PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe would have been reminded he has presided over a seriously hungry nation.
As he bad-mouthed a South African official and Sadc at the weekend, some in his audience were more concerned about something to put into their own mouths: bread.
Mugabe attacked Lindiwe Zulu, Jacob Zuma’s aide and also threatened to pull out of the regional bloc.
Typically, Mugabe has, over the years, grown into believing he is appealing when he sounds all bellicose — the reason for his reckless remarks at the weekend.
But the belligerence has all become too tedious and boring. Britain, the US, MDC and gays — and now Sadc and South Africa.
I am not too bothered about the diplomatic tension that appears to have developed between Mugabe and South Africa and Sadc, particularly at this time.
Cordial relations between Mugabe and Sadc or South Africa did not serve us well five years ago.
Remember Thabo Mbeki? The chief architect of the outrageously biased political arrangement that generously rewarded the loser of the 2008 election?
He was a treacherous bosom-buddy of Mugabe.
Therefore, the more alienated Mugabe is to Sadc and South Africa, the better. In the event of an unfairly conducted election, we stand a better chance for fair redress.
It would be foolhardy though for Mugabe to pull out of Sadc.
It remains an important economic and political constellation to Zimbabwe.
On the other hand, South Africa is a crucial trade ally.
Mugabe’s words were that of a man careless about consequence, well-fed by chefs at State House and looked after by doctors in Singapore, while the majority has been reduced to penury.
His supporters — assuming all were, and not just hungry food-seekers — would, hopefully, have realised that “sovereignty” does not fill bellies.
Reports from the rally suggested ferocious scrambles for free loaves of bread.
Strikingly, bread is quite a salient symbol of food in religious texts.
Christians would be familiar with the tale about Jesus miraculously feeding 5 000 people with five loaves of bread and fish.
The tussles for bread (sadly, Zanu PF could not provide fish) were symbolic of how Mugabe, the “Messiah” to his Zanu PF supporters, has, however, failed to provide for the nation.
For a mere mortal, no miracles can feed people; sound policies do.
Regrettably, Mugabe’s policies have reduced many to paupers.
The Zanu PF-celebrated agrarian reform does not seem to have registered the trumpeted success it is ascribed.
If you were in any doubt, you needed to listen to Albert Mandizha, the general manager of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), a government parastatal no less: "Zimbabwe has traditionally been a net exporter of grain, but look right now, we are actually importing maize from Zambia. I am ashamed of Zimbabwean farmers. You are an embarrassment because you have forced us to import grain. You have embarrassed everyone.”
Very strong words. Could there be a more authentic source on food availability in Zimbabwe than the head of GMB?
John Nkomo, now late, said pretty much the same. It debunks the academic findings that have passed the land reform exercise as a roaring success.
The melee over bread at the Zanu PF rally is unsurprising but symbolic of how Mugabe has created a desperately hungry nation.
Most families live on less than $2 a day. With bread priced at $1, it does not take a genius to conclude that it is barely affordable and has to compete with other basic needs.
Yet twenty or so years ago bread was quite affordable to families, almost daily.
The electorate needs a leader who will bring back bread to their tables, not as alms — inadequate for that matter — at political rallies.
The rhetoric on sovereignty remains as empty as many Zimbabwean stomachs.
The symbolism of bread in Christian texts remains germane to the needs of this nation.
The hunger-stricken scramblers at the Zanu PF rally and indeed the whole nation should be reciting a particular line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us our daily bread.”
On the other hand, Mugabe’s opponents, seeking to unseat him in the forthcoming election, would find salience in another line: “Deliver us from evil.” – Conrad Nyamutata