Alfred Chivese is a known MDC-T supporter in Ward 5, Chimanimani East who, over the years, openly participates in activities of his party.
By Moses Mugugunyeki
His actions have now come to haunt him as his family is being left out from all government programmes, including food hand outs and farm input schemes.
Traditional leaders and Zanu PF officials who preside over these programmes have reportedly blacklisted him, describing him and others like him as black sheep. They demand that Chivese and his colleagues should come forward and surrender their party regalia and renounce their MDC-T’s party membership.
“Local traditional leaders, Zanu PF and government officials are distributing food and farm implements along partisan lines,” Chivese said. “We have been told to re-join Zanu PF or else we will die of hunger.”
“They keep records of all people suspected to be anti-Zanu PF and several people who used to support the opposition have been forced to renounce their MDC-T membership and declare allegiance to Zanu PF. That is the only way one can benefit from government programmes,” he said.
Thousands of people in Zimbabwe are facing severe food shortages due to drought, coupled with recent mass job losses that have resulted in thousands of people unable to sustain themselves.
Chivese said besides the partisan distribution of food aid, most of the food and farm implements did not reach the intended beneficiaries because they were looted by politicians who later sold them on the black market.
Investigations by The Standard established that traditional leaders were working in cahoots with Zanu PF councillors in identifying perceived opposition party supporters and excluding them from receiving food hand-outs.
“Zanu PF officials and traditional leaders are asking people to produce Zanu PF membership cards before they receive food aid or agricultural inputs. Some people like us who are known to be MDC T supporters are forced to wear Zanu PF T-Shirts and chant Zanu PF slogans at community gatherings if we wish to benefit,” said Chivese.
Recently, First Lady Grace Mugabe donated food items including maize, rice and cooking oil in Chimanimani but the food items were reportedly used to buy voters in the recent Zanu PF party restructuring exercise.
The Standard also established that some child-headed families, disabled people and the elderly in Ward 20 were denied food hand-outs distributed last month.
“We were told to register with the local councillor for food hand-outs and we did that only to be told a few days later that we did not qualify for the food,” said an elderly man who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Councillor for Ward 20, Itai Chimhete confirmed these developments which happened last month, saying he tried to raise the issue with relevant authorities but nothing was done to correct the situation.
“Social welfare people came to my ward saying we should compile a list of disadvantaged people so that we get an allocation of 191 bags of maize. After compiling the list we asked the prospective beneficiaries to contribute $2 each for transport to ferry the maize from Chimanimani town,” Chimhete said.
“However, on the day of collection, I was told by the GMB manager that my allocation had been given to another ward because some Zanu PF provincial members wanted to use the maize for their party programmes,” Chimhete said.
“They said I could not get the maize and all my efforts to have my ward treated fairly were in vain. I suspect that we were denied our allocation because I am an MDC-T councillor. Maybe they thought I had put MDC-T people on that list. They are just taking advantage of the situation because they know they can get away with it.”
He added: I went to the DA’s office to seek redress but unfortunately, there is really nothing coming from there. We were just discriminated on political grounds.”
Chimhete said he now had to refund people who had paid money for transport even though the money had already been paid to hire lorries that went to Chimanimani town and returned with nothing.
Chivese said most of the food items and farm inputs that were supposed to benefit hungry villagers were finding their way to the black market.
“People are dying while the food items that were meant for them are sold on the black market,” Chivese said.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said his party had received numerous reports of partisan food distribution from many parts of the country, Chimanimani included.
“It is true that our people in Chimanimani are denied food and farm inputs under government programmes. We have received such reports from Chimanimani, but it seems it’s a national problem,” Gutu said.
“Denying people food is a crime against humanity and as MDC-T, we are registering our displeasure with the government. We know we are facing a drought so why do you deny someone food?”
Gutu said his office had received similar reports from Chiweshe in Mashonaland Central, Matobo in Matabeleland South, Mashonaland West and Bikita in Masvingo.
Manicaland Provincial Administrator, Fungai Mbetsa could not be reached for comment, but sources at the Department of Social Welfare and Local Government ministry in the province said it was a directive from senior government officials that those belonging to MDC-T should be fed by their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.