Umguza Villagers, Zanu (PF) Protesters Clash Over US Food Aid

By Farai Sibanda

Ntabazinduna, February 11, 2014 – There was chaos and commotion in Ntabazinduna in

Umguza constituency, Matabeleland North province this morning as angry and hungry villagers clashed with

protesting Zanu (PF) members during a handover ceremony of food aid by the United States Ambassador

to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton.

A group of more than 20 Zanu (PF) members led by Robert Tshuma,ruling party’s

provincial committee member descended at Libeni Primary School in

Ntabazinduna where Wharton was handing hundreds of 50kg bags

of maize, beans and some cooking oil, protesting and waving placards

demanding the scrapping of US imposed targetted sanctions. Some of the placards were

inscribed messages such as: “Obama Sanctions must go”; “Sanctions

destroy lives” and “Unjust Sanctions.”

However, over 300 angry villagers who had  gathered to receive food aid

could have none of it and threatened to beat up the  Zanu PF

protesters,accusing them of barring the distribution of the US food aid

by Wharton at a time when there are starving.

“You guys are evil, gate away from here, we want to receive our food

in peace and we are hungry,” shouted George Mpala one of the

villagers.

“We will beat you, if you stop us from getting food; my grandchildren

have not eaten anything since last night and you Tshuma and your group

are coming here to stop us from receiving food.  I swear that won’t

happen today,” angry 60 year-old  Sinikiwe Ncube told Tshuma in his

face.

Tshuma then hit back saying; “They can go away with their food, we

don’t care what we want is for sanctions to be removed. And all of you who

are shouting at us we will deal with you when these people are gone”.

This all happened in front of Wharton, local chief  Mkhanyile

Khumalo, and Umguza Council chairperson Mary Shelton, US Embassy

staff, district officials, and World Food Programme personnel among

others who were sitting on the high table.

Chief Khumalo had to approach both Zanu PF members and villagers

telling them to stop threatening each other and show respect for the

visitors.  But the Zanu PF members continued waving placards and only

left after Wharton had finished reading his speech. He later handed

over the food aid to the villagers.

In his speech ambassador Wharton said:  “The Americans will continue supporting

ordinary Zimbabwean as we care about you a lot. We will always respond

to your needs and our hope is to see this country prosper. We will

continue coming to Ntabazinduna and give you all the support you

need.”

“As I speak my government had pledged US$29 million for Zimbabwe food

aid in 2014 and since 2002 we have spent US$1 billion on this

country’s food aid.”

Speaking to journalists after the ceremony Chief Khumalo said he was

also shocked by the behaviour of the protesters.

 “I was also shocked; I didn’t know there were some people going to

demonstrate. But at least in the end they didn’t beat each other up.

We don’t want violence,” said Chief Khumalo. Umguza is under Zanu PF

legislator Obert Mpofu who is also the Transport Minister.

When approached for comment after the ceremony Umguza Council

chairperson Mary Shelton, who is also Zanu PF ward two councillor said:

“What I can only tell you is that the protesters were expressing their

views on sanctions”

President Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle are subject to

financial and travel sanctions imposed by the United States and

European Union a decade ago. The targetted sanctions were imposed by Washington

and Brussels over alleged electoral fraud and human rights abuses,

among other concerns.

Since last year Zanu PF supporters have been holding protests around

the country whenever there is a US embassy function demanding the lifting

of sanctions.