Community members from Tsholotsho District have voiced concern over the abuse of some traditional leaders who are being abused by politicians during food aid donations, leaving thousands of villagers facing starvation, a human rights organisation has said.
Zimbabwe is already facing a food crisis with more than four million people expected to be food insecure by year end owing to the severe drought, cyclone Idai and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has seen the government channelling more financial resources to the health sector.
According to the Heal Zimbabwe Trust, some traditional leaders, especially Village Heads are forced to wear regalia belonging to political parties during food aid registration and distribution meetings which creates biases as in most cases, vulnerable groups such as orphans and the disabled are overlooked.
The concerns came out during Virtual District dialogue convened by communities in Tsholotsho recently.
“In some instances Village heads get directives from local political leaders when registering and distributing food aid”,
“Tsholotsho is a semi-arid region hence issues of food insecurity but it is shocking that during food aid registration and distribution, some Village heads wear T-shirts belonging to certain political parties,” Heal Zimbabwe said in a statement.
Zimbabwe is no stranger to partisan distribution of food aid especially during election seasons where, mostly the ruling Zanu-PF, has on several occasion hijacked food aid and diverted it to its supporters.
Other issues that came out during the dialogue include the absence of grassroots local government structures such as Village Development Committees (VIDCOs) and Ward Development Committees (WADCOs).
“These structures are responsible for identifying and coordinating development initiatives at the local level. Participants noted that in some wards and villages these structures were non-existent and this made it difficult for active participation of citizens and dealt a heavy blow to development,” the statement further reads.
As part of resolutions, the dialogue unanimously resolved that there was need to Traditional Leaders on their constitutional roles such as the important role of facilitation of development enshrined in Section 282 (1)(c) of the constitution.
In light of this, Heal Zimbabwe said, the dialogue established committees in all the wards that are going to be responsible for engaging Traditional leaders and making them aware of their constitutional obligations.
These committees will also be responsible for monitoring food registration and distribution meetings and providing periodic reports to the virtual platform that will be used during engagement initiatives.
The dialogue meetings are one among many interventions by Heal Zimbabwe to strengthen capacity of citizens to uphold participation, inclusion, transparency, accountability, and responsiveness principles and mechanisms.