BUHERA — The temperatures are high and people are sitting under a tree at Mutiusinazita business centre in Ward 14, Buhera South, waiting to get their monthly allocation of a bucket of maize under a food relief programme in the district.
Comprising mainly women and children, the villagers wait for the maize to be delivered while singing Zanu PF songs in praise of the party’s losing candidate, Joseph Chinotimba who, they say, has been providing the drought food relief.
Zanu PF lost the seat to MDC-T in the 2008 harmonised elections. MDC-T, on the other hand, says it is working with the local authority to secure food for the people.
The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that about 1,6 million people will require food aid in Zimbabwe by the next harvest, expected from April 2013 onwards.
Chinotimba confirmed that he was providing relief food to people in the constituency on “humanitarian grounds”, but quickly dismissed claims that its distribution was being politicised.
“Yes, we are giving all the people in the constituency, not only those from my party. Even if I give those from my party, why can’t MDC-T look for their own maize?” Chinotimba quipped.
Chinotimba’s supporters said those who voted for the MDC-T in the last elections should not benefit from his food relief programme. “This is maize for Zanu PF supporters only. We don’t want to see any MDC-T people here. We got it from Cde (Joseph) Chinotimba so we are only giving it to the people from our party,” said a man who identified himself only as Marupiya.
However, some villagers accused Chinotimba of being selfish by trying to win back votes in exchange for food.
Chinotimba was reluctant to disclose the source of the money he was using to purchase the food for distribution. “There is no point in asking a father the source of the food he provides for his family. I get the money from where I do business,” he said.
The incumbent Buhera South legislator Naison Nemadziva (MDC-T) said he was working with the local leadership to bring food to the area and accused Zanu PF of using food aid as a political tool.
Nemadziva said he was against free issuance of food in the area opting instead, to have people contributing $3 per household to have the maize sourced and delivered to the business centre for collection.
“The $3 is used to transport the maize from wherever we source it and villagers can come and collect their monthly rations through the district administrator’s offices. We are cash-strapped, but we are trying our best,” said Nemadziva.
Buhera South district administrator (DA) Rolland Madondo downplayed the issue of politicisation of food relief saying food aid programmes were administered by the traditional leadership.
Buhera has become a hunger-stricken area with the DA saying the area has become so barren that no meaningful crop could be cultivated and without rehabilitation, it could easily be turned into a game park. Ward 24 Councillor Bodier Nendanga said he was concerned with the allocation of maize to people in the area. He said he was aware of the situation whereby only known Zanu PF supporters get food allocation while MDC-T supporters did not get any.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project has alleged that hungry villagers were being denied food handouts and forced to denounce their own parties in return for assistance as marauding Zanu PF militants continue to wage war of attrition against perceived political enemies.
Those who had not been supporting Zanu PF could not stomach another year of starvation. Some could not pay school fees, a situation that forced their children to drop out of school.
“Enrolment in schools has dropped because parents can’t afford to pay for fees and they are concentrating on how to get food for their children,” said a headmaster from a local school.
The WFP notes a number of issues affecting food security, particularly in rural Zimbabwe, among them HIV and Aids, political instability and unemployment.
“Food production in Zimbabwe has been devastated by a combination of economic and political instability and natural disasters.
“Recurrent droughts, a series of poor harvests, high unemployment (estimated at more than 60%), restructuring of the agriculture sector and a high HIV and Aids prevalence rate — at
13,7%, the fifth highest in the world — have all contributed to increasing levels of vulnerability and acute food insecurity since 2001.
“This situation has necessitated large-scale humanitarian food assistance operations in the country,” said WFP.