BY the time you read this piece, it will be almost a week since the start of the two-week United Nations Climate Change conference, also known as COP21, in Paris, France.
COP21 is an annual jamboree of no less than 500 world leaders and close to 5 000 delegates united by one common mission — an agreement on how best to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. There is no prize for guessing that our jetset 90-year-something President and “life leader” of Zanu PF, the “frequent flyer” was first onto the Parisian airport tarmac early this week to attend COP21. He never ceases to amaze me. Actually, the hypocrisy of Zanu PF on the global stage has been one of its most irritating phenomena in its 35-year history of ruining our beloved country. Before I annoy you with political trivia, let me start with the important things first — COP21 and GHG.
Many urban members of my party, the MDC, have in the past attended several workshops where the subject of climate change was discussed. There have also been many Press articles on how our rural members — especially those in the southern provinces — are suffering from serious droughts caused by irregular rain patterns, more evident in the past decade. There is irrefutable proof that rainy seasons are much shorter these years, while winters are much warmer. I myself grew up in Lower Gwelu, which was once known to be one of the coldest places in Zimbabwe. We knew then that the months of May, June and July came with punishing, near-freezing conditions. In fact, the term “ngoJune” was synonymous with the toe and finger-freezing ground frost that made our young lives miserable, particularly during the long 5-kilometre walk to school, often barefooted or in canvas cloth-made tenderfoots which barely provided any protection from the biting cold. That is all history now, thanks to climate change.
Climate experts — at least the sensible ones — have attributed this “warmth” to the millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and other gases churned every second into the atmosphere by us, humans. We do this through fumes from cars, airplanes, burning grass, discarding garbage recklessly, industries and spray cans. The ultimate effect is that the gases are “trapped” by the invisible cover around our planet, which results in what is termed global warming. Since the air can no longer circulate freely, the earth not only becomes warmer, but also rains become irregular. In fact, those who have heard of the El Nino phenomenon know that in some parts of the world it results in floods, while at the same time causing extensive dryness in other parts of the world.
Unfortunately, in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa in general, this year 2015 going into 2016, we are on the dry side of El Nino. We are staring drought, dry wells, depleted grazing pastures and general starvation in the face. This is where the irritating hypocrisy of Zanu PF features prominently. Instead of admitting their errors, they keep lying about rain, supplying “free agriculture inputs” and claiming to have money to import “thousands of tonnes” of grain.
COP21 is about world leaders “signing an agreement” on how to reduce global warming. As expected, President Robert Mugabe will be blaming Western countries for not only polluting the environment through intensive industrialisation, but also “refusing” to finance African countries to prevent or adapt to the effects of climate change. Zanu PF’s 35-year stay in power has seriously contributed to climate change. Their policies have impoverished Zimbabweans who have now resorted to the large-scale cutting-down of trees for use as fuel energy, not only in rural areas, but also in urban areas which should be lit by electricity, thus increasing the chances of desertification. Imagine that at my house in Greendale, Harare, we have had no power continuously for two weeks now because Zesa is so much in debt that it is unable to secure a transformer to replace one which was burnt as a result of improper wiring barely a month after it was installed. I can imagine the number of families who have had to be using firewood for cooking in the last two weeks in my neighbourhood.
In the cities, citizens are so poor that the greater number of those who are motorists can only afford to buy old, secondhand car models which are difficult to maintain and churn out billows of exhaust smoke. Both the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Vehicle Inspection Department officers are so poor that they survive from corrupt activities on the roads, letting off vehicular offenders with bribes to drive the very polluting vehicles unimpeded by environmental protecting laws.
From the year 2000 onwards, Zanu PF violently evicted 5 000 commercial farmers and replaced them with new farmers, most of whom know next to nothing about climate change-friendly farming. Rare indigenous trees have been decimated, while rivers and dams are now silted. Year after year, veld fires destroy large tracts of grass together with trees. In order to guarantee all-year food security, Zimbabwe requires wide-scale and intensive water preservation and irrigation. However, Zanu PF plundered expensive irrigation equipment and despite then Reserve Bank governor Dr Gideon Gono’s spirited attempts at spending millions of dollars to enhance agricultural mechanisation, we have nothing to show for it other than food insecurity.
Mugabe himself is a culprit in air pollution. In climate change science, we are told about “carbon footprints” — a euphemism for how much each of us contributes to “pollution”. The leader of Zanu PF travels, every day, with a convoy of no less than 40 cars, all of them churning out tonnes of carbon monoxide. He has, this year alone, spent almost $50 million flying around thousands of kilometres to all sorts of “meetings”in an old Air Zimbabwe airplane that also churns out thousands of carbon kilogrammes. He and his party have no moral authority to accuse anyone of being a climate change criminal.
In the MDC we are aware that climate change is a food security risk. That is why our slogan has always been Green Green, Kayithelelwe, Ngaidiridzwe. Once in government, we will facilitate the practice of sustainable methods of farming and industrialisation. Zanu PF policies and corruption have endangered our electricity supplies. To reverse this we will focus on investment that produces and uses solar and renewable energy.
We will drastically reduce government ministries not just to create a lean and efficient administration, but also to conserve fossil fuels at the same time encouraging citizens to experiment with biogas and biofuels. Our Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate will work closely with the Agriculture one to introduce a rural extension service that supports citizens to be energy-use friendly. While I appreciate the recent launch of a National Climate Change Response Strategy, we all know that Zanu PF knows nothing about implementation of policies. Not far back, they launched ZimAsset, now we hear they want to discard it — they call it re-aligning — in favour of the recent United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. What idiocy!
As the world continues to seek solutions to climate change, my party and I are committed to regional, continental and global agreements that enhance our adaptation to this negative phenomenon. Zanu PF is still fixated with national security. Their militant paranoia and fear of imaginary enemies pushes their Finance minister to keep allocating millions of scarce US dollar resources to the army, police and Central Intelligence Organisation.
Imagine if this money was channelled to sustainable agriculture extension services, solar power investment and supporting indigenous knowledge systems. Zimbabwe would be a world leader in the fight against climate change! It is time Zimbabweans started voting for a more responsible political party. Zanu PF is on a suicidal mission. All they care about are their political gains, not the welfare of citizens suffering under the effects of climate change.
lWelshman Ncube is president of MDC. He writes in his personal capacity.