Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: 'Land Key to Food Security'; Mugabe Takes UN Head to Task Over Sanctions

‘Land key to food security’

Writes Itai Musengeyi from ROME, Italy.
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

PEOPLE can help address the question of global food security if they are given better access to their natural resources, especially land, President Mugabe said yesterday, writes Itai Musengeyi from ROME, Italy.

Addressing a Food and Agriculture Organisation world food security summit at the United Nations agency’s headquarters here, Cde Mugabe said Zimbabwe’s primary agriculture policy remained that of ensuring national and household food security through own production.

In this regard, he said, Zimbabwe had recognised the importance of land in agricultural production and food security.

"Thus, over the past decade, Zimbabwe has democratised the land ownership patterns in the country, with over 300 000 previously landless families now proud landowners. Previously this land was owned by a mere 4 000 farmers, mainly of British stock," Cde Mugabe told the summit.

He said while the land reform programme had been warmly welcomed by the vast majority of Zimbabweans, it had elicited the wrath of the former colonial master, Britain, and its Western allies.

"In retaliation for the measures we took to empower the black majority, the United Kingdom has mobilised her friends and allies in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand to impose illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe," said the President.

As a result, all development assistance to Zimbabwe has been cut off, lines of credit disabled, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund prevented from providing financial assistance and private companies in the United States ordered not to do business with Zimbabwe.

"All this had been done to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy and thereby effect illegal regime change in our country. Funds are being channelled through non-governmental organisations to opposition political parties, which are a creation of the West.

"Further, the Western-funded NGOs also use food as a political weapon with which to campaign against Government, especially in the rural areas," said President Mugabe.

He, however, said these constraints had not deterred Government from taking measures to increase agricultural productivity.

President Mugabe said Government had prioritised irrigation and was now spearheading the building of small and medium-sized dams in all the districts as well as providing inputs to farmers such as seed, fertilizers and agro-chemicals to boost production.

"To cushion farmers from the rising cost of agricultural inputs, my Government has put in place supportive programmes, which include the Crop and Livestock Input Credit Scheme and the Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility which extends loans to farmers for working capital and equipment at concessionary rates," said Cde Mugabe.

Government had also embarked on a farm mechanisation programme for small and large-scale farmers.

"All these support facilities for the farmers are aimed at addressing the issue of productivity and food security at both the household and national levels."

President Mugabe said in 2004, Government embarked on the development of the bio-energy sector which draws its feedstock primarily from a non-food crop, the jatropha plant.

"The choice of jatropha is a deliberate Government policy to avoid competition between our food needs and fuel security needs. The use of jatropha seeds as feed stock in the bio-diesel programme is set to benefit our farmers as it widens their income base through an expanded market for the jatropha seed."

Cde Mugabe said challenges facing developing countries must be addressed through increased investment in agriculture, from both domestic and international development partners with organisations such as FAO continuing to provide technical expertise in areas such as bio-energy policies to allow for a balance between food and fuel security at both national and global levels.

"Parallel to these capacity boosting initiatives, there is need to demonstrate political commitment to the Doha Round negotiations that should deliver a sustainable reform of the global trade policies in agricultural commodities.

"I wish to restate that this summit needs to formulate robust action plans that recognise the need for fair trade policies in order to contribute towards the growth potential of the agriculture sector in the developing world."

Cde Mugabe said the global food crisis was linked to global warming and the use of agricultural commodities in producing bio-fuels and there was need for world leaders to address the issue.

He said Southern Africa was one of the regions at risk from the effects of climate change yet Africa as a whole accounted for less than 5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

Over the past 10 years, the frequency and severity of droughts in Southern Africa had increased as a result of climate change.

President takes UN chief to task over sanctions

From Itai Musengeyi in Rome, Italy

President Mugabe yesterday told United Nations Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-Moon that Zimbabwe was alarmed by his statements on Harare which raised the concerns of Western countries and completely ignored the fact that Zimbabwe was bleeding under illegal sanctions imposed by Britain, the European Union and the United States.

However, Mr Ban expressed concern over the recent shooting to death of two Zanu-PF supporters in Mutoko by MDC-T activists.

Cde Mugabe met the UN Secretary-General at the Food and Agriculture Organisation headquarters here on the sidelines of a world food summit that began yesterday.

Mr Ban opened the summit and requested to meet Cde Mugabe.

According to officials who attended the meeting between the President and the UN chief, Mr Ban told Cde Mugabe that the "international community" had certain expectations about the June presidential election run-off.

He said the UN wanted the run-off to be peaceful and the security of all Zimbabweans, including presidential candidates, to be guaranteed.

The UN chief said the world body was disturbed by reports of political violence in Zimbabwe and wanted the run-off to be "transparent and credible".

Mr Ban indicated that he was planning to send an envoy to Zimbabwe to assess the country’s technical assistance requirements for the run-off while Harare should inform the world body of its needs in terms of humanitarian assistance.

In response, the officials said President Mugabe told Mr Ban that Zimbabwe took great exception to the use of the UN Secretary-General by Britain and the US to further their interests.

