Zimbabwe: Christian food programme highjacked

 Zimbabwean government soldiers have highjacked a Christian food distribution programme, the Zimbabwe Daily News reported yesterday. The paper says that supporters of the opposition (MDC) in Kapembere ward in Muzarabani have accused local Zanu PF leaders of sidelining them in the food distribution programme for allegedly "belonging to the opposition which denigrates the government". Takawira Mubayiwa, security chief for the MDC in the ward, said Zanu PF had hijacked the feeding programme initiated by Christian Care, a non-governmental organisation. He said the charity distributed food to all deserving cases without discrimination until the ruling party hijacked the programme. "Robert Mugabe claims all people, including MDC members, are receiving food without being discriminated against," Mubayiwa said, "but in our area, several MDC supporters have been left out and their names deleted from lists of food aid recipients." Mubayiwa said Zanu PF supporters in the constituency had listed names of known and suspected MDC supporters. The lists were now being used in the food aid exercise to starve hundreds of villagers. He accused Jefta Musariri, a war veteran leader in the area, of leading the crackdown on all suspected MDC supporters. The security chief said the Christian Care head office was aware of the situation but could not do anything about it. An official at Christian Care in Harare denied the allegations by the MDC supporters, saying their programme was transparent and non-political. The official, who refused to be identified, said they had a beneficiary selection criteria where church representatives in the area, the traditional leadership, the district administrator and councillors were involved in identifying the needy. He said: "We give out food, starting with the most vulnerable people. Officials from our donors, the World Food Programme, come and verify all lists of beneficiaries." In Muzarabani, the official said, about 3 500 people received 13.8kg of maize-meal per household every month. The feeding programme in Muzarabani started in April but the identification of needy villagers began in March. The Christian Care official said the villagers, in the presence of representatives of all major stakeholders, identified people who desperately needed food assistance and without any source of income. MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai has repeatedly accused the government and Zanu PF of politicising the food aid programme, starving thousands of his party's supporters. Nathan Shamuyarira, the Zanu PF secretary for information and publicity, yesterday denied the allegations by the MDC. Shamuyarira said: "There is no truth in those allegations. There are no villagers or villages that are being sidelined in food distribution. "You know very well that we are distributing food to all Zimbabweans, irrespective of their political affiliation."

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