Tendai Mugabe, Harare Bureau
GOVERNMENT has denied reports of food aid politicisation to the victims of Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani and Chipinge saying it can never allow that when people are in serious need of food.
In fact, the MDC Alliance stronghold of Ward 17 in Biriiri area of Chimanimani was among the first beneficiaries, because of its hard hit situation.
This comes amid media reports that the relief aid was now being distributed along political lines.
The Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services who is also Senator for Mutare-Chimanimani Constituency, Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, said there was no need to select beneficiaries because they faced similar problems.
“The cyclone affected everyone and so no one is being left out in relief aid distribution. Everything is being co-ordinated in a transparent manner and accountability is our hallmark.
“I am a member of the inter-ministerial committee overseeing the Cyclone Idai relief programme and so far we have met ambassadors accredited to Zimbabwe, the donor community as well as the civic organisations to thank them for the overwhelming response we got in mitigating the effects of the cyclone.
“In all the meetings we are calling on anyone who wants to witness the distribution of all the donated goods to come forward.”
She added: “It seems some individuals want to sow seeds of divisions among Zimbabweans after realising that everyone from individuals, corporates and the international community had come together in our hour of need. They want to score cheap political mileage by claiming that relief aid is being politicised. All donations go through the Provincial Administrator’s office in Mutare where they are registered before being taken to World Vision warehouse. The Department of Social Welfare is involved in the process.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said since most of the areas were still inaccessible by road, they had set up distribution command centres near villages in dire need of assistance.
“Our roads are still in a poor state and we have distribution centres at Wengezi, Skyline and Silverstream. From these centres, the food is being airlifted to most critical areas. We are also calling on the civic society to help identify those in dire need of assistance. This also applies to the local leadership as they know who was affected by the cyclone. Everyone is invited because this disaster touched the hearts of many people across the globe.
“This relief operation has demonstrated the maturity and oneness of Zimbabweans and this spirit should continue,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa said they had worked round the clock to restore communication services to enable people to raise alarm when they are in need of any form of assistance.
“Yes, we appreciate that we are not carrying as much food items to the affected areas as we want, but we are being assisted by individuals with smaller trucks. As soon as the roads are cleared, 30-tonne trucks will be roped in to speed up the process. No one will be left to starve.
Chimanimani West legislator, Cde Nokuthula Matsikinyeri said villagers who received relief aid last Saturday evening were from MDC strongholds.
“I am surprised that people are saying only Zanu-PF supporters received relief aid. Since the trucks that were carrying food arrived late, I personally requested that the teams from the Department of Social Welfare, United Nations and Innscor start distributing food to people from Nyamusundu, Muusha, Chinamira and Utseya villages since they had to travel about 7km back home.
“Those areas are actually MDC strongholds. I did not get many votes there, so I am surprised that people would say we prioritised Zanu-PF supporters,” she said.
Cde Matsikinyeri said she made sure that the people who had received the food were from the worst affected areas.
District Administrator for Chipinge, Mr William Mashava, said there was transparency in the food distribution process.
“Everything is open to public scrutiny. However, some people are confusing the Cyclone Idai Relief Programme and the Government Drought Relief Programme. The donated goods are meant to assist those affected by Cyclone Idai and we are getting cases where some individuals who were not affected also lining up to get assistance. We are following up on any cases brought to our attention and deserving beneficiaries will be speedily attended to,” he said.
A villager, Mr Clever Muusha, said they had received their allocation last Saturday although they were delays.
“Our area had been cut off from the rest of the world, but relief aid is now coming. You can never satisfy everyone and where there are people you are bound to hear some disgruntlements, but as far as we are concerned everyone is benefitting,” he said.
Local, Government, Housing and Public Works Minister July Moyo said yesterday that Government was using its established channels coordinated by the department of social welfare to distribute the food. Some unsubstantiated reports alleged that Zanu-PF had grabbed the distribution process although no evidence was brought forward to back this.
“We have received information through social media and other channels that there is political interference and as Government we will not tolerate political interference in the distribution of food,” said Minister Moyo.
“Food is distributed through channels that have been set by Government and the receiving agencies are clearly known that is the department of Social Welfare working with logistical support from the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Those are the authorised distribution agencies. In some instances where there is no welfare people there, are personnel from the Women’s Affairs. We have set up depots at a place called Silver Springs in Chipinge and Machonjoni in Wengezi area.”
Minister Moyo added: “We are calling on all the NGOs who have brought food to work together with Government so that we can deliver the food.
“Our instruction to all the depots has been do not politicise these things. We have a former Mayor of Mutare Brian James who is an MDC activist who has been there at Wengezi throughout also, his wife and other MDC personnel. As long as they were there and giving food we do not care as long as the food goes to the intended beneficiaries.”
Minister Moyo said there was no need to politicise food given the situation on the ground. “Going forward, we have said nobody should be carrying food in their party cars. They should use the normal channel we have created.”
The country is receiving overwhelming support both locally and internationally following the devastating natural disaster.
China donated US$800 000 to assist the victims while the United Arab Emirates chipped in with a huge consignment of materials. The materials included medical drugs, blankets and tents among other things.
Sadc released US$500 000 to be shared between Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique while the United Kingdom committed US$23 million to assist the region in light of the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai.
Countries in the region such as Tanzania and Botswana have also extended their helping hand.
President Mnangagwa on Sunday paid tribute to local companies, organisations and embassies for mobilising resources to assist the victims.