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Police probe several bigwigs over Cylone Idai aid looting

by Staff reporter
09 Apr 2019 at 14:40hrs | Views
POLICE have arrested dozens of people and are probing a number of senior government officials, following the sickening looting and diversion of goods donated to victims of the deadly Cyclone Idai storms which killed nearly 350 people last month, the Daily News can report.

This comes as some rogue soldiers and police officers have also been fingered in the shameful looting of the aid, which the government has received from several local and international organisations.

Embarrassingly, a police officer is among the people who were arrested last week after authorities launched a special recovery operation in Chimanimani and Chipinge - the two districts that were hardest hit by Cyclone Idai.

Police confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that among the people being investigated for the looting is a director in one of the government ministries.

"The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is conducting patrols which include roadblocks, so that anyone who is found to have stolen or tried to steal donated material is dealt with in terms of the laws of the country.

"Apart from the police officer who was caught, we also have other incidents of senior people who have been caught … trying to divert aid.

"We have several cases that have appeared before the courts and some have already been convicted," acting police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said.

"We also have a deputy director from a government department who is under investigation and this just shows you that no one is above the law.

"We would like to assure the nation that no one is above the law and the public should help us capture people involved in these acts," Nyathi added.

Last week, a police officer was arrested in Rusape after he was found in possession of goods meant for victims of the disaster, some of whom are sleeping in the open with no blankets.

Among the items that police recovered were shoes, blankets, cooking oil, rice, sugar beans, dried kapenta and toiletries.

Relief agencies and several governments, including those of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, are part of the many institutions and governments that have given humanitarian assistance to victims of the deadly storms - which killed hundreds and displaced thousands of people, while also destroying key infrastructure mainly in Chimanimani and Chipinge.

However, the distribution of goods to desperate families in the two districts has been marred by the shameful looting, including by senior government and Zanu-PF officials.

But Zanu-PF has distanced itself from the looting claims, maintaining that it had only offered its MPs from the affected areas to be part of the people working round the clock - together with the military and relief workers - to distribute goods.

Soldiers and police officers are leading the rescue and food distribution efforts, although many of the victims on the ground say they are yet to feel the impact of the philanthropic acts from both local and international donors.

Many of the affected people are said to be currently surviving on bananas, sugar cane and yam, as relief and government workers battle to distribute food to all areas following the heavy damage to infrastructure such as bridges and roads.

During a visit to Chimanimani last week, the military said it was conducting its own investigations to establish if it was indeed true that some of its members were involved in the looting as alleged.

A soldier responsible for food distribution in Chimanimani, one Major Chibasa, told the Daily News that they had heard the reports of the looting of aid and would escalate their investigations.

"The food distribution is going on very well. We are giving food on a village basis … and so far we have no complaints.

"We will have to investigate all the allegations of looting (by rogue soldiers) as the food is for everyone," he said.

Last week, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) released a damning report detailing the "shambolic food distribution process" in Chipinge and Chimanimani.

According to the ZHRC report, there is a lack of accountability in the food distribution process in Ngangu, Machonjwe and other parts of Chimanimani that lie in ruins after the massive storms.                     

"The supply chain into the affected communities was problematic as it lacked clear accountability mechanisms.

"There was lack of clarity and co-ordination 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," the ZHRC said.

"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.

"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," it added.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has also released a report revealing that Cyclone Idai victims who are known opposition MDC supporters are being denied food aid by some Zanu-PF apparatchiks.

"ZPP noted the continued trajectory of partisan and politicisation of food aid even during the tragic cyclone Idai.

"For example, in ward 9 Chimanimani East at Chigwegwe Creche, the local councillor affiliated to Zanu-PF and another party member denied … MDC supporters relief aid as they stated that only victims loyal to Zanu-PF would receive the aid.

"In ward 4, Guhune on 26 March 2019, four Zanu-PF members were witnessed distributing relief aid along partisan lines, denying MDC supporters aid.

"On March 25, in ward 10 Chimanimani East the ward councillor and some unidentified Zanu-PF members denied MDC supporters cyclone relief aid.

"This was even after the president had urged Zimbabweans to put partisan politics aside for the sake of the cyclone victims," ZPP said.

Source - dailynews