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Eating stolen fruit
February 11, 2012, 7:26 pm

 

Dear Family and Friends.

It’s mango time in Zimbabwe. Small, sweet, sticky orange mangoes whose string gets caught in your teeth; these are the mangoes we used to play with as kids, washing them when the pulp was finished, combing the string into hair and then drawing a face on the hard oval pip.  Then there are the big kidney shaped mangoes which you really need to eat outside or sitting in a bath because it’s impossible not to end up with juice running down your chin and dripping all over your shirt.  In recent years the big red ball mangoes have been added to the juicy tropical extravaganza. Weighing almost a kilogram each they are stringless with very sweet, firm, orange flesh.  The problem is you know they are stolen.

Buying these huge ball mangoes on the side of the road at one US dollar apiece, it’s hard to put out of your mind the knowledge that they have come from a farm that was violently seized two years ago from its owners and for which no compensation was paid. You know you are eating stolen fruit and by doing so it’s a bit like being an accomplice to a crime. This is one of the thousands of things that sit on our consciences every day and weigh the country down with a huge burden of guilt, like a sin that needs to be confessed and absolution given.  

The ball mangoes will inevitably follow the same route as the apples, plums, pears, litchis, peaches and nuts before them. Every year the harvest will get less and less as the men who grabbed the farm and reaped what they did not sow, will be unwilling or unable to water, prune, fertilize and control diseases on the vast orchards they seized.

Nowhere is there a more graphic demonstration of the national shame  we carry around than in our supermarkets. Going shopping in Zimbabwe with a notebook tells the most shocking story of where we are in terms of producing our own food eleven years after Zanu PF’s land seizures.

In the cereals aisle of my local supermarket there were fifteen varieties, only two were made in Zimbabwe and both were more expensive than their imported South African counterparts sitting on the shelves alongside them.  There were eight different makes of jam on display, two were Zimbabwean, four South African, one made in Spain and one from Cyprus.  There were ten makes of pasta on sale, all but one were from South Africa. Of the eight different brands of coffee on the shelf not a single one was Zimbabwean. There were thirty two varieties of sweet biscuits on sale, four were Zimbabwean, twenty five South African and three from Greece.  There was no fresh Zimbabwean milk or cream to buy. Flour and maize meal was all in local packaging but if anyone is any doubt about where the vast majority of the contents originated they need look no further than the ceaseless stream trains and trucks coming over our borders.

In the last few weeks more and more alarming statistics have been released about this year’s expected national harvest. Plantings of all the major crops are down by between thirty and fifty percent. The President of the ZCFU, Donald Khumalo said we could expect to see a deficit of one and a half million tonnes of maize this harvest.  Shamefully Zimbabwe is expected to have only produced enough food for one quarter of the population.  Mr Khumalo said “we have basically lost direction as a country.” His counterpart in the CFU, Charles Taffs said the country should brace for a big disaster.

Already we are preparing for the propaganda and the blame game, despite the fact that since November the farming unions and experts have been warning that there just wasn’t enough planting and farming being done on all those millions of seized hectares. This is the new Zimbabwean disease: sitting waiting for free ploughing, fuel, seed, fertilizer, tractors, boreholes, irrigation equipment and even harvesters.

Eleven years after land was forcibly seized from white Zimbabweans without compensation and given to black Zimbabweans but without Title Deeds, the result is sitting on our supermarket shelves. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy



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