Mealy Meal, Fruit Meal
Zimbabwean children endure the worst poverty as political leaders dilly-dally on key decisions
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Chirumanzu, Zimbabwe-From a distance, tiny bodies make swift movements on branches of a huge wild fruit tree. One would mistakenly think they are wild animals scavenging for food, but a closer move to the tree shocks one’s life. Children as young as five years hang on branches as they make and search for today’s meal.
The first conscience at such a touching sight is the children’s safety. What if the little kids fall 15 metres down the tree, one ponders It is summer season and snakes are active, what is to become of the kids if they cross the path of vicious and poisonous snakes? As a concerned adult, you attempt a word of advice on the dangers of climbing trees, but with stunned faces the kids stare at your ignorance. You are just coming from town and not well versed with what is happening in this rural set-up.
The kids climb down with pockets full of the fruit meal. It is them now lecturing you on the biting poverty, they and their parents face on a daily basis.
“Asi hamuzivi kuti suma ndidzo dzinodyiwa makuseni nemasikati mozodya sadza manheru (Don’t you know that you have to consume this fruit in the morning and afternoon and serve it for the main meal in the evening),” explains eight-year-old Tawanda in the local vernacular.
Mealie-meal, which forms the most basic of the majority’s diets, is not readily available. In rare cases where grain is sold, many cannot afford it, as it sells at exorbitant foreign currency pegged prices.
Even in cases where a family luckily gets hold of a bucket of grain, the low capacity electricity at Mutenderende shops, which has gone on like this for more than three months now since power cuts became the order of the day in Zimbabwe, cannot drive the grinding mill to function. People in this area have to travel by scorch-carts and in most cases on foot distances as long as 30km in search of a mill. It never rains but pours for these rural folks.
At one village homestead, a six year old pleads with his mother to make porridge. The mother tries to explain that there are no ingredients for the porridge but with a sad look, the kid explains to the mother that it is better than not having anything at all. Young children know what it means to eat porridge without sugar, salt and peanut butter. They seem to understand poverty like mature people.
74-year-old Sekuru Dube lies under a shed of his granary. He is puffing tobacco from his long pipe. His grey eyes are looking in the distant space in the direction of two hills.
“I have known poverty in this country as a growing young man but this is just too much. I think the ancestors are cursing us. Only a week ago two kids from beyond those two hills died after eating too much of these wild fruits.”
These rural folks like many Zimbabweans believe that the delay in sharing government ministries between Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change is the root cause of their suffering.
“Dai vachingonyorerana pasi CARE ne Oxfam zvidzoke. Tatambura nenzara mwanangu. (My son’s hunger has become unbearable here, it our wish that Zanu PF and MDC sign so that humanitarian aid organisations like CARE and Oxfam can start distributing relief food), bemoans 45-year-old Faith Chisako, a mother of two.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai met in Harare on Tuesday after the former’s return from New York to try to resolve the impasse over the sharing of key government ministries, but nothing fruitful came out of it. Mugabe had declared upon his arrival on Monday from the United States that there was no deadlock over ministries and that a new cabinet would be appointed by the end of the week.
Government banned humanitarian aid from Non-Governmental Organisations during the June presidential election run-off. Though the ban has since been lifted, much ground is still to be covered to feed millions of Zimbabweans who are facing acute starvation.
A United States aid organisation, US Agency for International Development (USAID) Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) said in a statement last week that Zimbabwe could face a “critical shortage or exhaustion of cereals.” The aid organisation warned that the country faces completely running out of food as early as November.
As one villager, Admire Sokutamba remarked: “You have to be in this poverty to understand It.” One wonders if that is the reason politicians seem not to notice the urgency required to solve Zimbabwe’s economic collapse.