26 March 2019

Zimbabwe: MP In Aid Distribution Storm, Accused of Favouring Zanu-PF Supporters

Photo: Columbus Mavhunga/VOA
People in Chimanimani complain to senior army officials in charge of a temporary camp set up after Cyclone Idai that food is not reaching them.

Zanu-PF lawmaker for Chimanimani East, Nokuthula Matsikenyere, has been sucked into the eye of a storm over the partisan distribution of aid to victims of Cyclone Idai.

Chimanimani and Chipinge in the south east of Manicaland were the worst affected areas after the deadly tropical Cyclone Idai ripped through the province leaving a trail of destruction and over 140 people dead.

Effected villagers who spoke to New Zimbabwe.Com at the weekend accused ruling Zanu PF officials including Matsikenyere of politicising the disaster relief donated by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) sourced aid to Zanu PF supporters only.

Matsikenyere was reportedly mobbed by angry crowds Sunday at Biriwiri Growth Point over the issue.

"On Saturday UNICEF donated food hampers to victims of the cyclone in Ward 17 but only Zanu PF supporters from areas like Nyamusundu and Manzou got the aid which contained food items such as rice and cooking oil.

"The food was also donated during the night without the knowledge of most of the villagers," said a villager who refused to be named for fear of victimisation.

During the heated meeting, Matsikenyere is said to have openly told the disgruntled villagers that they deserved to be deprived of the disaster relief because they did not vote for her during last year's elections.

"The MP claimed that we did not vote for her and that is the reason why we do not deserve the food. She said she would rather give food to villagers whom she was certain voted her than to give us.

"Every family was affected by this disaster and we are actually shocked by people who want to politicise this disaster," said another villager.

Contacted for comment, Matsikenyere admitted superintending over the UNICEF aid distribution at Biriwiri Growth Point on Saturday but said she was not directly involved in the compilation of names of the beneficiaries. She however confirmed there had been complaint over the way the aid was being handled.

"Our local Councilor, Lovemore Utseya and Village Heads come up with the list of the beneficiaries. I have also heard similar complaints and seen WhatsApp messages of party supporters complaining about the Councilor on how he is handling the food process in the ward," said the MP said.

New Zimbabwe.Com is in possession of a WhatsApp message which was forwarded to senior Zanu PF officials including Cabinet Ministers by the ruling party's supporters complaining about Utseya's conduct.

"What is happening in Ward 17 is very painful. A lot of people are being lied to about the food aid and made to travel long distances by Councilor Lovemore Utseya.

"The Councilor and his secretary Mai Matakuramombe are used to steal aid food and deprive needy people," the message reads in part.

Zanu PF officials have used traditional leaders in the partisan distribution of food aid to vulnerable people over the years in the processing depriving suspected opposition activists access to grain although the party denies it.

Tens of thousands of poor people were left homeless after their homes were washed away by Cyclone Idai induced floods two weeks ago. The cyclone wreaked havoc destroying infrastructure including schools and bridges with many now desperately in need of aid to survive.

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