Chimanimani (Mlondolozi Ndlovu) – A Chimanimani village head and a Zanu PF ward leader are said to have demanded back bags of maize donated as food aid to six villagers who were non party supporters.
The incident has invited strong condemnation from the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), a local rights based group which documents incidences of politically motivated violations countrywide.
According to ZPP, one Masasi, a village head in Chimanimani West and a Zanu PF Ward chairman, Washington Dirikwe, ordered six villagers from the area to return bags of maize that they had received as part of a food aid scheme.
This comes after the Department of Social Welfare had on Tuesday distributed 600 bags of 50kg maize at Arex offices in Nyanyadzi.
“During the distribution of food aid,” ZPP said in a statement, “the traditional leaders announced to villagers that food aid was only to benefit Zanu PF card-carrying members and supporters.
“Of the six victims, two were polling agents for Admore Mtetwa.”
Mtetwa is a losing independent candidate in a November 26, Chimanimani West by-election which was won by Zanu PF’s Nokuthula Matsikenyeri.
It is not the first time Zanu PF linked individuals have been accused of abusing food aid either as punishment for non-party supporters or as bait for party support.
Prior to the by-election, village heads in the Manicaland constituency were accused of using food aid to lure hungry villagers into voting for the Zanu PF candidate.
Party provincial youth chair, Mubuso Chinguno, was accused of intimidating villagers and insisting that some of them should be assisted to vote.
Assisting capable citizens to vote is said to be a new Zanu PF tactic aimed at ensuring that known opposition supporters do not cast their votes against President Robert Mugabe’s party.
ZPP condemned the alleged political violations in Chimanimani.
“Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) castigates the behaviour of Chimanimani West traditional leaders that continue to violate the rights of villagers as punishment almost two weeks after a by-election that was riddled with vote buying,” said the Jestina Mukoko led group.
The group added: “ZPP calls on local leaders to diligently and fairly execute their duties. Subject to the Traditional Leaders Act, village heads in discharging their functions should not be influenced by political affiliation and they should at all times uphold laws of Zimbabwe.
“In addition, Section 281 of the Constitution notes that traditional leaders must not act in a partisan manner. In this regard the village heads and other local leaders should respect people’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to food and political choice.”
In past interviews with the media, the Zanu PF led government and party spokespersons have denied abusing food aid to settle political scores.