NGOs banned from distributing food aid without Chiefs’ involvement; move seen as a Zanu PF campaign plot ahead of 2023 polls

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

THE government has banned development partners from distributing all food aid to villagers in rural areas without the involvement and approval of traditional leaders.

The opposition has accused traditional leaders of distributing food aid to their subjects along partisan lines.

Speaking during a Food Deficit Mitigation Strategy Sensitisation meeting in Bulawayo Thursday, acting Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, July Moyo said President Emmerson Mnangagwa had ordered that all food distribution programmes should be done under the existing ward assemblies under the chieftainships, headmen and village.

“Chiefs are selected by the communities, so are the headmen and village heads and the president just signs that. These community structures give neutrality to what we want to do. Yes, a village is made from people who come from various political and church persuasions but in every village, headmen or head-women know how many households they have,” said Moyo.

The minister said going forward, the government will now monitor all food distribution activities.

“In order to be transparent, we as the government need to know about everybody who is going to be intervening, so that if they are making mistakes on the ground, those from the government can say, ‘this is not the agreement, you should work through these structures.’ Transparency is knowing people on the ground whether as NGOs or anybody,” said Moyo.

The minister also claimed that some years ago in Binga, he found some people coming from outside Zimbabwe, distributing food in the dead of the night yet no one knew them.

“I went to Binga Centre and asked if they knew who was distributing and everybody didn’t know. That raises suspicion. As we move forward, let’s just be transparent and let each of us know who is doing what. This programme should be able to work from the government to cooperating partners,” said Moyo .

Moyo added that this directive was part of the Food Deficit Mitigation Strategy set by the Cabinet for the 2022/2023 lean season, where the government has said it would provide relief for all the 3, 8 million people in Zimbabwe projected to be food insecure during this period.

Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Bulawayo spokesperson, Swithern Chiroodza, however, questioned the timing of the directive.

“It is on record that some traditional leaders have openly showed their allegiance to Zanu PF,” Chiroodza charged.

“This new directive is a ploy by Zanu PF to use the traditional leaders to deny opposition supporters food aid. Food aid should be distributed by village and ward committees involving all stakeholders.”