The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
ZIMBABWE has secured maize from Uganda, a development that will go a long way in reducing mealie-meal shortages that have been exacerbated by recurrent droughts over the last three years.
President Mnangagwa met his Ugandan counterpart President Yoweri Museveni during the 33rd Ordinary Summit of the African Union that ended in Ethiopia last week where President Museveni agreed to supply Zimbabwe with maize.
A high-powered delegation led by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Retired Air Chief Marshal Perrance Shiri, was on Thursday dispatched to Uganda to thrash out the modalities of importing the grain into the country.
President Mnangagwa revealed this on Friday at State House in Bulawayo when he met civil society organisations from the Matabeleland region.
“Fortunately, three or four days ago when we were in Addis Ababa I was sitting with other Heads of States and President Museveni of Uganda said to me ‘President Mnangagwa, I understand you need maize in Zimbabwe, I have plenty of it, come and collect’. So, I stood up from where I was sitting and went to him and he told me he had surplus maize. Yesterday (Thursday) I sent Minister Shiri to arrange the procurement of grain form Uganda,” he said.
Zimbabwe is also importing maize from Tanzania, South Africa and South America. President Mnangagwa said the effects of drought in the past two seasons were not felt as the country had surplus in its reserves.
“This is the third year in drought, the effects of this drought affect us directly. When we have a drought, food security in the country is threatened because we have not produced enough to feed ourselves. Fortunately for the past two seasons we accumulated huge reserves which accumulated at the time I personally introduced Command Agriculture.
“We had huge surpluses, so there was not much feeling country wide about the first drought we went through, we used those reserves. But those reserves with this current drought have been exhausted and this is why we are now diverting all funds which had been targeted for capital projects to procure grain to feed the people. This then affects the implementation of developmental projects in the country because we need people to survive,” said President Mnangagwa.
Erratic rainfall, added President Mnangagwa, was not just affecting agriculture but power generation as well.
“We have experienced two droughts which has caused poor power generation, the entire country had inadequate power and it had an impact on agriculture industry and homes of people. This is making us get power form our neighbours.”
During the meeting, the President also announced that this year’s main Independence Day celebrations will be held in Bulawayo for the first time.
“We have already made a decision that beginning this year we will be holding our National Independence Day celebrations outside the City of Harare. For 39 years independence celebrations were held in Harare but I realised that Independence is not for Hararians. As a result of that we have now chosen to celebrate our 40th year of independence in the City of Bulawayo,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said this was in recognition of the role Bulawayo played in the liberation war history which dates back to the development and growth of nationalism.
“The nationalism of this country was here, ana Burombo (Benjamin) vakanga vari kuno. Furthermore, Bulawayo is the second largest city in our country. I’m counting on all stakeholders in Bulawayo and the greater Matabeleland region to ensure that our 40th Independence Day celebrations is a historic and memorable success,” he said.
President Mnangagwa also touched on the Zambezi Water Project and progress made so far.
“This gathering is working as a collective unit with collaboration between civic society and Government who have been seized with developmental issues, one of which is the Zambezi Water Project. This project has been there for many years but because it was raised here and is beginning to move, so these are some of the benefits which come from conversation.
“I am happy to announce that considerable progress has been made towards the implementation of this project through discussions that have been made between Government and civil society. I am informed by the Attorney-General’s office that it has compiled a draft agreement between the Government and the affected communities of the region gathering the rules and parameters of the implementation of the project,” he said.
He also stressed that it was necessary that promoters of the project take on board desires and expectations of the communities around which the project will pass through. It is also envisaged that once the Zambezi Water Project is completed it will bring economic growth and create jobs for the region.
The meeting with civil society organisations was a follow up meeting after the President met the same group last year in March where the group raised concerns with regards to Gukurahundi, asking the President to find lasting solutions to the issue. He said dialogue was a key component of the new dispensation.
“The cornerstone of the Second Republic is the deployment of dialogue as a means of resolving issues of conflict that may arise among us and the sharing of knowledge around us as Zimbabweans. We have demonstrated that we are capable of solving even the most acrimonious disputes among us amicably through internal dialogue and negotiations. I have no doubt that the problems raised by this dialogue in March last year can and will be resolved in the same method that has brought us success before which is dialogue and conversation.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will be scaling up its food distribution programme to cover 3,5 million people in Zimbabwe, it has been learnt. The efforts are expected to complement Government’s ongoing efforts to support the 7,7 million Zimbabweans that are considered to be food insecure following the worst drought in 40 years.
Overall, WFP, which plans to feed about 4,1 million people every month, has also expanded its urban assistance programme, increasing its reach in urban communities to 100 000 people from 19 000. Introducing school feeding schemes in urban communities has also been mulled.
In e-mailed responses to our Harare Bureau, WFP Zimbabwe country director and representative, Mr Eddie Rowe, said more funds are still required if the programme’s targets are to be met. President Mnangagwa declared a State of National Disaster in August last year, paving way for the launch of a Revised Zimbabwe Humanitarian Appeal to the international community in an effort to mobilise funds to cushion the population from the effects of drought. WFP has managed to raise almost half of the US$212 million needed to cover operations until the end of July.