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‘Traditional chiefs not part of food aid distribution’


CHIEFS Council president, Fortune Charumbira has claimed traditional leaders were being left out of the country’s food aid distribution processes, which the opposition says were biased towards Zanu PF supporters.

New Zimbabwe

Fortune Charumbira
Fortune Charumbira

Zanu PF opponents insist that traditional leaders were part of the ruling party’s patronage system, which often extended to the distribution of food aid, seed and other government handouts under the Social Welfare ministry.

Government and non-governmental organisations (NGO)-sourced food aid, the opposition says, is often hijacked and parcelled out to Zanu PF card-holders, leaving perceived opposition followers to starve.

But speaking in the Senate last week, Charumbira, a Zanu PF loyalist, distanced chiefs from the contentious process, insisting ministerial officials were distributing food outside their knowledge.

“As traditional leaders, we are saying, you cannot distribute food in our community without our knowledge,” he said while addressing Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare deputy minister Tapiwa Matangaidze, who had just issued a statement denying any partisan food distribution.

In his statement, Matangaidze outlined a hierarchical system through which food distribution is channelled through provincial committees right up to village level, with traditional leaders forming the central part of the process.

But Charumbira said the ministry set the tone for the exclusion of traditional leaders through an earlier circular, which gave the task to child protection committee, which traditional leaders were not part of.

“The civil servant, who wrote that (statement), as the Chief’s Council, we challenge that; we need to meet because this is a lie,” he said.

“As chiefs, we are complaining. We raised it with minister (Prisca) Mupfumira to say that you are leaving us behind which is not right.”

Charumbira said this was pronounced especially on NGO sourced food aid, which he said was totally kept away from traditional leaders from vetting to distribution level.

“These are things that we meet every day. I just want to make it clear that the traditional leaders are not in any way, at the moment, in the structures that distribute food.

“We are being attacked from left, right and centre and we are said to be partisan, but we are not part of the process. We want it to be clear to the minister that the structure that you read is not the structure on the ground.”

In his response, Matangaidze said officials, who were not using the set out structure, were going against the law, adding that they government would not distribute food behind traditional leaders’ back.

“You are supposed to be in the provincial drought relief committee. If that is not happening, we need to address that to ensure that the structures incorporate the chiefs,” he said.

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