Politicised Food aid (2-10-07)

HARARE – Reports of politicization of food aid are intensifying in the run up to next year’s synchronized general elections amid reports of opposition supporters’ children being driven away from school supplementary feeding schemes in rural areas
An aid worker, speaking stric

tly on condition of anonymity, said that in the course of helping torture victims, she had been told that children of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters were being denied access to school food queues in Mberengwa East, in the far south of the country.
In her office on Friday was Sam Mlilo, district chairperson of Mberengwa East, who told The Zimbabwean he had seen children driven out of the queue for the supplementary meal at the Chamakudo Primary School , near Mataga, because of their parents’ political beliefs.
“Children with parents sympathetic to the MDC are denied access to food. In each village there are some MDC supporters and the villagers know MDC supporters by name and drive their children away,” Mlilo claimed.
He said people had tried in vain to complain. He added that Zanu (PF) structures were being used to distribute food and that traditional leaders were also distributing food along party lines.
Aid groups contacted by The Zimbabwean, however, said they were not aware of children being denied access to the school feeding schemes.
A country director with a leading NGO said his field staff at school feeding points regularly checked the schemes registers, which was an opportunity for people to raise concerns.
“We would immediately raise it with authorities and work to resolve it,” he said.
A top World Vision official based in Bulawayo for the southern region, said: “People on the ground will have to get an understanding of the political nature of food distribution,” he said, adding that so far there had been “nothing to scare us off”.
An official with Christian Aid said many complaints stemmed from agencies not being able to “blanket feed” all schools in an area.
“If a school three kilometres away is not fed, there are grumbles of political favours either towards government or the opposition. We find that when we get down to district level, people are down to earth, they are not political like at provincial level,” he said.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Kucaca Phulu said his organization was concerned that schools were closing down because of acute food shortages spawned by the price slash directive, denying children access to the nutritional supplements they would have received there.
Further afield in Gokwe, another official said Zanu (PF) youths were trying to control oil and maize prices in shops and the prices the items were sold at could vary according to political affiliation.
The official said a report on the victimisation of the children would be compiled with information from various regions, and would be presented to the donor agencies.
Information and Publicity minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said: “There’s nothing of the sort.”
Meanwhile, the central bank governor Gideon Gono announced in a monetary policy that Zimbabwe ‘s ailing economy received a boost of US$20 million for unspecified sources to bankroll fuel imports.
Also on Saturday, pre-election talks facilitated by South Africa between the MDC and Zanu (PF) progressed with a meeting in Kariba. The MDC, which narrowly lost the last elections, is demanding a new people driven consytitution, a cessation of political violence and the repeal of repressive security laws used by Zanu (PF) to stifle opposition political activity.

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