"Let Them Eat Potatoes"

Monday, October 24, 2005

"Let Them Eat Potatoes"

The Sunday Times has an absolutely amazing story about Robert Mugabe and what he has done to Zimbabwe.

There is way too much to excerpt here and so I strongly encourage you to read the entire thing.

But, in the meantime, I just have to highlight this
This, after all, is a country that until five years ago not only fed itself but exported food. Justice for Agriculture, a commercial farmers’ lobby group, predicts that this year Zimbabwe will produce enough food for only one month — some 200,000 tons against a minimum requirement of 1.8m.

Only about 200 commercial farms are still operating, compared with 4,500 five years ago when “war veterans” were starting to seize white-owned land. Once-fertile fields now lie scorched or weed-ridden.

If there was any doubt that Mugabe is willing to see his people starve, The Sunday Times has learnt from a company hired to rid food stores of weevils that there are WFP stocks all over the country, a year’s supply of grain and 1,000 tons of corn soya blend to make fortified porridge.

Mugabe refuses to let this be distributed because he wants to retain control of the food supply. Some has been left to rot and last month more than 300 tons of bran was destroyed in Bulawayo and Harare because Mugabe believed it was genetically modified. Asked in an interview earlier this month about the hunger, Mugabe replied in Marie Antoinette vein: “Let them eat potatoes. We have plenty of potatoes.”

But with the prices of basic foods spiralling out of control, it is getting harder to feed everyone. The cheapest loaf costs 62p, a daunting sum in a country where civil servants earn £15 a week. This is way below the £45 a week that the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says an average family needs. Experts are calling Zimbabwe the fastest-shrinking economy in the world. The latest report from the UN Development Programme says it has seen the sharpest drop in quality of life of any country not at war. The quality of life is worse than in Mongolia and Equatorial Guinea, it says. Deepening poverty and widespread HIV/Aids have reduced life expectancy to 36.9 years.

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