The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has released a damning report that accuses Zanu PF officials of abusing food aid provided by government and non-governmental organisations (NGO) to cushion food-insecure rural households
The report released on 15 April 2021 is titled “The Politics of Food: A Contextual Analysis of the Right to Food in Zimbabwe”.
The ZPP, report says Zanu PF officials and traditional leaders took over the food distribution exercise from the social welfare department and side-lined needy families perceived to be aligning with the opposition.
“Cases of partisan distribution of food aid usually happen when the aid is provided by the government. Government-sponsored food aid is mostly distributed by either Zanu PF legislators or their local party leaders, even though the distributions are supposed to be led by social welfare officers,” said the report.
An unnamed Zanu PF legislator from Chiredzi in Masvingo province used his political influence to buy from the Grain Marketing Board and then divert subsidised mealie meal intended for distribution through supermarkets.
“The mealie meal was priced at a significantly lower rate than the prevailing market rate and it was intended to benefit ordinary villagers. The legislator then proceeded to sell the mealie meal at the same subsidised prices but only to Zanu PF supporters, using a beneficiary list that had been compiled by the party structures. This meant that opposition supporters could not buy the subsidised mealie-meal, leaving them more vulnerable to food insecurity,” reads part of the report.
However Zanu PF director of information, Tafadzwa Mugwadi, dismissed the report, accusing ZPP of being used by the opposition.
Mugwadi said areas like Chiredzi and Karoi where the food aid manipulation was reported were Zanu PF strongholds
“The so-called politicisation of food aid has become a tired MDC narrative which has lost relevance and has no listeners. Zimbabwe has done far much better than her counterparts in terms of saving lives and providing social safety nets to our people during these trying times of Covid 19,” he said.
In the report, ZPP added that Zanu PF “exerts undue influence over local government structures, such as provincial administrators, district administrators and the department of social welfare, which are involved in the distribution of food aid at local levels.”
The “partisan” control and distribution of aid enabled Zanu PF to bolster its electoral support and punish villagers who voted for councillors from the opposition.
But Mugwadi again denied this.
“As a ruling party, we therefore have no time to be bothered by antics of embattled elements bereft of political oxygen,” he said.
The ZPP also accused traditional leaders of repossessing food aid packages from suspected opposition supporters at distribution centres.
Maureen Kademaunga, the opposition MDC Alliance national secretary for welfare, said her party concurred with the ZPP findings and accused Zanu PF of aid-related killings.
“In 2020, one of our members from Bulilima, Mazwi Ndlovu, was murdered by Zanu PF officials after he voiced concern over partisan distribution of Covid-19 food relief. Our plea is that food distribution must be non-partisan and peace- engendering,” she said.
While Zimbabwe is poised for sufficient yields in 2021, in December 2020, the World Food Programme, (WFP) revealed that 6.9 million people were food-insecure and required aid.
Francesca Erdelmann, the WFP Zimbabwe representative described the situation in rural areas as dire, saying villagers had been forced to skip meals and sell off essential household assets to fend hunger off.
There have been reports of food relief manipulation by the ruling party over the years, despite official denials.