By Tatenda Dewa | Harare Bureau |
The US government, through its Harare embassy, has applauded a new study by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) into politicised food aid and farming inputs distribution.
The commission on Wednesday launched its report and nailed Zanu PF and top government officials over the partisan distribution of the handouts, accusing them of excluding perceived critics of the ruling party.
Over the decades, President Robert Mugabe’s government has been accused of using food aid to starve political opponents and buy votes, but the 92-year-old leader recently denied manipulation during a public function.
“The US government and our partners welcome the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission’s investigations into the distribution of food assistance along political party lines.
“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 U.S. food assistance goes only to those most in need,” said the embassy in a statement.
It added that it would be watching closely to see if assistance offered through USAID was ‘not subject to any form of political manipulation”.
Needy villagers and humanitarian organisations have in the past complained that Zanu PF officials and youths diverted donated foodstuffs and claimed that the handouts were coming from their party.
The US, which has contributed some $117 million towards drought relief and response in the wake of the El Nino phenomenon that drastically reduced the 2015-2016 farm yields, said its food handouts were clearly marked with the country’s flag and USAID logo.
“USAID and our partners have robust measures in place to carefully and thoroughly monitor food distribution. This includes 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.
“Most importantly, these measures allow community members to report grievances or complaints in a direct or anonymous manner. There is a suggestion box and a help desk at all food distribution points, as well as a toll-free hotline.
“USAID takes our responsibility to assist those most in need, regardless of political affiliation or geographic location, very seriously, and will continue to actively investigate any and all reports of possible political manipulation of U.S. government food assistance,” added the embassy. Nehanda Radio