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Zanu-PF 'using food aid to build support ahead of elections'

by Aislinn Laing I Telegraph
05 May 2013 at 17:36hrs | Views
President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF has been accused of using food aid to build political support ahead of general elections in Zimbabwe later this year.

Zanu-PF officials are said to be circumventing local, multiparty councillors who previously distributed food aid, instead giving grain and rice donated by the president only to Zanu-PF loyalists to distribute.

They in turn have allegedly been demanding to see Zanu-PF membership cards before they hand over food parcels.

An estimated 1.6 million Zimbabweans are dependent on food aid because of severe dry spells and hailstorms which wiped up to 80 per cent of crops in some areas.

There are fears that with a new harvest approaching and forecasts of erratic rainfall, more could soon be affected.

Analysts say that with international pressure on Zimbabwe's politicians to avoid the bloodshed of previous elections, coercion tactics such as the partisan distribution of food will increasingly be deployed.

"If they are trying to avoid outright violence in the next elections, the manipulation of food supplies becomes part of an array of tactics that can be used instead," said Piers Pigou, from International Crisis Group

Several reports have surfaced about such practices in Masvingo and Matabeleland South, two of the worst-affected provinces.

In Matobo, south of Bulawayo and hit by cattle deaths and crop failures, it was reported that only wards represented by Zanu-PF councillors were being given food.

Sithembile Mlotshwa, an MDC senator, told Newsday that supporters were turned away from a village school last month where wheat was being distributed.

"I was told that supporters of the MDC-T were told to move away as the wheat was meant for card-carrying Zanu-PF members only," he said. "Some of the wheat was distributed at a shop belonging to a known Zanu-PF activist in a move to frustrate the MDC-T supporters."

Andrew Langa, the Zanu-PF Matabeleland South chairman, denied the claims, saying it was not his party's policy to discriminate on the basis of political allegiance.

"I am not aware of that and I doubt that anyone could consider party affiliation when distributing food meant for Zimbabweans," he said.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T's national spokesman, said he was concerned that such activities were increasing.

"Zanu-PF is using food as a political weapon," he told The Daily Telegraph. "The drought has made people more and more dependent on food handouts and more likely to act in Zanu-PF's favour in order to be fed."

He said that the MDC-T's ministers, who sit in a fractious coalition government with Zanu-PF, had sought a resolution in cabinet condemning the activity.

"Although the MDC is represented at ministerial level, the government bureaucrats are still Zanu-PF, and determine the manpower that does the distribution."

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Source - Telegraph

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