UN to monitor food aid?

The United Nations has asked the government for permission for a team to monitor food distribution in order to ensure impartiality and allay fears by international donors.

There have been many reports of hungry villagers being refused food as punishment for backing the MDC.
There have been many reports of hungry villagers being refused food as punishment for backing the MDC.

Zanu (PF) has regularly been accused, particularly since 2000, of using food aid as a political weapon to curry favour with rural communities and starve its opponents. Diplomatic sources told The Zimbabwean this week that the World Food Programme had made a formal request for a monitoring team to President Robert Mugabe.

The sources said a meeting was scheduled for end of January when Mugabe is back in office after his holidays. Social Welfare Minister Paurina Mpariwa, who is in charge of food and humanitarian relief, could not be reached for comment as she was said to be out of office on business.

A spokesman for the local UN humanitarian office said: “This is a matter that is still being discussed and therefore we cannot comment.”

But the diplomatic sources said the WFP, alarmed by growing donor indifference to appeals for food donations for Zimbabwe, had told Mugabe that only a UN monitoring team would let the international community fears.

They said donations to Zimbabwe, one of the countries hardest hit by the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa, had been hampered by reports that Zanu (PF) was starving MDC supporters.

Zanu (PF) has in the past refuted charges that it is using government-sourced food aid to punish Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangvirai’s supporters by refusing them access to international food aid.“The WFP made it clear in the letter that the international community did not see any credibility in the government’s denials that it had politicised food aid,” said a senior official with an international non-governmental organisation.

“Basically the WFP is saying that if he (Mugabe) had nothing to hide, then he should let in the international community verify on their own whether the Grain Marketing Board was being partisan in its handling of food aid,” he added.

The state-run GMB is the only agency allowed to buy and sell grain. The diplomatic sources said it was not clear if Mugabe will spurn or accept the WFP’s offer. There have been several well-documented reports by local and international newspapers of hungry villagers, mostly in outlying rural arrears, being refused food as punishment for backing the MDC.

Zanu (PF) has also been accused of vote-buying, with its candidates for the forthcoming polls allegedly handing out GMB-sourced maize to voters as a way of influencing their choice. Several people in rural areas and even in the capital Harare have reported that they were asked to produce Zanu (PF) membership cards before being permitted to buy maize from the GMB.

Donors have indicated they cannot commit aid to Zimbabwe while the government is prepared to help only the sector of the population that agrees with it politically, the sources said.

Post published in: Africa News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *