By Ray Bande
Branded maize-meal from donor agencies meant for under-privileged members of the community is being sold at the prevailing retail price by unscrupulous shop owners across the province, The Manica Post has established.
Though USAID neither confirmed nor denied the sale of donated maize-meal, the organisation has since launched full-scale investigations into the matter after this publication sent questions on the matter.
“We will give a comprehensive comment after thorough investigations into the issue are concluded,” said Ms Dorothy Hove, the USAID Zimbabwe Development Outreach and Communication Specialist.
With visible donor agencies’ names and logos, the maize-meal is being displayed on shop shelves in Marange, Chimanimani, Buhera, Nyanga and Chipinge in broad daylight. In Chingome Village in Marange, a 10kg bag of maize-meal is going for US$5 at a shop inscribed ‘Bie’ that is said to be owned by one Mr Brian Kaisa.
When The Manica Post visited the area early this week, a female shopkeeper at the shop said she did not know the source of the maize-meal.
“My job is to sell the product and it costs US$5. That is all I can tell you and if you want to buy you can go ahead,” she said curtly and declined to be named.
Efforts to get a comment from Mr Kaisa
were fruitless as he was not at his shop, while his mobile phone was unreachable.
However, investigations by this publication revealed that unscrupulous shop owners are securing the commodity from corrupt elements within the conveyance chain.
Sources revealed that the well knit syndicate includes some corrupt Government officials and politicians.
A shop owner in Mashukashuka Village, Mr Luston Mutsaru, confirmed that he buys the commodity from “passersby who ferry the maize-meal in a minibus”.
“We have bought that maize-meal on a number of occasions. They sell it at US$3.70. We then sell it at US$4.50 per 10kg bag. I have never bothered to ask our suppliers about their identity because l am only concerned in conducting business.
“They actually tried calling me last nigh t(Wednesday), but I missed the call as I was asleep. I think they wanted to bring another consignment. They usually drop the maize-meal and come back to collect the money later,” said Mr Mutsaru.
Mr Joseph Dzvairo, a Mashukashuka villager, said the diversion of food aid from the less privileged to shop shelves has been going on for quite some time.
“We wonder why these people are so heartless,” said Mr Dzvairo.
Ms Abigail Sithole of Chingome Village in Marange said they are buying the donated maize-meal for US$5.
“That is the same price for other brands of maize-meal. We have seen various trucks delivering the commodity to the shops. Some of the vehicles are owned by known politicians,” she said.
Manicaland Province Development Coordinator, who also heads the provincial Civil Protection Unit, Mr Edgars Seenza, said he was not aware of the development.
“This is actually news to me. I have not received any report to that effect. I will assemble a team to investigate the matter and l will duly avail the details after getting on the ground,” said Mr Seenza.
Donor agencies have scaled up their intervention programmes in Zimbabwe following persistent droughts that have left some communities food insecure.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a drought, aggravated by Cyclone ldai which hit parts of Manicaland and Masvingo provinces. The drought caused massive national crop failure, while the freak cyclone washed away remaining crops and livelihoods in the affected districts.
According to United Nations report, Zimbabwe’s food insecure population is expected to peak at just over 5 million, with 700 000 of them in Manicaland. ManicaPost.