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Welfarism turned into Political Cannibalism: The plight of the poor in Zimbabwe

By David Siampondo

Political vultures have wreaked havoc in the streets, townships and rural places of Zimbabwe, feeding on the indigent by usurping their political consciousness and free will. Threats by politicians of having their opponents for lunch through weaponisation of food aid is on the increase and appears to be condoned by high offices if not a direct instruction from them.

David Siampondo is a social scientist
David Siampondo is a social scientist

This uncouth practice is placing democracy on peril in most African countries where the masses are deliberately impoverished so as to control them via food hand-outs and ultimately take away their political agency.

Akin to scorched earth policy despotic regimes have resorted to destroying sources of livelihood and survival in communities so as to disempower people economically and politically. The purpose of this article is to highlight how and why the Zimbabwean Government have deliberately vitiated and disempowered the functions of Social Welfare Department.

Welfarism in some quarters is taken to be the acme of human and societal progress. Generally, Welfarism is defined as services and interventions by volunteers, non-governmental entities, and government agencies, among others aimed at providing help to vulnerable and needy persons unable to care for themselves.

The services and activities serve to promote or enhance well-being and reduce or eliminate incidence of social challenges among individuals, families or communities. Welfarism in Zimbabwe can be traced from the pre-colonial rudimentary state formation period to the “post-industrial phase”.

Marxist historical Anthropologists propounds that Welfarism at this epoch was informal and embedded in the norms and values of the society, the society which was predominantly egalitarian or classless.

The advent of colonialism ushered in a new way of life and relationship which basically was characterised by political conquest and subjugation, wealth acquisition and individualism.

In order to politically dominate the black majority colonialists resorted to usurping resources and tempering with livelihoods such driving natives out of their fertile lands, outlawing cultural practices and imposition of draconian laws and taxes. This plunged many natives into abject poverty and powerlessness hence they were easy to dominate.

The post-independence government tried to revive the old practices but failed due to a combination of material greediness and clamour for political power. Previously the Social Welfare department used to function and proved to be a viable option or bridge from vulnerabilities to desirable well-being. Welfare programs interfaced and continue to interface much with the poor who are the majority in most communities.

As political fortunes for the ruling party members were declining politicians wanted to revive and endear themselves with the masses and hence ended up by-passing the designated social welfare establishments. The need to access the poor and control their vote became the preoccupation of the politician. This explains the reason why the offices at Compensation House in Harare have been rendered defunct and useless.

Politicians have since abandoned the appropriate channel of forwarding aid or donations to relevant ministries or departments [Social Welfare], Voluntary Organisations, Charitable entities and other stakeholders charged with handling aid for those in need.

Politicians are opting to drive down the streets, townships and rural areas to hand over assistance themselves so as to maintain visibility and keep the grassroots politically prepared for any election that may come. In so doing those who do not belong are left out to dry or they publicly confess and recant their political beliefs for them to get food.

Perusing through the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Report one will be confronted by heinous acts of political cannibalism of starving opponents into submission. Cases as highlighted in Bikita East at Dewure Resettlement Scheme where MDC supporters were denied food aid which was meant for everyone who was food insecure.

The food was supposed to be distributed by the Department of Social Welfare but was hijacked by ZANU PF officials. Buhera North is also among the recorded cases where government food aid was denied to people who supported the opposition party.

In all these scenarios the Department of Social Welfare was pushed aside to pave way for political statement and a message to be sent through. The message that, if you do not support the ruling party you will starve to death.

A message that sought to remind people who the leader was, bear in mind that Emmerson Mnangagwa carries a huge legitimacy crisis for the majority is convinced that he lost the 2018 Presidential Election to Nelson Chamisa who polled 2.6 million votes although ZEC points otherwise yet they fail to provide the nation with the actual figures which they claim Mnangagwa won with.

This political illegitimacy demands that Emmerson Mnangagwa be presented to the nation as the President via other means which entail forcing him unto the people via weaponisation of food aid.

The biggest and ravenous political vulture who have taken advantage of the prevailing ill condition to feast on the political carcasses of the starving is Auxilia Mnangagwa. The wife to Emmerson Mnangagwa who Zimbabweans are roundly rejecting as President has literally replaced the Social Welfare Department and operates parallel structures through her phony organisation dubbed Angel of Hope.

The Angel of Hope is being used to siphon state resources and use them for a partisan cause. Her actions erupts a de javu in most Zimbabweans as they have seen the exact actions of hers in Grace Mugabe the wife of the former and late President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe who was deposed by a military coup in November 2017. She has taken advantage to embark on a 2023 election campaign by visiting rural areas and old township/locations where she will be distributing food aid to Zanu PF supporters and threaten those who support the opposition with starvation.

Auxilia Mnangagwa effectively rendered the Department of Social Welfare dysfunctional as she grabs resources which are meant for government departments to distribute and distributes on her own.

Auxilia Mnangagwa’s kleptomaniac behaviour is not only directed to resources generated or controlled by the government but even aid coming from embassies for instance the so called “Zimbabwe’s all weather friends” in this case China.

We have witnessed how Covid 19 assistance that came from China was said to have been donated to an organisation yet the nation has a fully constituted department of social welfare. If those who claim to be leaders of the nation/government do not respect appropriate departments and protocol then who do they think will respect the protocol.

Further to the above, the decision to use Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises to handle COVID 19 Cash Transfer safety net stinks to high heaven. The Ministry is not in any measure capacitated to handle at a large scale vulnerability assessments and to carry out appropriate beneficiary selection.

The department of social welfare possesses a compliment of social workers who besides their skills have in their inventory details and information regarding vulnerable sections.

The department of social welfare already have a running database and a platform they currently use to pay cash transfers to those in need. Completely ignoring in this exercise the Department of Social Welfare which is well positioned to carry out the task points only to one thing.

The Government is lying for political expediency about the COVID 19 Cash disbursements. There is nothing to show just as there is nothing disbursed for Urban Drought Relief Program even though it was launched years ago.

Next article will dwell on why the Government of Zimbabwe will never receive direct humanitarian aid.