By Farai Sibanda
Tsholotsho, September 19, 2013 – Massive hunger has hit Tsholotsho district in Matabeleland North Province due to drought which has ravaged the region.
Villagers are starving and scores of cattle are dying every week in Tsholotsho, a district which is mostly dependent on livestock farming, owing to lack of pastures and water shortages caused by the poor rains received last season.
“The situation here is critical. We are starving and we are losing our cattle daily. The government should intervene immediately because we are facing a disaster. We last received food hand-outs just some few weeks before elections from political parties which were campaigning,” 70 year old- Samson Mkwebu of Sipepa area told Radio VOP.
Mkwebu warned that the district could also face a repeat of the 1992 situation, when over half of the national herd succumbed to drought with districts like Tsholotsho being the most affected.
Another villager Sylvia Ncube (65) of Jimila area said: “Most boreholes are now dry and we fetch water from boreholes which are more than 10 kilometres way. I always force my grandchildren to dodge school lessons, so that they can help me by going to fetch water from the borehole which is a long distance away”.
Ncube looks after her five grandchildren whose parents are working in neighbouring South Africa, where most Zimbabweans have migrated to in search of greener pastures following a decade of political and economic turmoil in Zimbabwe.
Tsholotsho, Lupane, Gwanda, Kezi, Mangwe and Bulima are some of the districts in Matabeleland region that were hardest hit by drought where 20 cattle are dying on a weekly basis.
An official from Tsholotsho District Administrator who spoke to Radio VOP said they have already alerted Agriculture Minister Joseph Made about the critical situation in the district.
“Yes, the situation here has reached alarming levels and we have already alerted the minister’s office. The problem is that most of these Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) which were helping people with food have pulled out,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity since he is not allowed to speak to journalists.
Early this month, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said an estimated 2.2 million Zimbabweans — a quarter of the country’s rural population — might require food aid early next year due to poor harvests realised in the last cropping season.
Zimbabwe has over the past decade largely relied on food donations from organisations domiciled in western countries. However, despite the gesture, President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF loyalists routinely accuse western governments of attempting to use food aid as apolitical weapon to compel his party’s supporters to turn against him.