DISTRIBUTION of government aid is being politicised by the ruling party in Manicaland, according to a faith-based rights organisation.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), in a report, said most of the victims were members of the o
pposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), but did record instances of ruling Zanu PF supporters being sidelined.
Lists of beneficiaries from government assistance, like subsidised fertiliser, anti-retroviral HIV and Aids drugs, aid to orphans and some food support, are drawn up by local authorities, most of whom back Zanu PF.
“The victims were … asked to produce a Zanu PF card in order to benefit from food and agricultural inputs. In some instances they were simply denied registration for aid and were blatantly told that the food belonged to members of the ruling party,” ZPP said in its report, Politicisation of Food and Other Forms of Aid.
Christine Kwangwari, ZPP’s acting national director, told Irin the survey in August was part of a pilot project to monitor allegations of abuse of aid for political influence.
“We had heard of claims of politicisation of aid in many provinces; we decided to study Manicaland as a test case.”
The group has documented 83 cases of abuse of aid based on political affiliation, which included not only denying food but also anti-retrovirals, and exclusion from the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam), a national plan to help orphans get free healthcare and schooling.
“Children are sometimes arbitrarily withdrawn from the Beam project on the basis that their parents are supporters of the opposition … The main perpetrators of this type of violence are school heads who sympathise with the ruling party,” claimed the report.
“The complete disregard for children’s rights, particularly those of orphans, is a major drawback to the attainment of justice in Zimbabwe.”
According to ZPP, the internationally recognised principles of aid distribution, such as neutrality, impartiality, independence and universality,” are rarely respected because the beneficiation from food aid is highly politicised”.
They, however, did not record cases of diversion of international food relief, which is distributed by respected non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“We did not find instances of politicisation of aid at the hands of NGOs like World Vision, Goal and Christian Care, who also disburse food aid in the province,” Kwangwari said. The food-aid NGOs follow strict international guidelines, which stipulate the registration of beneficiaries at public meetings.
Political analyst John Makumbe said beneficiaries of state-sponsored food aid and agricultural inputs were listed by traditional leaders, and “the chiefs prefer to include people who have Zanu PF cards in their lists over MDC card-holders, and this is common place across the country”.
Food has tremendous influence in Zimbabwe.
Independent estimates indicate only 800 000 tonnes of maize were produced this year, or about two-thirds of the country’s annual requirement. Government has insisted the harvest was around 1,8 million tonnes.
Zimbabwe has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV infection. ZPP recorded instances of people being denied treatment on the basis of their political affiliation, and pointed out that food was also a critical element in ameliorating the effects of HIV/Aids.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made slammed the ZPP report as “ridiculous” and “nonsensical”.
“The Zimbabwean government has made a commitment to ensure that no Zimbabwean will starve, so this cannot be true. Even in the urban areas, which we do not control, we have moved a large amount of maize to ensure that everyone has food.” — Irin.