'US guards against food aid politicisation'

HARARE - The United States (US) said it has “robust mechanisms” to ensure that its food aid to Zimbabwe is not subject to any form of political manipulation.

This comes after an investigation by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) found that Zanu PF is the major perpetrator of food aid politicisation in drought-stricken areas.

“As the largest contributor to humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe, the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) has robust mechanisms in place to ensure that US food assistance goes to those in need,” the US embassy said in a statement.

“The US government has rigorous processes for safeguarding food assistance. USAid also channels all food aid through WFP (World Food Programme) and other non-governmental organisations and the food goes directly to the beneficiaries with no intermediary,” it said.

The embassy further said that its government has contributed $117 million in response to the El Nino-induced drought in Zimbabwe.

The US Embassy said the “measures in place to carefully and thoroughly monitor food distribution . . . include verifying transparent targeting of beneficiaries, ensuring smooth distribution of the food and following up after distribution to ensure that the food reached its intended beneficiaries”.

ZHRC investigated food politicisation in Bikita East, Buhera North, Mazowe Central, Muzarabani North and South and Zvimba South.

“The ruling party members were the major perpetrators in violations linked to distribution of food, agricultural inputs and other forms of aid,” ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi told journalists in Harare this week.

He said investigators found out that food distribution was on partisan basis in Muzarabani’s wards 6 and 17, with politicians interfering with the processes.

“The long and short of the findings or outcomes of the investigations was that there was unbridled maladministration on the part of some public officials who were allegedly performing their duties partially and with bias against persons of particular political affiliations in contravention of the provisions of the Public Service Regulations SI1 of 2000 which requires public officials to be apolitical and discharge their duties impartially and objectively,” Mugwadi said.

In Bikita and Buhera, he said, people affiliated to opposition politics were being excluded from food for work programmes while grievances by opposition affiliates with regards to food aid were not attended to in Mazowe.

Mugwadi said in Bikita East and Mazowe Central investigators found out that Zanu PF youths, who were not part of the distribution committees, had bulldozed their way into the disbursement of food aid and agricultural inputs.

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