The 5-Minute Briefing: Zimbabwe's food shortage

Has hunger returned to Zimbabwe?

It is back with a vengeance. Between two and five million Zimbabweans face starvation unless 1.2 million tons of grain are imported quickly. In Bulawayo, two women with babies on their backs were injured this week when shoppers stampeded for sugar, not seen in stores for weeks; 200 children have died there this year, according to the city council. Long lines also formed for bread, wheat flour and maize meal, the staple diet of Zimbabwe's 11.6 million people.

How can five million Zimbabweans be starving after a 'bumper harvest'?

Before the recent elections, President Robert Mugabwe boasted that there had been a huge, 2.5 million-ton maize crop and that the country would be self-sufficient in food. Even though the World Food Programme had warned before the election that five million people - many of them already weakened by Aids were going hungry and at risk - Mr Mugabe's reaction was to spurn the aid and throw the United Nations organisation out.

Is Mugabe using food as a political weapon?

After a heavily disputed election result, and with hunger stalking the land, President Mugabe is worried about political instability, so he is preparing to invite the WFP back in. Shortly after the poll - won by his Zanu-PF party with a huge majority amid allegations that he had used food as a weapon to secure votes - the government said it would have to import maize, traditionally the country staple commodity. With extraordinary effrontery, Mr Mugabe recently told the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, that Zimbabwe will welcome food aid so long as it is not tied to any political conditions.

Why is the World Food Programme propping up Mr Mugabe?

As with food aid for North Korea, the WFP, whose priority is saving lives, has little choice in the matter and will do its best to ensure that food is distributed fairly throughout the country. In practice it will not have much control over who gets access to the emergency rations. Before the election Mr Mugabe accused donors of seeking to choke Zimbabweans with unwanted aid and told them to take their charity elsewhere. He also maintains a stranglehold on food and grain distribution through the government's monopoly on the Grain Marketing Board. So another humiliation awaits the WFP when Mr Mugabe meets its director, James Morris. In 2000, Mr Mugabe rejected his pleas for orderly land reform and went on to seize 5,000 mostly white-owned farms, triggering a collapse in Zimbabwe's food production.

Has Mugabe outfoxed the world once again?

He is 81, very much in charge and skilled at playing his enemies off each other. Remember this is a man who received an honorary knighthood during a state visit to Britain,after he had sent his North Korean-trained 5th brigade to Matebeleland - where the soldiers massacred 20,000 of his political enemies just after independence. So far he seems to be winning.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Voices
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Real Estate Solicitor 2+PQE - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGH VALUE REAL ESTATE / RESID...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?