‘Politically-Incorrect’ Villagers Excluded From Food Aid – ZPP

PARTIALLY deaf, 65-year-old Edgar Nhondo (not real name), of Mukarakate Township in Murehwa South in Mashonaland East province is wallowing in poverty with no steady means of a livelihood.

Relying on well-wishers for most of his supplies, Nhondo had hoped that on 22 November last year when the local Social Welfare Department was distributing food, he would also get a share. But his hopes were dashed when this was not to be.

According to Nhondo, agricultural extension officers were supposed to have distributed the food, but village heads took over the distribution and a total of 15 elderly people identified as supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) were denied, including him.

Nhondo lives with his wife, who sometimes suffers from mental illness and an 18-year old grandson.

Besides being partially deaf, his ear is sometimes very painful since he was beaten in 2008 by Zanu-PF supporters.

The bitter memories of that heinous time are still vivid to Nhondo. He recalls more than 30 people descending upon the local Gwishiri Roman Catholic Church and severely beating-up MDC-T supporters.

One person is reported to have died during that incident, Nhondo said. Although perpetrators were known and identified, nothing happened to them.

Nhondo’s situation is dire. His family, which needs a bag of 50kg mealie meal a month, is scrounging around for survival. Their regular relish is vegetables, but his vegetable garden was not productive last year due to drought. He cannot do any significant farming as his ears constantly give him problems. He mostly depends on handouts from well wishers. Added to that, he is also HIV-positive.

As for cooking oil, which most Zimbabwean households, when and if they can afford it, use always for their relish, Nhondo’s family cannot afford it unless they get it from well wishers. So often-times their relish is just boiled without any oil.

The November food distribution was at Hoyuyu Township. Registration for food was done before the distribution and Nhondo was left out. The village secretary and village head wrote down the names of only the people they preferred and left him out because he supports MDC-T party.

By his own admission, Nhondo joined the MDC, which later became MDC-T, in 1999. He is sure that he was discriminated against because of his affiliation. Although most food aid prioritises the elderly, those living with HIV or a disability, Nhondo was still left out of the distributions even though he has all three conditions to qualify him for aid.

Priscilla Zenda (not real name), a 53-year-old widow from Nhende Village was also denied food aid along-side Nhondo.

Zenda is a subsistence farmer but last year she did not produce much as she had no fertilizer as she was denied that time again because of her affiliation to MDC-T.

Her two sons, with whom she lives, were also denied inputs for the same reason. Zenda survives on part time jobs, however there is a limit to how much she can work given that she often suffers from recurring aches and pains as her ears and legs were affected when she was beaten up in 2008.

The denial of food and inputs aid for Zenda, Nhondo and other in their predicament is not new. They have been excluded since 2008.

Zenda said if she goes for distribution the village headman to ask to be included, he ignores her.

On the distribution of 22 November, other villagers were given 50 kg seed, 50kg fertilizer and 50kg maize. Ever since November the other villagers have been regularly getting 50 kg bags of maize from Social Welfare Department. On 18 December more food aid came and Nhondo, Zenda and others in their predicament were excluded as usual.

Although the politicization of food and input is highest in Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and also in Mashonaland West, it is also occurring in other provinces.

At a food and agricultural inputs distribution also on 22 November, 2015 Shadreck Mhindi (not real name) of Chibuwe Ward 20 in Chipinge in Manicaland Province was denied the handouts.

Mhindi, who is 60 years old, lives in Nyerere Village with 16 dependents and no discernible means of economic survival. He relies on begging as a means to raise money for school fees, food and other needs for his family. He plies the Chipinge to Beitbridge route on his begging business.

He owns a residential plot measuring approximately 500m2 but has no other land on which to grow crops for a living. While his wife was still alive, they depended on selling vegetables as the wife could afford the hassles of vending. But now she is no more.

According to Mhindi, he has not been receiving social welfare assistance due to the political nature of the selection committee. He said that the committee is composed of Zanu-PF sympathisers. These include the actors who publicly said that the social welfare assistance is a direct aid from the Zanu-PF government and those that support the party should benefit. Mhindi is excluded because his children are active members of the MDC-T.

Also in Manicaland on 15 December, 2015 at Makuvise Village Ward 5 in Buhera and on 17 December 2015 in Buhera Central more MDC-T supporters were denied food aid.

In Masvingo on the 17 December 2015 and on 31 December 2015 at Gwenyanya Village in Chivi and Marova Village Vidco 2 in Zaka North more opposition supporters were also denied aid. In Midlands Province, on 5 December 2015, MDC-T supporters were denied agricultural inputs in Gokwe at Chireya Business Centre and at Katamba Business Centre.

Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has documented a total of 73 cases of food violations from September to October across the country, where people are discriminated against and excluded from food distributions.

According to ZPP, this violates the Right To Food as well as the Right to Equality and Non-discrimination as espoused in the Constitution Chapter Four Sections (2) (77) and (2) (56) respectively.

“Our concern is the livelihoods of these people most of whom are from vulnerable groups. Where necessary government is being called upon to intervene,” said Jestina Mukoko, national director of ZPP, which monitors politically-motivated human rights violations.

“It is actually the role of the government to protect and promote the rights of every citizen. As ZPP we are saying this is what is happening in the communities and unless the government intervenes and follows up on this matter targeted people are really going to starve,” Mukoko said.

With this year’s drought threatening more hunger than usual amongst the people particularly for vulnerable groups, it is feared that those discriminated against on political grounds will suffer even more.