Nyanga, November 19, 2013 – Six villagers have been arrested and charged with theft of agricultural inputs here after protesting against the partisan distribution of maize seed along political affiliation.
President Mugabe launched his agricultural inputs scheme last month and promised to give villagers assistance ahead of this year’s agricultural season.
But the distribution of the free inputs has landed Gumisai Kenende, Norman Madakwenda, Lovemore Kenende, Chrispen Tabwa, Lawrence Madakwenda and Charity Katerere, who is breastfeeding her toddler in trouble after they were arrested and charged with theft in contravention of Section 113 of Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
According to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) whose attorneys are providing legal assistance to the villagers, the police claimed that the six Nyanga villagers stole some 10kg bags of maize seed which were meant to be given to some villagers under the government-run agricultural inputs assistance scheme.
But the six villagers, who are represented by Blessing Nyamaropa of ZLHR argue that they were denied access to the maize seed after they were accused of supporting the MDC-T party instead of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.
Under Mugabe’s farming inputs scheme, the agricultural inputs which include maize seed, sorghum and fertilizer are being distributed per each household as a measure to combat perennial food shortages in the country.
However known MDC-T party supporters and activists in the villages have been sidelined from benefiting from the programme.
Mugabe launched the controversial $20 million Presidential farming inputs scheme in 2012 that exclusively benefitted Zanu PF supporters. Although the source of the funds remains unknown, media reports indicated that the Zanu PF leader received the money from Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
The octogenarian leader is well-known for using farming inputs and implements to drum up support for his party. Over the past decade he has roped in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to parcel out farm equipment under the farm mechanisation programme and some other quasi-fiscal activities which have been blamed for plunging the country’s economy.
Zimbabwe is struggling with a food deficit affecting 2.2 million people blamed on poor harvests despite the grabbing of productive farm land from white commercial farmers by Mugabe’s Zanu PF supporters who have failed to utilize the land productively.