Cde Mugabe openly told Mr Ban that he seemed unaware or reluctant to accept that the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe were illegal and did not come through the UN system, but were triggered by the land issue after Britain refused to meet its obligations as spelt out in the Lancaster House Agreement.

"You should not just get statements drafted for you by the Americans and the British and pretend these describe Zimbabwe," an official quoted Cde Mugabe as having told Mr Ban.

The UN chief, the officials said, argued that the sanctions were a matter for Zimbabwe and the countries that imposed the sanctions and not an issue for the UN Secretary-General.

But Cde Mugabe said no bloc of countries had a right to impose sanctions outside the UN, stressing that the unilateralism used to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe was similar to the way Britain and the US invaded Iraq "and where is the world today?" after the Iraq debacle.

The President said Zimbabwe has held elections without fail since independence in 1980 and the run-off would be held
the way all other elections have been conducted in the country.

He told Mr Ban that in using the term "international community", he (Mr Ban) was limiting this to Britain and the US, but Zimbabwe had no regard for those two countries.

"We do not think of these two countries at all when we are organising our elections. These two countries have made up their mind in respect of Zimbabwe. They want regime change in Zimbabwe, that is interference in the internal affairs of our country, something not allowed by the United Nations Charter. Don’t those things matter to the United Nations and the Secretary-General? We will have the elections (run-off) the way we have had them before," Cde Mugabe said.

He told the UN boss that observers from the African Union, Sadc, Comesa, Ecowas, other African regions, Asia, Latin America, the Non-Aligned Movement and Third World would be invited but not those from the EU, North America and their allies.

Cde Mugabe said the UN Secretary-General was free to give technical assistance to observers from the AU, Sadc and Ecowas but "anything that smells of American and British influence will not be acceptable to us".

The President spoke about the March 29 elections and how Britain and the US interfered with the polls.

"You would think Mr Brown and Mr Bush were part of those elections. We don’t want interference by our erstwhile colonisers. Please, Mr Secretary-General, don’t be used by them. I plead, I plead, I plead. We want you, we respect you, we chose you. I told this to Kofi Annan when he was secretary-general, then he was being pushed all the time by Mr Malloch Brown, who is now part of the (British) Labour Party government," Cde Mugabe was quoted as saying.

The officials said Mr Ban argued that "every country is free from colonialism", but Cde Mugabe responded: "Mr Secretary-General, change your ‘is’ to ‘should’."

President Mugabe stressed to Mr Ban that Britain and the US were intent on recolonising the world.

"These two bullies will continue to ruin our world if we do not stand up to them."

On political violence, the President made it clear the Government would ensure there would be no such acts and the ruling Zanu-PF had appealed to its members to be peaceful while the security of all candidates had always been assured.

He told Mr Ban that the opposition MDC-T also had an obligation to ensure its supporters respected peace and were held in check, citing the recent shooting to death of two Zanu-PF supporters by opposition members.

At that point Mr Ban expressed concern over the two killings.

President Mugabe also briefed the UN boss on the Government’s farm mechanisation programme, building of dams in preparation for irrigation and the need for resources with which to establish irrigation infrastructure.

Journalists urged to strengthen China-Africa relations

From Fidelis Munyoro in BEIJING, China

THE Chinese Government has urged African journalists to play a critical role in promoting existing international co-operation between China and African countries.

Speaking to journalists at the official opening of the professional programme for African journalists here yesterday, China Foreign Affairs counsellor Mrs Wang Key said media practitioners were key players in strengthening the bilateral relationship between China and African countries.

"You should contribute to the enhancement of the mutual understanding and friendly relationship between China and Africa," said Mrs Wang.

She said China and Africa had established and developed a new type of strategic partnership, which has scored remarkable success since the Beijing Summit in 2006.

"The summit was a big success as it opened a brilliant and new chapter for co-operation," she said.

Mrs Wang said the programme, which includes seminars, and study tours, was part of implementing the follow-up of the agreement signed by all the countries at the Beijing Summit.

The participants are drawn from English-speaking African countries and would during their stay in Beijing, attend lectures on China’s national conditions, relations between China and African countries, as well as the country’s news system among other issues.

Yesterday, the journalists visited China Central Television and China Radio International, as part of the study tours organised by the China Foreign Affairs University. They will also visit historic spots, the Great Wall among others around Beijing.

Next week the journalists would visit Guizhou province’s local manufacturing plants, business establishments, historical spots and news media houses.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the China Foreign Affairs University offers training to for high calibre personnel for foreign service, international studies and other careers related to international business and law.

China has helped Africa countries build infrastructure projects such as bridges, roads, schools, hospitals, dams, stadiums and airports in record time.

Since Zimbabwe embarked on the "Look East" policy there has been a hive of activities as business people from Asian countries, notably China seeking to invest in the country looking for lucrative deals in the power, mining and general trade.

State-owned companies such as China Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation have entered into deals with Zesa Holdings for the refurbishment of power plants.

China has also contributed to the development of steal manufacturing in Zimbabwe through its financial involvement in the refurbishment of the blast furnace at Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company.

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