20 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Food Used As Political Tool At Chingwizi

Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims at Chingwizi camp in Masvingo say they are now being falsely labelled as opposition supporters because of their resistance to forced relocations.

They alleged last week that government was now using food as bait to force them to accept relocation before they were paid compensation. Over 3 400 families are sheltered at the camp.

The affected villagers are resisting attempts to be moved to one-hectare plots in Nuanetsi, demanding bigger plots and cash compensation for the properties they lost during the floods.

"Some government officials tasked to distribute food aid here together with the provincial and district administrators are using food for political favours labelling us opposition supporters due to our stance of resisting relocation," said one of the villagers on condition of anonymity.

"We are being told that we will not get food aid if we continue to resist relocation. Officials are telling us that they will only give food to families who agree to be relocated."

The villagers vowed to stay put at the camp while others threatened to return to the flood basin from where they were displaced.

"We are not going anywhere even if it means we are going to die from hunger. When vice-President Joice Mujuru came here we were told that we will leave this place only after getting full compensation," said another villager.

But Masvingo provincial administrator Felix Chikovo dismissed allegations that food at Chingwizi was being politicised.

"There is nothing like that. As government we are not selective when it comes to the distribution of food at the transit camp," he said.

"Our recent discussion with the villagers was to present to them the basic facts about our partners who were in camp and are leaving as the time frame to be there lapsed."

Chikovo said the World Food Program (WFP) and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have registered everyone in the transit camp to receive food regardless of their political affiliation.

"Government and our partners OCHA and WFP have mobilised food that will be distributed to the people for the coming four months with people in the transit camp and those relocated receiving equal portions," he said.

Chikovo said they had received 30 tonnes of maize from Chemagora villagers in Gokwe and five tonnes from different communities in Bikita. The maize was mobilised through traditional chiefs.

Villagers settled at Chingwizi also complain that each household was receiving an equal amount of food rations regardless of the size of family. Each family is said to be getting 10kgs of mealie meal, 500g of kapenta and 750mls of cooking oil every month regardless of the family size.

Last month two police officers identified as Solani and Shiri deployed to provide security at the camp were arrested on allegations of stealing donated food handouts.

Just over a week ago, angry villagers booed and heckled Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and several senior government officials after they were told that the US$9 million raised for their compensation had been diverted by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa to pay civil servants' salaries.

Bhasikiti had visited Chingwizi accompanied by armed anti- riot police to contain the restive crowds, but the villagers forced him to cut short his speech as they booed him and refused to chant Zanu PF slogans.

This was the second time Bhasikiti was heckled and humiliated by the villagers who have been in the camp since February when floods displaced them following heavy rains in Masvingo.

In May, Bhasikiti was part of 10 ministers who were booed and heckled by the flood survivors forcing them to leave the camp prematurely. The ministers included a former governor for Masvingo province and Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire.

Chingwizi settlers continue to make sensational claims that some top government officials were looting donated goods, diverting them to their private businesses dotted around the province.

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