Another day, another disaster

At some point, even the greatest tragedies become old news and a protracted crisis loses its punch.

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I fear that we have reached that point with the terrible drought that is affecting so many farmers in Southern Africa. There is nothing new to report and the devastation has been neatly summarised in widely reported facts and figures.

But on a recent visit to a farm in northern KwaZulu-Natal, I was again reminded of the aching reality of the drought. Perennially green valleys have turned bleak from lack of rain and irrigation, and farmers in the region are realising only half the returns on their sugar cane crops.

Game and cattle farmers are forced to choose the lesser of two evils: having their prized animals slaughtered to save them from the agony of dying of thirst and hunger.

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This is also true of stories about human and socio-economic tragedy suffered by the people of Zimbabwe. President-in-perpetuity Robert Mugabe’s chaotic land reform programme no longer leaves us as foaming at the mouth as it used to when the stories of violent, forced evictions from farms first grabbed international headlines.

In June this year, a press statement quoted Zimbabwe’s Lands and Rural Resettlement deputy minister, Berita Chikwama, saying that there would be no more fresh farm invasions. This, unfortunately, has proven untrue.

Media outlets in the country continue to report new cases of farm invasions. One such report in NewsDay relates how several top government and Zanu-PF officials have allegedly continued with farm invasions despite the government’s pronouncements that the land reform programme had come to an end.

In June, for example, there were reports of attempts by state spy agent, Rodney Mashingaidze, to grab Maleme Ranch in Matobo despite an order issued by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko that the property be spared.

In defiance of this order, NewsDay reported, Rural Development, Preservation of Culture and Heritage minister, Abednico Ncube, ordered the farm owner, Peter Cunningham, to move and hand the property over to Mashingaidze.

The Chronicle reported last month that a court gave an 85-year-old white farmer from Mberengwa seven days to vacate a farm that has since been allocated to Zanu-PF Mberengwa North legislator, Cde Tafanana Zhou.

We cannot afford to settle into depressed complacency in our response to the tragedies and challenges that have become familiar to us.

Similarly, in our response to the high incidence of corruption in our own country, we owe it to ourselves and the next generation not to make our peace with decline.