Distribute Chinese rice donation fairly

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Zimbabwe is once again in the throes of a devastating drought, described as the worst to hit Southern Africa in nearly a decade.

The majority of the country’s farmers suffered massive crop losses and there is no prospect of recovery this year because Zimbabwe’s irrigation capacity has been eroded by a chaotic land reform programme.

The government has indicated it would import at least 700 000 tonnes of maize this year to meet the deficit at a cost of $168 million.

Zimbabwe has been relying on donors for over a decade to feed its population because of the poor performance of the agriculture sector as a result of the land reform.

There are indications that up to 1,8 million people would need food aid this year.

The government has been struggling to pay civil servants since last year and is yet to pay lecturers from State universities their full bonuses from last year.

A high import bill to cover the food deficit may prove beyond reach for the cash-strapped government and it would have to rely on the benevolence of donors to feed its own people.

Already, there are countries that are chipping in, with reports that China had, in March, given Zimbabwe some 5 400 metric tonnes of rice worth more than $8 million.

However, as has become the norm, the rice is reportedly being distributed along political lines, with Zanu PF using it as bait to lure voters ahead of the June 10 by-elections.

Zanu PF has paraded trucks loaded with bags of rice at its rallies in Manicaland and there have been complaints in Tsholotsho North, where another by-election is due on June 10, that the Chinese donation is being distributed along partisan lines.

Mutasa Central MP Trevor Saruwaka (MDC-T) has reportedly written to Public Service, Labour and Social Services minister Prisca Mupfumira raising concern about the partisan distribution of the rice.

Saruwaka pointed out that his constituency was one of the worst affected by the drought hence the distribution of food aid should be done fairly.

Some Zanu PF MPs suspected to belong to rival Zanu PF factions are reportedly being excluded from the distribution of rice.

Unfortunately, these allegations are not new. The ruling party has always been accused of distributing food along partisan lines, especially during elections.

Zanu PF should take these allegations seriously because a ruling party cannot be seen to be serving partisan interests because its leaders took an oath to serve both their supporters and those who voted against them.

Using food to punish political opponents cannot be the norm in this day and age and it is time the government put a stop to this madness.

Besides being unethical, the practice would discourage well-wishers from supporting needy families whose numbers continue to swell every year because of Zanu PF’s failed policies.

President Robert Mugabe states every year that no one would starve because of droughts, but if some deserving Zimbabweans are excluded from food distribution because of political affiliation, the statement remains hollow.

Mupfumira should follow up on Saruwaka’s letter and address the issues he raises without fear or favour.

There is evidence already of the Chinese rice being distributed at Zanu PF rallies in Mutare and institutions such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should be seen doing their job.

No political party is above the law and using food to lure voters is immoral and illegal.