party has always taken itself to demonise aid organisations that now feed the majority of our population.
Ncube was obviously politicking and was not concerned about the starvation stalking the villagers while the government folds its hands.
Chief Malaba has been brave to go against the grain by appealing to NGOs to return to the province saying the hunger situation needed urgent attention. He acknowledged that the NGOs have been able to fill in the void at a time when the government is unable to feed its people because it is technically broke.
Some of the reasons the aid agencies are not able to cater for all the starving villagers have to do with increasing donor fatigue.
The World Food Programme (WFP) recently conceded that it was struggling to raise enough funds needed to feed about 2.2 million Zimbabweans who need assistance in the hunger season that stretches from December to April. WFP, which has been contributing the bulk of aid, says Zimbabwe’s food security assessment for the 2013/2014 is the worst since 2009. It said a quarter of people living in the rural areas requiring urgent food assistance.
However, some irresponsible statements from government officials have contributed to the sad situation. In Masvingo, NGOs were pushed out by the previous governor Titus Maluleke and his successor Kudakwashe Bhasikiti has been making desperate calls for the aid agencies to return.
Ncube should learn from the Masvingo experience. Meanwhile, the Zanu PF government should follow its rhetoric that no one would die of starvation with action. Matabeleland South villagers have raised their voices and the government should be seen acting. Zanu PF t leaders should stop threatening aid agencies when they know fully well that their government has no capacity to halt mass starvation.