By Brenna Matendere
VILLAGE heads and some unscrupulous politicians linked to the ruling Zanu PF party in the Midlands are allegedly looting food aid meant for starving villagers and channelling it to the black market.
Silobela has been identified as one of the constituencies where the abuse of government handouts is rife.
The food aid includes 50kg bags of rice donated by China and is being distributed by the social welfare department.
Investigations by Sunday Southern Eye revealed that village heads and Zanu PF officials in Silobela were forcing desperate villagers to part with varying amounts of money in order to access the food aid.
At Jekiseni shopping centre in ward 23, villagers said maize meant for the poor is being sold by known people who get it from officials in charge of food aid distribution in the area.
“It is a sad situation here. Orphans, widows, under-privileged members of the society are not benefiting from the government food aid scheme,” said a villager who requested to remain anonymous.
“The food aid is being abused and we see trucks getting into homesteads of a few people who are currently stocking the rice and maize in their backyards yet people are suffering.”
An aide for the local councillor allegedly charges each homestead $45, which is ostensibly to pay for transport to move grain from a District Development Fund depot near Loreto Mission.
The villagers said most of the intended beneficiaries, mainly the elderly, were unable to pay and they were subsequently denied food aid.
Corrupt officials allegedly sell the uncollected grain at the Crossroads business centre.
Similar cases have been reported in Khoza, Bharange and Matimba villages.
Silobela MP Mthokosizi Manoki Mpofu said he was not aware of the alleged abuse of food aid, come to the ground. I cannot comment further,” he said.
When he was told about specific cases involving village heads, Mpofu said he would investigate the matter.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) said corruption in the distribution of food aid was rife in the Midlands and urged the authorities to intervene.
“ACT-SA is calling upon the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the commissioner-general of police and their teams to urgently intervene and arrest the culprits,” said Obert Chinhamo, the ACT-SA director.
“In addition, the government should ensure that the food aid distribution exercise is not politicised.
“Politicians who are part of the distribution chain should be removed and replaced by non-political officials.
“At Marivale in Kwekwe, it is alleged that the members of the social welfare committee repack the maize bags during the night and reduce the contents which they allegedly divert to the black market.
“Again, the committee demands money for transport which is never accounted for with all those failing to pay being deprived.
“Under ward 30 in Kwekwe, it is alleged that there are known selling points for stolen maize.
“In Zhombe at St Andrews, ACT-SA alerted the department of Social Welfare in Kwekwe which did not take any action.”
Civil society organisations and the opposition have in the past accused Zanu PF of using food aid as bait for votes during elections.