The Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Prisca Mupfumira convened an emergency meeting on food mitigation with humanitarian assistance partners and civil society recently. Addressing stakeholders on 24 October 2016, Minister Mupfumira insinuated that reports by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission confirming partisan food assistance distribution were inaccurate. She lamented why the ZHRC or any other human rights monitoring organisation would do an investigation on complaints about politicisation of food and other assistance without involving her Ministry.
Such a denial by Minister Mupfumira will not address the problem but rather show the lack of political will to address this anomaly. The Minister should act responsibly and bring all accused officials and traditional leaders discriminating beneficiaries on political grounds to book. Heal Zimbabwe, through its Human rights monitoring project spread in all the districts of Zimbabwe, compiles weekly human rights violations that are taking place in communities and partisan food distribution is top of the list. Due to the known El Nino induced drought, many people expect equity and fairness in food assistance. Reports of partisan distribution have been on the increase in recent months. Implicated in the inhuman act are traditional leaders especially those who double as Zanu PF activists and some Zanu PF activists who in some cases are not even ashamed of publicly announcing that the food does not belong to those who are not their “followers”.
The Ministry should take reports by Civil Society actors and the ZHRC as a basis to improve its services, show government commitment to the constitution and demonstrate genuineness in saving lives. Incidences of using government relief aid as a tool to drum up partisan support are not alien in Zimbabwe’s poverty stricken communities despite the sanctity of everyone’s right to food enshrined in Section 77. Section 77 states that every person has the right to – a) safe, clean and portable water; and b) sufficient food; and the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realization of this right. Politicisation of food aid has negative implications on communities and reverses social cohesion efforts by progressive peace actors. This has potential to cause violence especially as the country heads towards the much contested 2018 elections. HZT values integrity, non partisan, transparency, accountability in a niche to promote societies that celebrate diversity through overcoming adversity. Peace Begins with me, peace begins with you, and peace begins with all of us.