STAFF WRITER 5 February 2017
HARARE – Rampant corruption in food aid is worsening the suffering of
Zimbabweans hit by drought, a rights group has warned, with Zanu PF
politicians allegedly sabotaging food distribution and giving it out where
it was not needed to win support.
Nearly five million Zimbabweans require food assistance in an El
Nino-induced drought that has struck people across southern Africa.
Most of the Zimbabweans suffering the politicisation of aid are desperate
villagers living in arid, marginalised rural areas.
“In the reported cases, councillors and traditional leaders are removing
the names of MDC and ZPF supporters from lists so that they do not benefit
from food aid being co-ordinated by the Social Welfare department,”
executive director of Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ)
Phillip Pasirayi, said in the new report.
“The priority beneficiaries are supposed to be orphans and widows, the
old, people living with disabilities, people living with chronic illnesses
as well as people living in abject poverty before the rest of the
communities can benefit.”
The rights group said it was concerned by the on-going partisan
distribution of food aid and agricultural inputs by government officials,
councillors and traditional leaders in rural areas.
Food aid in Zimbabwe is a multi-million dollar business that is highly
politicised and vulnerable to corruption.
The report said there was political interference throughout the response
process, affecting contracting, recruitment and the manipulation of
targeting and distribution processes.
“…received reports from its community structures on the partisan
distribution of food aid and agricultural inputs in Murewa and Hurungwe
districts whilst in Mutasa and Makoni, only Zanu PF members are
benefitting from the `food-for-work’ schemes led by the department of
Social Welfare, councillors and traditional authorities,” the report said.
The rights group said in some districts, the “food for work? programme is
being rolled out on a partisan and discriminatory manner.
“…has been receiving similar reports from community monitors in Hurungwe
and Karoi districts in Mashonaland West.
“Communities in Makoni and Mutasa districts last week highlighted that the
`food for work’ programme was discriminatory as the same families continue
to benefit,” the report said.
There were also complaints about favouritism, nepotism and
influence-peddling, according to the report, which was based on interviews
and focus group discussions with participants in the affected regions.
“At a community meeting organised by CCDZ in Mutasa Ward 20 last week, one
woman stated that Zanu PF supporters have been mocking opposition
supporters saying that `mombe inonwa mukaka wemombe dhongi richinwa
wedhongi’ which means that only Zanu PF supporters should benefit from the
inputs and food aid whilst opposition supporters should get aid from their
parties or leaders,” the report said.
“We strongly urge the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social
Welfare to ensure that all Zimbabweans benefit from on-going food aid
“We further call upon traditional leaders to stick to their mandate and to
stop violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of people in rural
areas,” the report said.
The government has repeatedly denied politicising aid and defended its
actions, insisting it remains completely impartial.
In a recent briefing to aid agencies, Social Welfare minister Priscah
Mupfumira claimed aid agencies work very well with key government
departments to support the delivery of humanitarian relief, and stated
President Robert Mugabe had said no Zimbabwean would die of starvation.
Despite Mupfumira’s hollow remonstrations, rights groups insist
politicisation of food aid remains widespread, especially in Zanu PF
strongholds, yet the impartiality of the humanitarian operations is
fundamental to saving lives.
“Given the devastating effects of El Nino during the farming season of
2015-16, most rural communities are living in hunger, hence all people
must equally benefit from the food aid scheme regardless of political
party affiliation,” the report said.
The rights group urged the State-run Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission
(ZHRC) to make investigations on the human rights violations and take
necessary action to stop the violations.