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
“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
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
“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