AMH is an independent media house free from political ties or outside influence. We have four newspapers: The Zimbabwe Independent, a business weekly published every Friday, The Standard, a weekly published every Sunday, and Southern and NewsDay, our daily newspapers. Each has an online edition.

Rights abuses surge as hunger bites

Local News
The report also revealed that 12 cases of human rights abuses involving food aid were recorded last month.

The partisan distribution of food aid in areas ravaged by the El Nino-induced drought has led to a surge in conflicts across Zimbabwe with the ruling Zanu PF party being the major perpetrator.

Zimbabwe faces an acute food crisis with the country expected to have reduced yields due to erratic rainfall during the 2023/24 agricultural season.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared the drought a state of national disaster and sent an SOS seeking more than US$2 billion for food aid.

The government in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) has since launched a food deficit mitigation programme to help vulnerable communities during the peak hunger season, between January and March 2024.

The ruling Zanu PF party national spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa told the media this week that their officials will be superintending food distribution across Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), in its monthly report for March this year, noted an increase in violence emanating from partisan distribution of food aid across the country.

ZPP recorded a total of 167 violations of human rights across the country — 108 involved intimidation and harassment in March this year.

The report also revealed that 12 cases of human rights abuses involving food aid were recorded last month.

“A high ranking Zanu PF official and Member of Parliament for Nkayi North, Sithembiso Nyoni, was on record warning citizens that in the wake of the drought, ‘non-Zanu PF members should join the ruling party or risk being left out in receiving food aid’. Nyoni was distributing food aid in ward 5 at Shu Shine under Gobhi village,” part of the report read.

Nyoni is also the Environment, Climate and Wildlife minister and a Zanu PF politburo member.

“In the midst of an El Nino-induced drought, partisan and unfair distribution of food aid will increase the vulnerability of Zimbabweans who are food insecure,” the report said.

The ZPP said Zanu PF officials were at the centre of “a continued abuse of power, violation of human rights and manipulation of food aid, a means used to compel ordinary citizens to become members of the ruling party.”

Zanu PF director for communications Farai Marapira, however, dismissed the report saying the ruling party upheld all tenets of democracy and “will defend them to the best of its ability”.

“Fallacies that the party is abusing food aid is (sic) the imaginary lie spoken by an opposition and its agents with no tangible addition to the solutions for challenges bedevilling us because of El Niño (sic),” Marapira said.

“We shall ensure that all Zimbabweans regardless of race, tribe or gender shall be accorded equal access to States assistance. On this there is no compromise as the President has always said he is a president for all.”

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministry secretary Simon Masanga said the allegations were false.

“There is no such thing as partisan distribution of food aid. We are giving food to every Zimbabwean citizen regardless of political affiliation. I would like to know where this has happened so that we look into it,” Masanga said.

He added: “We will look into it but I doubt very much such things are happening. We use the help of Agritex officials who work in connection with traditional leadership to distribute food to vulnerable members in communities.”

The ZPP report added that civil servants such as teachers have been victims of the malpractice at the behest of traditional leaders.

“An incident was recorded in Nyanga North where some teachers from three secondary schools approached Headman Nyamudeza to register for food aid. The traditional leader said the teachers will ‘never get any support because they are opposition supporters’.”

ZPP also expressed concern that citizens who stand up for their rights have been discriminated against and are suffering from hunger while those who succumb to the pressure will have their rights violated.

In Masvingo, according to ZPP, a case of disregard for the right to freedom of assembly and association was recorded in ward 15 where a village head identified as Desmond Rukomba summoned community members supporting the Nelson Chamisa-linked Blue Movement.

 “The village head threatened to remove those that attended from the food aid beneficiary list and that they may face eviction from the village. The act violates political rights as well as freedom of assembly and association,” the report said.

The report also revealed similar abuses in the Midlands province.

“In Chikunichawa village, Nemangwe ward 11, a member of the Forever Associates Zimbabwe, Nancy Mambizo, threatened villagers with violence and hunger at a social welfare meeting, should they defy the leadership of President Mnangagwa and the ruling party,” the report read.

“Speaking at the invitation of village head Dozora Marimbe, Mambizo Nancy said that since all food aid comes from President Mnangagwa, then all who are against him will die of hunger. She went on to say that if people reject Mnangagwa’s rule, opposition parties will be subjected to violence.”

ZPP called on Parliament and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of partisan and unfair distribution of food aid and other human rights violations.

It further called for food aid distribution to be conducted through official government structures without the involvement of political party activists.

“ZPP further recommends that the government must ensure that authorised personnel to conduct relief aid programmes act in a professional manner.”

Zanu PF and the police were cited as the major perpetrators 36,69% and 20,14%, respectively of the total violations.

Related Topics