Patrick Chitumba and Nqobile Tshili Chronicle Reporter
POLICE are set to probe allegations of food aid looting in the Midlands province starting with a depot in Zvishavane district before expanding to other districts.
The grain was allegedly looted at the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots before distribution to thousands of vulnerable people.
In Umzingwane district, Matabeleland South, officials said they had also reported the theft of grain meant for the needy in their area to the police.
Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Jason Machaya told The Chronicle yesterday that the police and a government team would visit the affected areas next week to probe the looting.
He said some food aid beneficiaries did not get anything especially in Murowa ward in Zvishavane.
The grain distribution was being supervised by officials from the Department of Social Services.
The government set up distribution points in Gweru, Mvuma, Mberengwa, Zvishavane, Kwekwe, Shurugwi, Gokwe North and South.
“The food situation in the province is very bad and has been worsened by government officials who allegedly looted food aid from GMB depots where it was being kept,” he said.
“So we understand that food aid beneficiaries didn’t get anything as a result and therefore government departments are moving into the districts to probe the allegations. Anyone found wanting will be brought to book.”
Cde Machaya said there had been a serious outcry from villagers under Murowa ward in Zvishavane.
“From Zvishavane, government teams including the police will spread to other depots,” he said.
Cde Machaya said District Administrators met the Provincial Administrator Cecelia Chitiyo and a sorry state of affairs in terms of food security was painted.
As a result, he said the government had responded by opening maize trade centres across the province where villagers were buying a 50kg bag of maize at about $22.
He said in a bid to curb more livestock deaths, such centres were also selling supplementary livestock feed.
“The stocks are there but the villagers are not buying. They are saying $22 is out of the reach. So we are engaging the government so that the people are given the stocks for free,” said Cde Machaya.
He said demand for maize in the province is 5,000metric tones per month.
Meanwhile, in Umzingwane scores of people are facing starvation as a 16-member council social welfare committee charged with supervising the distribution of the food aid is facing allegations of double allocating the grain to itself. Ward 12 councillor Cde Elliot Dube and about 15 traditional leaders including village and kraal heads are said to have stolen the grain.
Esigodini Rural District Council chairperson Dojiwe Sigola said Cde Dube and others made double allocations to themselves compromising the needy. “There’s a council social welfare committee in the district which is distributing food to the vulnerable. So the councillor Elliot Dube was told to set up a team which was going to oversee the distribution of the food. The committee made double allocations for themselves depriving the less privileged,” said Sigola.
He said after the council learnt about the theft, they reported the matter to the police.
“As the council, we were not satisfied with how the food aid was distributed. The councillor, village and kraal heads don’t qualify as vulnerable members of the community. We don’t see why they made double allocations for themselves. We reported the matter to the District Administrator and police,” he said.
Sigola said it was not about the stolen quantity of grain but ensuring that food aid reached the intended beneficiaries.
Cde Dube denied that he and his committee looted food aid saying they only shared the extra bags of maize.
“There’s nothing like that. What happened is that the food came and it was evenly allocated. There were some extras that were left which we then shared among ourselves,” he said.
The government has imported grain to ensure that no one starves due to the drought.