BY Everson Mushava
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has raised a red flag over the distribution of food aid to Cyclone Idai victims in Chimanimani and Chipinge, citing lack of clear accountability mechanisms in the supply chain into affected communities.
In a report released on Wednesday, the ZHRC said the lack of accountability mechanisms had the potential of opening the process to manipulation by local leaders including politicians.
“However, the supply chain into the affected communities was problematic because it lacked clear accountability mechanisms,” the report read in part.
“There was lack of clarity and coordination in the aid distribution process. For example, at Ngangu Secondary School and Machonjwe Shopping Centre distribution points, ZHRC observed that there were different registration and distribution procedures that were being used.
“As a result, there were different versions of distribution lists for the same location. This had the effect of opening up the process to manipulation by some local leaders including politicians, and other influential individuals, resulting in the intended beneficiaries losing out along partisan, nepotistic and other affiliation grounds.”
The distribution of aid to the cyclone-ravaged communities in Chimanimani and Chipinge has been fraught with controversy, with some Zanu PF officials accused of hijacking the process and doling out handouts along partisan lines.
Some public officials have also been accused of looting the donations, with three already appearing in court on theft allegations.
The ZHRC added: “The distribution lists were not informed by a proper needs assessment of the situation for affected families. Therefore, more needy cases were treated the same way with those that were in a better situation.
“In fact, some of the hardest hit families were grieving and in shock and could hardly assert their demands for assistance. This contradicted the official position with regards to the prioritisation hierarchy of beneficiaries where the worst affected were supposed to be given first priority.”
The rights commission also urged government to ensure effective rural and urban planning so that settlements were not erected along water courses and flood-prone areas.