November 28, 2002

Sharp division over politicising food aid

A sharp division emerged in Parliament following a motion by the MDC shadow minister for agriculture, Renson Gasela, in which he accused ruling party Zanu PF of politicising food aid. Gasela alleged that Zanu PF had structures that were being used to distribute food as part of "keeping a leash on the people of Zimbabwe". In his motion, Gasela cited several areas in the country where the Zanu PF card was necessary for anyone in need of food. He drew jeers from Zanu PF MPs when he said Sithabisiwe Moyo of Binga had died of starvation as the ruling party meted revenge for being rejected by the people of that area. Zanu PF MPs shouted that he was lying to the House.

Gasela said "Binga is the worst affected by the politicisation of food aid. It all started when the Tonga people exercised their democratic right and elected leaders of their choice. They are being punished for it and now the government wants the Tonga people to die." He said one MDC supporter had been summoned by Chief Chiwundura and found guilty of supporting the MDC. "He will be sentenced tomorrow (today)", he said. Seconding the motion, Paurina Mpariwa (Mufakose), said the right to food was a constitutional right and no-one had a right to politicise food aid. "The Zanu PF card must not be a ticket to salvation," she said.

Earlier, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Dr Joseph Made, had said food aid must not be politicised. Jorum Gumbo, the Zanu PF chief whip and MP for Mberengwa West, accused the MDC and some non-governmental organisations of using food aid to woo support for the opposition party. Paul Themba Nyathi (Gwanda North) said Zanu PF was taking advantage of the scarcity of food for political mileage. "Food has become the real currency but traditionally, food was an instrument for bringing people together, not to divide them," he said. He called for a committee, comprising representatives of the MDC and Zanu PF, the church and other organisations to be responsible for food distribution in every ward. (The Daily News, Harare)

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