Reports say food aid only reaches Zanu-PF supporters

Zanu-PF is allegedly politicising food aid by giving handouts only to party supporters as a form of gratitude for the party's electoral victory.

More than 2.2-million people, particularly in the southern parts of the country, are urgently in need of food.

Independent surveys carried out by two civil society organisations, the Zimbabwe Peace Project and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, reveal partisan distribution of food relief in Matabeleland North and South, the Midlands, some parts of Masvingo and Manicaland.

Both reports chronicle incidents of a political nature in the affected areas, where officials are allegedly demanding party cards before food is distributed.

Those perceived not to have voted for Zanu-PF were being punished by being denied aid, said the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition report.

"Despite its [Zanu-PF's] promises, accusations of bias have been levelled against the government for allegedly sidelining presumed opposition members in food aid distribution as the country enters a critical food shortage stage that is expected to peak just before the next harvest season," reads the latest Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition report.

Abusing Mugabe's presidential inputs schemes
The same report singles out an incident in Buhera West constituency in Manicaland, which was won by former police spokesperson Oliver Mandipaka, in which bags of maize were distributed to Zanu-PF supporters only.

It also said that villagers in drought-stricken Matabeleland South reported similar cases where Zanu-PF legislators were allegedly abusing Robert Mugabe's presidential inputs schemes by shutting out opposition supporters.

Under the scheme, villagers are supposed to be able to access free fertiliser and maize seed.

Traditional leaders have also been accused of playing a role in deciding who gets aid and who does not.

In its report, the Zimbabwe Peace Project said traditional leaders are the foes and are "violating their constitutional mandate of being neutral and non-partisan".

"The government food relief programmes, especially through the Grain Marketing Board, were the most abused constituting the majority of the reported violations," reads part of the report.

Villagers discriminated against
It says in Matabeleland North, three villagers were discriminated against and denied food aid by Zanu-PF members.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project report reads: "When the rice was delivered, the villagers were told to go to the Movement for Democratic Change to get the rice since they had voted for it. Zanu-PF members, led by one Mveliswa Ncube, were controlling the process. It is also not clear where the rice was coming from."

But Joseph Made, the minister of agriculture, said as far as he was concerned all deserving people were being given the maize that has trickled into the country from Zambia.

"As the government, we are feeding everyone. I am not aware its only Zanu-PF people accessing the food. The Grain Marketing Board has been moving the maize to the hardest hit areas. I am confident all deserving cases are being taken care of. No one will starve," he said.

An official with the World Food Programme (WFP) said that though the reports did not prove that its own aid was being abused, the humanitarian organisation took such allegations seriously.

Victoria Cavanagh, the communications and donor relations officer with the United Nation's WFP, told the Mail & Guardian the organisation has strict standards and systems in place to ensure no one is denied food assistance for any reason.

Cavanagh said that beneficiaries of the WFP's assistance are identified on a needs-only basis. Beneficiaries are identified, screened and referred to the programme in health centres using clinical indicators of malnutrition without the involvement of community members.

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