THE Department of Social Welfare should guard against the weaponisation of food aid as Zimbabwe grapples with adverse effects of the El Niño-induced drought, a peace-building organisation has said.

The call by Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) comes after the ruling Zanu PF party revealed that it will be superintending the distribution of food aid by either government or its development partners.

In a statement, HZT said the political weaponisation of food aid had led to the marginalisation and coercion of vulnerable members of our society particularly those who support opposition political parties.

The organisation said the statements made by Zanu PF officials not only undermined the democratic fabric of Zimbabwe, but laid bare the conflation of the State and the ruling party which has violated the fundamental rights of individuals and communities to receive aid without discrimination.

“We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the distribution of food aid is done only through the Department of Social Welfare working with local traditional and elected leadership.

“The Department of Social Welfare must design mechanisms to guard against the abuse and weaponisation of aid for political purposes,” HZT said.

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It implored the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to guard against corruption and abuse of food aid financed through tax and multilateral donors and agencies.

“Political parties must also rein in their members who are bent on manipulating food aid distribution activities across the country.

“Heal Zimbabwe further calls on civil society organisations and other developmental partners to vigilantly monitor and hold accountable the government and all stakeholders involved in the efforts to alleviate poverty and food insecurity as the country faces the devastating effects of the El Niño-induced drought,” the watchdog said.

The ruling Zanu PF has for long been accused of using food handouts as a weapon to control vulnerable people in remote areas.