Politicisation & Partisan Distribution of Food Aid in Zimbabwe

Credible reports we have received indicate that food aid distribution in Mashonaland Central, Muzarabani North District is being done on a partisan basis in favour of Zanu PF. We have received similar reports from Uzumba district, Mashonaland East and in Guruve North constituency where soldiers have set an army base at the offices of a local NGO, Lower Guruve Development Association. The food is being distributed to Zanu PF loyalists and card holders and its coming with President Mugabe's sticker posted on the bag, a clear indication that Zanu PF has kick started its campaign for votes in the coming elections. These reports come after Zanu PF reported that it has completed primary elections in its grassroots structures across the country.

The reports area clear indicator of how Zanu PF intends to take advantage of the projected drought in Zimbabwe this year and use food as a campaigning tool. According to the Herald, the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Development, J. M Made declared that a third of the 1.689 million hectares (500 000 hectares) of the current maize crop has been declared a write off. The Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Climate Services Center had had already projected these challenges.

This translates to drought and in a country where the majority of the population relies on subsistence farming, the projected drought and accompanying food shortages will have disastrous consequences. It means that the government will have to rely on maize imports and donor food aid. The country is broke lacks the capacity to import and recently the Minister of Finance Tendai Biti announced that if the projected revenues from diamond exports do not start trickling in the government will shut down. This leaves donor aid as the only hope for Zimbabwe.

In light of this situation Zanu PF has clearly shown that it will use food to garner support from the rural folk as these largely depend on food aid. With the use of the army, youth militia, CIO operatives and support from its members it will systematically use the food to campaign for the old leader who has indicated that elections will be held this year with or without prerequisite reforms as agreed upon in the Global Political Agreement. This will not be the first time for Zanu PF to abuse food aid, in 2002 the World Food Program had to suspend food aid distribution in Matebeleland North after Zanu Pf hijacked the food distribution exercise.

Zanu PF intends to shrink democratic space, cover its transgressions and have monopoly over food aid distribution. It's clearly written on the wall that we are heading for another sham election with serious human rights violations and Zanu PF doesn't want NGOs to be on the ground reporting these. This is evidenced by the actions of the Governor of Masvingo Titus Maluleke who recently banned 29 NGOs operating in the province including those that offer food aid. This effectively sidelines NGOs which act as a watchdog on the government and political parties leaves only the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) as the sole distributor of food aid in the region.

GMB is highly partisan as such will attempt to use its position to Zanu PF's electoral advantage. GMB suffers from poor administration and there are reports that the Daily News reported that the board is expending twice more in management salaries than the revenue it generates. Titus Maluleke may have set a bad precedence as other governors may follow suit given that they are political appointees and loyal to Zanu PF. Zanu Pf resolved at its annual conference in Bulawayo last year to deregister any organization they perceive to be working against their cause.

The use of food as a political tool by the Zanu PF wing of government is a clear indicator of how insensitive and intolerant Zanu PF is and how they are determined to stay in power. The right to food is a basic right and ruling party supporters are being denied this right by Mugabe and his party. International community should move in be on the ground and monitor and report on these developments. There is need to level the political field and denounce such inhuman practices by Zanu PF. Food aid must be depoliticized and according to the Zimbabwe Mail, there is need to establish an Independent Drought Relief Agency that runs food aid distribution. Mechanisms such as these and even a parliamentary committee to monitor food aid distribution are a necessity to ensure equitable access to food by all citizens.

Jabulani Sikula - Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Office

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