Floating off the Mountain
I was watching a TV programme the other day and saw a story about a
living in the USA who faced an enormous challenge when a teenager. She
it to God in prayer and when she recounted the response she described
'like floating off the mountain.' I know the feeling because I to have
there in the past.
You as an individual face a mountain and to get to your destination you
to climb that mountain and get down the other side. At the start all
see is this huge mass, perhaps towering up into the clouds, dark
and difficult. It always feels as if this is 'mission impossible'.
It is especially tough when it is all up to you - others who might help
unable or reluctant to do so. So you face the climb alone. Many times
climb your mountain it seems as if the climb will never end. The ridge
you thought might be the summit turns out to be just another ridge on
way - with perhaps a valley and more climbing after it.
We all have our mountains to climb - this past week we interviewed the
different farmers organisations on how they saw things and asking what
the way forward. What struck me after all the talk were two things -
universally despondent the leaders of our farmers are and how
they are to see this thing through.
In particular the tobacco people. We used to be the third largest
and exporter of flue cured tobacco in the world. It was an industry we
all proud of producing top quality tobacco for the world market on
disciplined farms following the best in agronomic practices. This year
will only market 50 000 tonnes - 20 per cent of what we grew just 5
ago. Only 18 000 tonnes will go through our famous auctions - the rest
contracted. They told us that they doubted if there would be a
crop next year, mainly because of continued farm invasions and violence
well as the total lack of any understanding by those in authority as to
was required for the industry to survive.
But others told a similar story - we are only going to plant half the
crop of cereals that we planted last year and the outlook right now is
an even more dismal situation in the coming season. Emergency meetings
held on Monday last week in the Ministry of Agriculture, then on
in the Presidents office. What is wrong the farmers were asked? What
Despite all that and the experience of those in authority in the past
years, the Minister of Agriculture, a special breed of individual with
appropriate name of Made, stated at a press conference that we had
million tonnes of maize. This is the same guy who told the President
years ago that we had grown 2,4 million tonnes and 'did not need food
He also said recently that land preparation for winter crops was well
way and we would plant 110 000 hectares. Very little land preparation
fact underway and farmers estimate that we will be lucky to get 25 000
hectares into the ground.
We are still importing maize from South Africa and at the moment there
plenty about in the markets, but in my 50 years of experience in
here, many at a senior level, we always over estimated the rain fed
a wet year. Current estimates by the industry put the crop at 900 000
tonnes - apply my caution and I doubt if we have grown more than 700
tonnes. We need all of that for subsistence and livestock feed so we
again going to have to import vast amounts of maize to feed the country
last year a million tonnes at a cost of about 1 billion Rand.
But it does not stop there - there are now so few cattle. It used to be
wherever you went you saw herds of cattle - all kinds of cattle. This
been a marvelous year for grass and you see few signs that it is being
The reason? No one has any security - the old farmers, the new farmers,
settlers or the squatters. They are all scared to buy cattle and leave
on the open veld where they are prone to theft by every Tom, Dick or
To these farm leaders, who have lived through the nightmare of the past
years, watching their own beloved farms forcibly taken from them, then
vandalized and finally abandoned in most cases, this is a real
they really imagine that one day soon they will sit on the top of this
mountain and see the land ahead of them again? It is really tough
At another level today is the first anniversary of the launch of
Murambatsvina - a programme that will go down in history as a time of
for Zanu PF and the present leadership of the country. One aspect of
Murambatsvina (which means get rid of the rubbish) is the total despair
the people affected.
They were already poor, living in shanties or crowded rooms in urban
dormitories. They were taken from their homes by force, their homes
destroyed and with them much of the accumulated assets that they owned.
were then dumped on the open veld in the middle of winter, denied
from the Churches and the international community. They were then moved
several times - each time losing a bit more dignity and pride and what
left of their meager assets.
Today, one year on, perhaps as many as half the children have died of
malnutrition and exposure or simple infections. Do any of us know what
like to have a child die in your arms from malnutrition and exposure?
of us have any idea of what it is to have to face that alone, among
strangers and without any sense of community? No of course we do not
can all sense the depravation and sadness and complete despair. Many
have died just because they no longer had any reason to live.
My TV hero who 'floated off the mountain' was in a German concentration
from 1943 to 1945. She lost a child who was taken from her arms; she
her parents and her siblings. She survived and ended up in America
became a doctor and spent her life working with children and trying to
forget the horrors of her own early life.
When she faced her mountain, it was Nazi Germany. Hitler was at his
powerful and her people, the Jews of Europe were helpless victims.
had the power to stop the nightmare did nothing. 60 million people died
We face our mountain; soon we will sit on its summit and see the future
lies ahead. From there on, let me tell you, it will be just like
off the mountain' and compared to what we have been through in the past
years, it will be a breeze with a new beginning for all of us in the
future. But let's not forget - we have a mountain to climb and let's
quit - we are tired and despondent but in the end we will win the
Bulawayo, 18th May 2006.