PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's recently launched agricultural inputs scheme has run into problems in Mashonaland West where ZANU-PF youths have hijacked the programme.
On Saturday, The Financial Gazette witnessed ZANU-PF youths in Hurungwe distributing the inputs along party lines and chasing away widows, children, the elderly and orphans from distribution points after interrogating them.
When the US$20 million Presidential Well-Wishers' agricultural inputs scheme was launched recently, President Mugabe pledged transparency during the distribution process and underscored the importance of prioritising extremely needy cases.
The scheme is meant to benefit close to one million people countrywide during the 2012-2013 agricultural season.
But over the weekend, party officials grabbed the bulk of the seed maize delivered at Chivakanenyama School while at least 3 000 villagers who had converged at the school left empty-handed.
Some of the elderly people were labelled sellouts and accused of being moles of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
ZANU-PF youths could be seen flushing out some of the villagers in long winding queues, claiming they were not attending party meetings.
Some frail and ailing villagers who had travelled over 40 kilometres to Chivakanenyama School hoping to collect the seed maize being distributed for free could not hide their disappointment.
A grandmother taking care of her seven unemployed children and grandsons could not hold back her tears as she narrated how she had been confronted by hostile youths who questioned her commitment to ZANU-PF, adding she was labelled "a sellout" despite her long-standing loyalty to the party.
"They told me that even though I attend meetings regularly, my loyalty to the party was questionable," the elderly woman, whose identity is being protected due to fear of victimisation, told The Financial Gazette.
"My hopes are shattered. I have no money for inputs. I had hoped that I would be saved by the Presidential Inputs Scheme. But they were distributing the seed among themselves," she said.
Similar confrontations occurred in other centres across Hurungwe but there were no reported incidents of violence.
So dire is poverty in Hurungwe that even MDC supporters stampeded among the 3 000 villagers who rushed for the 10-kilogramme packets of maize.
This week, ZANU-PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo said the stance taken by supporters in Hurungwe was against orders given to provinces by the party leadership.
"We are very clear on this," Gumbo told The Financial Gazette on Tuesday.
"This thing is designed for vulnerable groups. The programme should give priority to widows, the elderly, child headed households and other vulnerable members of the community. This is in the circular that I sent out to them," Gumbo said.
The Presidential Inputs Scheme is the latest in a series of electioneering strategies adopted by ZANU-PF.
ZANU-PF has also rolled out community share ownership schemes in the mining sector to help lift millions of peasants into corporate boardrooms.
The empowerment schemes have courted controversy, with many complaining that only President Mugabe's inner circle had benefitted.