NGOs Rebuff Mugabe, Insist Partisan Food Distribution Rife

By Sij Ncube

Harare, March 04, 2016 – HUMAN Rights organisations have rebuffed President Robert Mugabe’s claims there is no partisan distribution of relief food, insisting the trend is rampant in rural areas where in some cases would-be recipients are required to produce Zanu PF cards.

Mugabe, in an interview broadcast Thursday on ZBC-TV to mark his 92nd birthday, said it was false food was being doled out to Zanu PF supporters only at the expense of the opposition.

“We never talk of any politics when we are distributing food,” Mugabe said. “Food is distributed to people regardless of their affiliations. In the rural areas, you don’t go asking, are you Zanu PF, are you not. No we don’t mind the politics of the people.

“It doesn’t matter to which party they belong whether it be MDC-T or MDC-Z or what or People First, or People second or people third, we just give them,” he said.

But latest reports obtained by RadioVOP from Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) confirm partisan distribution of food is rife in most provinces of the country.

“Partisan distribution of food aid is resulting in the marginalisation of many vulnerable groups of people,” reads part of the ZPP latest report titled “Zim Operates in a State of Emergence”.

More than 3 million Zimbabweans mostly in rural areas have registered for food aid, forcing Mugabe to declare a state of emergence last month.   

The ZPP report chronicles several incidents from Mashonaland West of partisan distribution of relief aid.

For instance, January 8, 2016, Nixon Mandere, Zanu-PF councillor for Ward 23 in Hurungwe Central allegedly called a meeting for people to register for food at Mukamba Point.

On arrival, people were told that is was a Zanu-PF meeting and were made to chant Zanu-PF slogans. The meeting was to form Zanu-PF branch cells and people were forced into positions. Those who refused had their names written down. People were informed that those in cells were going to be given first preference when food distribution starts.

In another incident cited in the report, on January 16 this year, in Ward 6 Pfupajena in Chegutu West people were informed that there was food distribution from the social welfare but the distribution turned into a rally. After the rally, people were asked to produce their voter registration slips.

“Those without voter registration slips were told that they were not going to benefit. At least one MDC-T supporter was reportedly denied food in that process,” reads part of the ZPP report.

ZPP has recommended minimum standards which government should consider in its distribution.  

“The modalities of food assistance must respect the fundamental humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. Decisions on the allocation of humanitarian food assistance should be strictly needs based. Funding should be allocated in an objective manner, according to these principles, to improve the food consumption of those in greatest need, without bias or prejudice.”

In a development that further confirms partisan abuse of social welfare programmes, ZimRights said in a statement Friday chronicle the ordeal of villagers in Buhera who were recently taken aback when a Zanu PF party chairman for Buhera District convened a meeting last month where officers from the Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension services (Agritex) drew up a list of people to get food aid in contradiction with stated government policy.

The meeting reportedly took place at Kufakwatenzi Primary School on February 22, 2016, after the Zanu PF shadow councillor for Ward 33 in the Birchenough Bridge area, Ronald Muchini, allegedly assumed the responsibilities of a government official to call for a meeting to select beneficiaries of earmarked government food aid with the elected councillor, Albert Mabika, being side-lined.