Widows, orphans given rotten maize

Despite having declared most of its maize unfit for human consumption, the country’s primary food reservoir is still distributing the rotten food to people in some parts of the country.

Many GMB silos are now leaking, resulting in damage to the stored grain.
Many GMB silos are now leaking, resulting in damage to the stored grain.

Villagers in Chinhoyi, Mhangura and Banket, who are going through a lean spell, have found themselves the unfortunate recipients of the maize which the Grain Marketing Board said in November had deteriorated due to poor storage at its 44 depots and silos.

“We have been given food that is not fit for human beings. We are surprised that the government gives us such stuff,” said Alois Mbengano from Mhangura. The Zimbabwean has been reliably informed that the food is being distributed as part of government’s food aid to widows and orphans.

The damaged maize, classified as top grade and bought at a price of $285 per tonne last year, has been written off and is now being sold as stockfeed to cattle farmers at an average price of $175 a tonne.

It is understood that the GMB has not even paid for all the maize yet. The parastatal expects to raise about $9 642 874,85 from the sales, thus incurring a $6 061 235,62 loss.

However, in Mashonaland West, desperate villagers who have not yet harvested this season’s crop said this week they had been given the grain for food by government, but were unable to eat it. “We are yet to harvest – but even though we are hungry we cannot eat such rotten maize. We are now giving it to our livestock,” said Joseph Maunde from Chinhoyi.

Some of the affected depots and silos are in Concession and Chiweshein Mashonaland Central, Aspindale in Harare and Lions Den in Mashonaland West – where the storage facilities are said to be far below standard.

This comes amid reports that 500,000 of the 1.6 million hectares under this year’s maize crop are a complete write-off in most parts of Matabeleland, Midlands, Manicaland and Masvingo provinces.

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, SeisoMoyo, said that stern measures should be taken against those people who stood by and watched the maize rot in the silos.

“This is disastrous. Stern measures should be taken against all those who failed to follow the necessary processes in storing our maize grain.”

According to the United States Famine Early Warning System, over a million people in Zimbabwe are living on food aid from the government and the World Food Programme.

The recent ban of Non-Governmental Organisations in Masvingo has compounded the situation for villagers in the drought-prone province.

The illegal ban of 29 NGOs, including humanitarian giant Care International, by the governor has been disputed – but confusion and interference have severely inhibited their work. A coalition of NGOs last week urged the government to allow them into sealed areas so as to alleviate hunger among the people.

The MDC has called for the dismissal of the entire senior GMB management for incompetence and for putting people’s lives at risk. The party also expressed concern at reports that GMB has in excess of 400 000 tonnes of maize in stock which Zanu (PF) intends to use for electioneering purposes.

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