Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief—
Thousands of vulnerable people in the Midlands province face starvation following allegations of food aid looting by government officials tasked to distribute the food. The Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in the Midlands Province, Cde Jason Machaya, said there were allegations of abuse of food aid and farming inputs by people in authority in the province which his office had received.
While not giving the exact tonnage of food aid and farming inputs that have allegedly been stolen from government depots across the province, Cde Machaya said he was in the process of setting up a taskforce to investigate the allegations.
The grain distribution was being supervised by officials from the department of Social Welfare. The government set up distribution points in Gweru, Mvuma, Mberengwa, Zvishavane, Kwekwe, Shurugwi, Gokwe North and South.
“We’ve received reports of abuse of farming inputs and food aid in the province. These are just allegations which we’re going to investigage. We’re setting up a taskforce to verify the allegations which, as far as we’re concerned, are serious,” said Cde Machaya.
He said they were going to start from the wards up to the districts to see how the food aid and farming inputs from the government were distributed and to whom.
Cde Machaya said if the allegations were true, perpetrators would be brought to book.
He said the government was concerned about the welfare of the people hence it was spending millions importing maize to give to the vulnerable and the less privileged members of the society.
“The food aid is being distributed by ward and district committees across the province and these committees are supposed to be very transparent in their operations. We’ve received reports of theft of food aid and this is very worrying,” said Cde Machaya.
He said as of December 31, the province had identified 40,000 vulnerable people in the province that were supposed to receive food aid.
Cde Machaya said Gokwe South district had the highest number of 10,880 people registered to receive food aid.
“More than 8,000 tonnes of maize according to our records, should have been distributed to the people by end of December last year,” he said.
Cde Machaya said the government also distributed farming inputs under the Presidential Farming Inputs Scheme but few farmers took cotton inputs in Gokwe since farmers are now reluctant to grow the white gold.
Provincial Administrator Cde Cecelia Chitiyo said she had called an urgent meeting with all district administrators next Tuesday.
“All district administrators have been summoned to an urgent meeting to be attended by Cde Machaya on Tuesday and it’s only after the meeting that we will have a full picture of the situation on the ground,” she said.
According to World Food Programme (WFP) about 1.5 million Zimbabweans will need food aid this year due to poor harvests last season.
President Mugabe has said that no one will die of hunger hence the government has started importing maize to cover the deficit of last season’s harvest.