via Zanu Pf accused of politicizing food aid to starve opposition Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
WITH reputable food aid agencies predicting food shortages in the country, the hopes of many rural Zimbabweans in dry Southern regions may hinge on the election campaign promises made by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) party in the run up to the harmonized polls.
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) in a study led by government with the assistance of United Nations (UN) unearthed that 2.2 million people, one in four of the rural population, would need food aid by early 2014. World Food Programme (WFP) food supplements distribution in partnership with government would start this October, until next March.
UN World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Sory Ouane reportedly noted that:
“Many districts, particularly in the south, harvested very little and people are already trying to stretch out their dwindling food stocks.
“WFP is working closely with the Government and partners to respond to the looming food crisis and will start food and cash distributions to the most vulnerable in October.”
However, despite its promises, accusations of bias have been leveled against the Zanu Pf-led government for allegedly sidelining presumed opposition members in food aid distributions as the country enters a critical food shortage stage that is expected to peak just before the next harvest.
Buhera, a dry area in Manicaland Province, has recently been in the news following a tour by reporters from independent media who unearthed a critical shortage of water and food amid increasing fears of starvation especially among rural dwellers.
According to Netsai Moyo (not her real name) of Buhera West Constituency won by former national police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka, the distribution of bags of maize to the people in Ward 5 has been politicized as presumed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters do not receive anything, or only receive left-overs after Zanu Pf faithful would have been assisted.
“Vanopanana pachavo. (They share amongst themselves),” she said in Shona. “Vozoti zvinenge zvasara zvopiwawo avo vanenge vachinzi ma MDC. (And what would have been left is what is given to us who are presumed to be MDC supporters).”
A Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) councilor from a different ward in Buhera West who refused to be named said there is great “manipulation” of the whole process, even information on the food distribution itself.
“Pane manipulation nekuti vanhu veZanu ndivo chete vanenge vaine information yese, vachiudzana pachavo. (There is manipulation because only the Zanu Pf people will be having information about the food and they pass it on among themselves),” he said in Shona. “Pamwe unotongowona vanhu vaungana usingazivi kuti panei wozonzwa kuti ndezvechikafu. (Sometimes you just see people gathered, and you won’t know what is happening, only to be told later that they were being given food).”
Similar complaints have been expressed by villagers in Gwanda, in the dry Matabeleland South province, who have also reported unfair distribution of bags of maize, the staple crop in Zimbabwe.
One man, who only identified himself as Mpumelelo, complained about the mysterious reception of food in his ward in Gwanda, angrily saying it was better if the government stopped the whole process.
“Kungcono ukuthi uhulumende ayekele ukusinceda kwakhona nxa kulobandlululo. (It’s better for the government to stop the whole process of helping us with food because there is segregation),” said the furious Mpumelelo in isiNdebele.
Civil society members have strongly condemned the politicization of food aid distribution insisting that it was contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
The right to food is guaranteed in the Zimbabwe Constitution, as such the Government should ensure that all citizens regardless of political persuasions have access to food.Never at any time should food assistance be politicized’ stated Gerald Matiba, a Bulawayo-based civic society leader.
Reports of partisan food aid distribution have been arisen every time the country – which analysts say has not recovered from a huge plunge in agricultural productivity caused by a chaotic land reform program a decade ago – experiences food shortages, which are now predictable several months before the next harvest.