Zimbabwe Farmers Forced To Give Up Their Cattle For Collateral
Harare, Zimbabwe, 13 Ocotober 2009
The new crop of Zimbabwe's farmers, beneficiaries of Mugabe's chaotic, ill-planned, corruption-riddled Land Reform Program are now being forced to part with their livestock in order to access a US$210 million loan facility made available by the government.
This money has been sitting in the vaults of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for three months now, with banks insisting on title deeds from loan applicants. The Inclusive Government, reverting to form, tried to intimidate the banks into giving the farmers on the basis of Offer Letters (letters given to a new farm occupant by the government, confirming that he has been allocated that farm). But the banks stood firm, having been burnt before, when these farmers took money and then ran to hide behind the skirts of ZANU PF when the loan was due.
The acceptance of livestock as collateral was announced by Sam Malaba, CEO of Agribank, a government bank set up specifically to facilitate and support agricultural activity in Zimbabwe.
But even this comes with its own complications. The national herd in Zimbabwe has been decimated since the start of the Land reform program. Cattle rustling (the stealing of livestock) had become so rampant that Mugabe himself called for those who engaged in it to be punished "out of all proportion" when caught by the law.
In addition, the poverty levels in Zimbabwe and lack of employment opportunities has seen local people sell their livestock to butcheries in order to raise money for such things as school fees and simply to be able to survive.
Livestock is considered a form of banking by Zimbabweans, and is used as a measure of wealth, especially in the rural areas. In tough times, they fall back on the livestock to see them through.
This is why this new scheme is likely to fail. Few Zimbabweans will be willing to part with their livestock when they do not even know if the rains will come. Should they part with their cattle, get seeds and fertiliser and the like and then another drought occurs, they would have lost out on both ends.
The people who have been given farms, who are from both the MDC and ZANU PF (there is no one from the opposition party Mavambo, led by Simba Makoni, who has accepted these farms or joined in the looting), have no interest in farming at all.
South Africa discovered this last year when they sent R300 million (about US$30 million) in farm aid to Zimbabwe. It was promptly looted in the biggest free-for-all of the year, with MDC-Tsvangirai and ZANU PF MPs and ministers falling over each other to take as much as they could.
Last year then proved to be a disastrous year for agriculture as well.
This is quite apart from natural causes of the failure of agriculture.
Its summer now in Zimbabwe and these last few days, including today, it has been boiling hot. This is normally an indication that November, when the rains should start in earnest, will be a normal rainy month. But the last few years have revealed this not to be case, as rains failed to materialise in sufficient quantities to make a success of farming.
Meantime, ZANU PF thugs, including some senior officials given land under the programme, have looted irrigation equipment all over the country. Some of it is sold on to other people, but the majority is sent to scrapyards to be melted down.
Which means the vast majority of Zimbabwean farmers will not be able to fall back on irrigation is rains fail.
Already, experts are predicting that, despite the empty talk of this Inclusive Government, Zimbabwe will face more food shortages next year.
Suffer continue, I suppose.
But at least we have The Solution. And The Saviour.