LONDON, United Kingdom – Around 1.5m people are facing severe shortages of food this year in Zimbabwe, the country once known as the “breadbasket of Africa”. The World Food Programme (WFP) announced the shortages, blaming a fall in maize production according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Officially the reason for the fall in maize production is a drought that has affected a number of countries in the region. But the reality is far more sinister: Zimbabwe is in the grip of a nasty Socialist dictatorship that is as incompetent as it is corrupt.
For years the government has confiscated farms from white families and given them to the 'poor'. In reality this has transferred agricultural land into the ownership of party lackeys, who have little or no farming background.
Their inability to farm the land they have been given has led to a slide in overall production. As a result a country that once exported food to the rest of the continent is now reliant on handouts from the WFP.
Zimbabwe's 91-year-old dictator, Robert Mugabe, made his state of the nation address earlier today. It was the first time he has made such an address since 2007, when his government had plunged the country into yet another crisis. On that occasion it was hyper-inflation.
He used the address to claim he would enact some reforms, but this seems unlikely given his long-standing resistance to any deviation from the socialist economics that have ruined the country.
As recently as last week Mugabe told a rally of Zanu-PF women that people were not going without, because he had given them land. According to News24, he told the meeting there is “no suffering” in Zimbabwe, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. He continued: "What is it that the people are suffering from? Didn't we give them land?".
Mugabe claims his “land reforms” which saw about 4,000 white farmers kicked out resulted in hundreds of thousands of black Zimbabweans getting land. But since he took power in 1980 unemployment has risen to 80 percent, and many Zimbabweans are forced to sell their property at makeshift roadside markets.
His poor performance led to him being challenged five years ago by former defense force chief Solomon Mujuru. The plot was joined by former Zanu PF politburo member Simba Makoni and an academic called Ibbo Mandaza. The plot ended when Mujuru was killed in a mysterious fire at his farm house.
Last week Mugabe said of the three men: “These three among others Mujuru, Makoni and Mandaza said Zanu PF was being held back by Mugabe who continues to stick to Socialism… They claimed this was inhibiting investment. Mujuru then concluded that the country cannot be held back by one person, people cannot suffer because of one man.”
Before Mugabe came to power the country had full employment, however the government had been an international pariah because it was run by the white minority. Zanu-PF was effectively handed power by the British government, which was determined to spread democracy.
Despite the problems faced by his people Mugabe himself is not suffering, quite the opposite. He lives an opulent lifestyle and last year the people of Zimbabwe paid $1m for his 90th birthday party, where guests ate a variety of rare game meat including elephant.
The story of Zimbabwe is a cautionary tale for anyone who believes socialism can work.