Food aid manipulation continues despite Robert Mugabe denial

Exclusion of opposition members from food and farming inputs aid by ruling Zanu PF members continues despite denial by President Robert Mugabe.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) recently released a report in which it noted that ruling party-linked government officials were excluding perceived opposition supporters from food aid schemes.

Mugabe reacted angrily to the report and insisted that food assistance was being distributed on a non-partisan basis.

However, Heal Zimbabwe, in its latest update on human rights violations for the month of September released on Monday, indicated that Zanu PF officials were still victimising ruling party critics in rural areas by denying them government-sponsored food handouts.

According to Heal Zimbabwe, a non-profit organisation promoting peaceful co-existence, a Zanu PF councillor for Ward 12 in Mazowe in Mashonaland Central province, Night Muzhira, reportedly forced agricultural extension workers who were distributing free fertilizer to limit inputs to ruling party members.

“On 23 September 2016, Zanu PF councillor, Night Muzhira, dispatched a team into the ward that was compiling list of fertilizer beneficiaries. The people who only identified themselves as Agritex Officers openly told villagers that Muzhira had given them the directive that no opposition member should anticipate receiving food aid or fertiliser in the area since they were in the habit of boycotting his meetings,” wrote Heal Zimbabwe.

The same councillor also allegedly threatened to force- march villagers to his meetings.

“Villagers were also told that if they continued boycotting his meetings, he would soon give a directive to Zanu PF youths in the area who will force march them to his meetings (sic),” noted the watchdog.

On 24 September, added Heal Zimbabwe, the Zanu PF councillor for Ward 12 in Muzarabani, Oliver Ururu, ordered village heads not to include opposition for Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) supporters in food-for-work programmes.

Zanu PF has for long been accused of using traditional leaders to victimise opposition supporters and intimidate them into supporting or voting Zanu PF.

“He said this will ‘teach them a lesson’ to know who they should vote for in the 2018 elections. The village heads who were present at the meeting are Elias Dzonya, David Bako and Raymond Kamudyariwa. The meeting was also attended by the Zanu PF chairperson for the ward, Charles Mapungu,” said Heal Zimbabwe.

The report did not cover all parts of the country, but the cases it presented could be just the tip of an iceberg as Zanu PF has over the years used exclusion of political opponents form food and farming inputs aid as a persecution tool.

With drought recurring in recent farming seasons, particularly rural residents have had no choice but to toe the Zanu PF line, especially during election time, fearing starvation. Nehanda Radio

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