The Thokozani Khupe led MDC-T has castigated the ruling party, Zanu PF, and mainstream opposition party MDC Alliance, for politicising food aid in the Cyclone ravaged Chimanimani.
This comes after reports that some politicians were politicising the distribution of aid to victims of Cyclone Idai.
However, MDC-T national chairman Abednico Bhebhe said contrary to the widely held view that donated goods were being distributed on partisan lines, aid agencies on the ground were distributing food to all the affected villagers regardless of political affiliation.
The challenge, he said, arose in cases where the aforementioned parties brought in their own aid and would only target their own party members.
Bhebhe was part of a delegation of political party leaders who recently visited some of the affected areas at the invitation of President Mnangagwa.
“The media insinuated in its publications that donated food was being politicised and I was of that belief so my whole aim of going to Manicaland was to confirm and expose that but when I arrived there I was shocked.
“First and foremost the situation right there in Manicaland is very dire and I went to the worst affected place called Copa in Chipinge,” he told journalists in Bulawayo.
When the touring team arrived in Copa, they found people receiving food.
“There were NGOs such as Plan International and others that were distributing food. The army was there too. Actually, the army has assisted a lot and was the one who started opening up roads before companies came contributed machinery. The army controls the queues when the food comes,” he said.
The former Nkayi South legislator added he also had an opportunity to interview some locals who confirmed they did receive food.
“We had agreed from the briefing at the dialogue meeting that we were not going to be sanctioned by POSA or any law, as we must be allowed to interact with anyone we want to. Fortunately, it was agreed unanimously that we can talk to anyone. I had the opportunity of interviewing locals and have these on video.
“I interviewed one of the chief’s aides, one old man whose village is up to the mountain and what fascinated me was how went around the mountain, round a hill to reach home but his field was also swept away. I interviewed a teacher from a secondary school, which was the only building with a clinic that was spared as all other buildings were wiped away by rains. I also interviewed s two school children separately without the interference of anyone,” he said.
From the interviews and own insight, Bhebhe claimed that politicisation of food was unmanageable under the watchful eye of the donor agencies.
“Unless that politicisation is happening somewhere else but where I went to, I proved that it’s not true. You cannot politicise that food because it is stored in a warehouse in Mutare and World Food Programme (WFP) pitched tents there while staffers are the one who actually man the warehouse. Civil servants and the army also guard that warehouse,” he said.
“The food is then sent to distribution points and Copa is a distribution point. Before, a helicopter used to drop the food but now a dust road has been opened. The dust road still doesn’t reach other areas divided by a flooded river so a footbridge was constructed for those who stay on the other side. When the truck leaves Mutare, it is guarded by the army until it reaches the distribution points. If every distribution point is like that it is impossible to politicise food, as it is not Zanu PF or government which does the distribution.”
However, the MDC-T chairman said what could be taken as the politicisation of food was how the two main political parties, Zanu PF and MDC Alliance, organised their own food aid -outside what was run by NGOs.
It is this mobilisation of food, which has caused segregation.
“The only challenge is political parties, who come with own cars and choose own people but donated food is given to everyone including those given by their political parties. The two protagonists have no heart, people are mourning but the parties organise own food, go to an area and start calling their own people. What kind of thinking is that? I lost respect for the entire Zanu PF and MDC Alliance because when people are mourning one must not want to prove a point as it is unfair. If it was a normal campaign period I would understand but people are mourning.
“Over 300 people are missing from Copa alone but Zanu and MDC start calling their own people to the side and that is inhuman. I believe the two biggest parties are all evil and if either one of them is in power, you are still going to continue suffering because they have no heart at all,” he lamented.