ZANU PF wants aid agencies out of the way so that it can use total control over relief food distribution as a key campaign tool in next year’s parliamentary election, political analysts and
the opposition have alleged.
Government has already forecast a bumper harvest next year and that there will be no need for food aid. As a result aid agencies have started to wind up food distribution activities in impoverished communal areas.
There are allegations that government would like to fill the void left by aid agencies during Zanu PF’s campaign for the general election scheduled for March next year.
In the last election government took a lot of flak from aid agencies for allegedly politicising food aid and using it to punish opponents. In some instances government attempted to take over the distribution of food donated by Western governments through the World Food Programme.
Opposition MDC shadow agriculture minister Renson Gasela said government had stocked up maize to use during Zanu PF campaigns.
“Zanu PF wants to create a false impression on the food situation so that donor agencies are forced out,” said Gasela.
“That will give the regime an opportunity to control all food distribution and in the process use aid relief for campaigning,” he said.
“It is suspected that the regime has some grain stocked in granaries that is earmarked for the election period,” he said.
Findings of independent surveys on the food situation in Zimbabwe continue to point at severe deficits despite government claims that the country will have a bumper harvest this year.
Veteran politician and former Zanu PF secretary-general, Edgar Tekere, described government’s decision to stop donor aid as foolish.
“It is very interesting when the World Food Programme winds up operations under this situation,” said Tekere.
“It is certainly not true to claim that there is a bumper harvest this year with the gloom showing in most fields. It is an empty boast, a foolish one,” he said.
“Probably the plot is for Zanu PF to then use the food it has allegedly been stocking secretly to campaign for the election. That has happened before,” Tekere said.
At a meeting on March 30, an official from the Social Welfare ministry told donors that maize harvest for this year would be 1,7 million tonnes. Minister Paul Mangwana the following day met with United Nations Development Programme officials and diplomats where he repeated the figures and said government had asked the UN to keep food aid out of its (Zimbabwe’s) humanitarian assistance appeal.
However, surveys conducted by the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (Sarpn) and Zimconsult show that Zimbabwe could suffer a deficit of between 600 000 and 900 000 tonnes of maize this year. The surveys predict a maize and small grains harvest of between 800 000 and 1 million tonnes. Zimbabwe needs about 1,9 million tonnes of maize for annual consumption.
University of Zimbabwe political analyst, Professor Heneri Dzinotyiwei, said the ruling party could use food for electioneering.
“The issue of food for votes has always appeared in Zimbabwe and it is possible, especially under the current political dispensation,” said Dzinotyiwei.
WFP spokesperson Makena Walker confirmed that her organisation’s implementing partners were scaling back general food distribution in May and June.