PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe must cut short his holiday and return to Zimbabwe to deal with the unfolding hunger and starvation and declare it a national emergency, former Cabinet minister David Coltart said yesterday.
Coltart said the situation in most parts of Matabeleland had reached desperate levels, yet government was “acting as if nothing was wrong, putting lives of many at risk of hunger-induced deaths”.
Hunger stalks most parts of rural Matabeleland, with villagers there saying they were being forced to skip meals to save the little they have.
Poverty and lack of jobs also compound the situation for many as they cannot afford mealie-meal sold at supermarkets.
“The sooner this is declared to be what it is — a national emergency — the better. Mugabe needs to come home from the Far East. He is leader of this nation and all leaders need to be with their people in times of crisis.
“We need ministers in the rural areas assessing the crisis. We need the appropriate ministers flying to countries with food reserves to secure food supplies. We need to alert the international community that people will starve if funding isn’t mobilised. In short, we need action, not an ostrich mentality,” Coltart said in a post on his Facebook page.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister Joseph Made has, however, claimed no one will starve, saying government was distributing 700 000 tonnes of grain to hungry communities across the country.
Made said there were two categories of beneficiaries — the vulnerable, that will get vouchers from the Department of Social Welfare to access the grain, and some who would be asked to buy at subsidised prices
However, Coltart argued there was little or nothing to suggest government was doing something to avert a hunger crisis.
Made was unreachable yesterday.
“There is little sign that the government is doing anything about the growing crisis. Robert Mugabe and his family flew out to the Far East on holiday just before Christmas as if nothing was wrong,” Coltart added.
“The fact is that this is potentially a far worse crisis than we have ever experienced before. When we last had a drought of this magnitude in 1992, the Grain Marketing Board was better run and our silos were much fuller.”
He said what further compounded the situation was that the entire southern African region also faced drought.
“This means we will have to turn to countries such as the United States for assistance. We will have to import from other continents, which takes time and costs a lot of money, neither of which we have,” the MDC politician said.