15 October 2013

Zimbabwe: UN Food Aid Only for Zanu-PF Members, Villagers Say

Food donated by relief agencies and meant for all villagers is being selectively distributed to ZANU PF supporters, amid fears of starvation among rural dwellers.

Future, a villager in the Midlands area of Lower Gweru, told SW Radio Africa's Callback programme Monday that traditional leaders were denying poor and deserving villagers access to the grain, accusing them of being MDC supporters.

Future expressed concern that the grain, in containers bearing the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) label, is being used by ZANU PF to punish and fix perceived political opponents.

He said that on occasions when they have challenged the selective grain distribution, they have been told that "MDC-T supporters should go and get their food from Morgan Tsvangirai".

Ezra Tshisa Sibanda, the MDC-T losing parliamentary candidate for the Vungu constituency, said he witnessed the WFP grain being offloaded from trucks into the custody of chiefs and councillors.

"I was at an area under Chief Nyama and there was commotion as the WFP containers were being offloaded. When I asked some of the villagers what was happening, they said councillors and sub-chiefs aligned to ZANU PF were distributing the grain to their party's supporters only.

"The villagers complained that these traditional leaders were responsible for drawing up a list of those deemed eligible. But what is concerning is that regardless of the criteria used, it is only MDC supporters who are affected while ZANU PF supporters always benefit," Sibanda said.

The villagers said that at times they are denied food on the pretext that their village tax is in arrears. But as Future explained, this is only an issue if someone is a perceived MDC supporter.

Sibanda said even those villagers who had no political affiliation were being punished for it, accused of not voting for the ruling party in the July 31st election.

ZANU PF claims it won not only the Vungu constituency but also the national poll with a "landslide".

"Through their actions ZANU PF officials are confirming that people in Vungu never voted for the ruling party otherwise they wouldn't be victimising them.

"Also, this reveals the bankruptcy of ZANU PF promises. They have hijacked food aid meant for all and distributing it as their own because as a party they have nothing to offer to Zimbabweans," Sibanda added.

Describing the food situation in the rural areas as urgent and devastating, Sibanda said he was concerned that some villagers were in real danger of dying of hunger as ZANU PF was closing any other food distribution avenues.

ZANU PF has traditionally used a carrot and stick approach to food relief. In the past election, the party demanded ZANU PF cards from desperate villagers.

In areas such as Matebeleland South, which are perennially stalked by hunger, President Mugabe food hand-outs were used to buy votes, with promises of more after the election.

Addressing party officials in August, ZANU PF stalwart Simon Khaya Moyo said "the foodstuffs and regalia donated by Mugabe had worked magic" in winning the rural Matebeleland vote for the party.

Going into the 2018 election, Moyo and other ZANU PF leaders have called on their supporters to "finish" or "bury" the MDC. This has raised fears that the ongoing partisan food distribution and other forms of retribution are part of a plan to annihilate the opposition by the next election.

An official at the World Food Programme said she will be in a position to respond on Wednesday to questions regarding their food distribution process.

The agency recently indicated that at least 2.2 million rural dwellers in the country were facing serious hunger.

Once a continental breadbasket, the country has over the past two decades faced serious food insecurity, thanks to ZANU PF's destructive land policies.

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