Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Commission has accused the ruling party of withholding food aid from opposition supporters amid mass starvation triggered by the country’s worst drought in years.
The commission said its investigation, conducted between May and August this year, confirmed that some opposition supporters in five constituencies could not access the government’s food aid program.
“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,” the commission’s chairman, Elasto Mugwadi, told journalists in a press conference.
Some 2 million Zimbabweans annually require food aid due to poor harvests in the mainly dry regions. But the El Nino weather patterns beginning last year resulted in a severe drought across southern Africa. Nearly 5 million people in Zimbabwe now require food assistance.
Mugwadi said some community leaders and councilors belonging to President Robert Mugabe’s political party openly told opposition supporters in some districts they would never receive food aid. In some other areas, the leaders excluded people perceived as opposition supporters from food-for-work programs. The commission said the leaders manipulated some community members who were unaware of the food distribution criteria.
“This is uncalled for,” resident Abiot Moyo told The Zimbabwean. “We are a community in danger of starving and should not be faced with the politicization of food distribution.”
Mugabe has denied the claims. Earlier this year when the charges first surfaced, Mugabe said, “We might differ on policies but when we talk of food, all of us should be served.”
The accusation violates the United Nations Principles on Fundamental Human Rights, which guarantee freedom from hunger. The commission called on officials to remain unbiased in their service and asked the country’s authorities to investigate and prosecute all those guilty of human rights violations.
“The government must ensure that public officials act in their official capacity and desist from using political affiliation as yardsticks in any food aid,” the commission said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Onize Ohikere writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com. Used with permission.)