23 March 2002

Thousands of MDC supporters denied maize in rural areas

Thousands of MDC supporters nationwide are starving after Zanu PF supporters hijacked the exercise to distribute maize from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to the rural areas. The Zanu PF supporters have diverted truckloads of maize from the parastatal to their bases or the homesteads of chiefs and village headmen, who are perceived to be Zanu PF supporters, to bar MDC supporters from buying the grain. Suspected war veterans and Zanu PF supporters have forced at least 5 000 MDC supporters to flee from Mberengwa East and Seke constituencies alone. There has been a persistent shortage of basic commodities such as maize-meal, cooking oil and sugar in Zimbabwe for months now. The government has directed that all maize stocks be procured by the GMB. This year’s maize crop is poor owing to violent farm invasions, a subsequent chaotic land reform programme, as well as inadequate rains.

Sifelani Dube, the MDC’s youth vice-chairman for Mberengwa East, said a former MP, Ben Mataga, a war veteran, Lot Chiverewa, and a Zanu PF activist and schoolteacher, Elly Shiri, ordered GMB workers to divert truckloads of maize from Mataga GMB depot to the chiefs’ homesteads on Wednesday last week. Efforts to contact Nathan Shamuyarira, Zanu PF’s secretary for information, and Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of State for Information and Publicity, were unsuccessful last night. Mataga, Chiverewa and Shiri reportedly ordered that villagers intending to buy maize should apply to their headmen for vetting, before they can purchase maize. The maize is being sold for $1 300 for a 50kg bag. Dube said: "The MDC supporters are being denied maize. They were told to leave the constituency and go to the United Kingdom following President Mugabe’s victory. They are now scattered everywhere."

Tandi Mlilo, an MDC supporter, said about 5 000 opposition party members had fled to Zvishavane. Several others had joined their relatives in other parts of the country, he said. He said the MDC had a membership of about 18 000 in Mberengwa East. In Seke constituency, about 70 MDC supporters, including the elderly, went to their MP’s house and an equal number went to the MDC’s offices at Makoni shopping centre for assistance, after they were denied maize supplies. Bennie Tumbare-Mutasa, the MP, confirmed the incident, saying: "Lots of supporters are coming on foot to my house saying they were denied maize. They said the maize is being sold at war veterans’ bases." Villagers were entitled to buy a 20kg bag of maize, acquired from Aspindale depot in Harare, for $375.

Wellington Murisa, the MDC administrator for Chitungwiza province, said: "They are even barring whole villages from buying maize. Even those with a relative who supported the MDC were denied food." He said Ananias Gombe, Zanu PF’s vice-chairman for Manyame district, on Friday told Lewis Murisa, the headman for Murisa village, which has up to 70 households, that his whole village would not have any maize because they supported the MDC. The maize was being distributed at Jonasi Clinic, which was occupied last month by about 50 Zanu PF supporters, mostly youths, some as young as 14. An MDC supporter, who declined to be named, said ideally the maize should have been distributed at Ziko or Musasa centres. He said Gombe, Eva Rumano, the ruling party’s co-ordinator for the district, and Kurai Chiota, commander of the base at the clinic, initially demanded that only people with Zanu PF membership cards would get maize, until GMB workers protested. (ZWNews / Daily News)


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