Two million people in Zimbabwe are facing a food crisis. Many children in rural areas are dropping out of school so that they can help their families gather food from the woodlands and carry water to the small garden plots.

A lot of the problem is that despite Mugabe’s claims that he confiscated white farmland under the guise of land reform, the reality is that much of the confiscated land went to his cronies, and the farm workers lost their jobs and plots on these farms. Sorry, but when they did land reform in the Philippines, those working the land got the land, not some outsider cronie who doesn’t know or care about farming.

At the same time, the collapse of the economy has made getting decent seeds, fertilizer, and insecticides impossible for farmers, so the farming sector has reverted back to traditional practices, without the ability of “slash and burn” new fields when the older fields are worn out. Traditional practices in good years could support the farmers and families, but alas are unable to support that country’s larger population.

One result is that this year, two million people need food aid, and it is estimated that by the end of the year (which is the hungry season, after crops have been sowed but not harvested), that number will approach five million.

Yet before last March’s election, Mugabe threw out all the NGO’s who feed the people. Why? Because they could be witnesses to the violence. Because they feed anyone, not just those who vote for the government. Mugabe claims they offered food to those who “supported his opponents”. What actually is going on is that Mugabe is trying to control the food so that he can use food as a weapon against his enemies, as he has done during several previous elections.

After the first election, which after a long “count” was named a tie, and after a second election, where the opponent dropped out because of the violence against opposition members, South Africa started sponsoring talks to “settle” a coalition government.

It was assumed that Mugabe’s opponent would sign a paper to allow Mugabe to run the government while getting power only on paper. Mugabe did this years ago, with Joshua Nkomo, and destroyed the opposition. However, Tsvangirai refused to sign, so the talks are stalled.

Yet at the start of the talks, one provision was that Mugabe was supposed to allow the NGO’s to resume their work. He did not do so, until this week.

But although NGO’s are now “allowed” to resume food and other aid to all Zimbabweans, this might not be true.

NGO’s who aren’t “registered” aren’t allowed to resume food aid.

And now, we have reports that the most respected NGO’s have had their aid stopped by red tape.

From CNN:

“Government has introduced new reporting mechanisms for private voluntary organizations and non-governmental organizations … that will see them constantly indicating to the parent ministry their programs, areas and modes of operations,” according to the state-controlled daily….

There was no immediate comment from the aid agencies operating in Zimbabwe about the reports. But the new restrictions are likely to further impede the flow of aid to Zimbabwe at a time that the country desperately needs it

A report on South Africa’s News 24 reports:

Aid agency officials, human rights groups and churches say that…there is incontrovertible evidence that the government uses food aid as “a political weapon”, denying food to people suspected of supporting Tsvangirai….

“It is imperative that non-governmental organisations know that they are operating in the country to complement government and not to set parallel structures,” Social Welfare Ministry Permanent Secretary Lancaster Museka said. “The police will not hesitate to enforce the law.”

Ngirande said they had been told by welfare ministry officials at a meeting on Monday that they would have to supply all the information by the end of the month, or be “deregistered”.

So Mugabe continues to fight against his “enemies” by imposing restrictions that will allow the police to prevent food going to those who voted wrong.

However, on paper, his enablers will say he is allowing them to work.

Similarly, if voters are beaten, denied food, or jailed for voting wrong, Mugabe can claim it is western propaganda, since outsider reporters are not allowed in the country, and any NGO sending such reports out will find their papers pulled.

However, those who promote “international” law can be happy since on paper, the Mugabe government can claim his government is obeying the agreement of the power sharing negotiations under South Africa’s Mbeki.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes about human rights in Zimabwe at MakaipaBlog

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