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November 29, 2004

Zimbabwe's New Strategy

We've all read about how well Zimbabwe is being governed these days, so this brainstorm shouldn't come as a surprise:

ZIMBABWE has come up with a bizarre proposal to solve the food crisis threatening half its population with starvation. It wants to bring in obese tourists from overseas so that they can shed pounds doing manual labour on land seized from white farmers.

The so-called Obesity Tourism Strategy was reported last week in The Herald, a government organ whose contents are approved by President Robert Mugabe’s powerful information minister, Jonathan Moyo.

Pointing out that more than 1.2 billion people worldwide are officially deemed to be overweight, the article exhorted Zimbabweans to “tap this potential”.

“Tourists can provide labour for farms in the hope of shedding weight while enjoying the tourism experience,” it said, adding that Americans spent $6 billion a year on “useless” dieting aids.

“Tour organisers may promote this programme internationally and bring in tourists, while agriculturalists can employ the tourists as free farm labour.

“The tourists can then top it all by flaunting their slim bodies on a sun-downer cruise on the Zambezi or surveying the majestic Great Zimbabwe ruins.”

Read further in the article for details on the reality of life in Zimbabwe:

This is a government that boasts of bumper harvests when 5.5m of its people need food aid; that negotiates to buy Russian MiG fighter jets when the country is bankrupt; that shows constantly smiling dancing Zimbabweans on state television (known locally as the “Bums and Drums” channel) when two-thirds of the working population has fled. . . .

It did not take long to see what was going on. Mazowe Valley is less than an hour from the capital and a drive through the area revealed the shocking destruction that Mugabe has wreaked on this sad but beautiful country.

It used to be described as the bread basket of southern Africa, with neat fields of maize and soya growing in rich red soil and farmers notching up world records for yields. Rows of giant greenhouses sheltered roses that earned important foreign exchange, as did fields of miniature vegetables to sell in British supermarkets.

In 10 years of visiting Zimbabwe, I have often been through Mazowe and its model farmland. Today it is a series of fallow fields, overgrown with grass, weeds and thorny scrub, as if some deadly scourge had swept through the valley. There are orchards of dead citrus trees, greenhouse frames stripped of their plastic roofs and the broken, twisted poles of what were once floodlights and irrigation systems.

Security fences have gone. Trees have been chopped for firewood. Even the telephone wires have been looted.

Gone, too, are the panga- waving “war veterans” who manned almost every entrance two years ago. Most of the war vets and settlers who were bussed in to take over the farms have been moved out so that party bigwigs can move into the houses.

Posted by TangoMan at 05:41 PM