ZAKA – The Zimbabwe government Grain Loan Scheme appears to be a force to reckon with in the Zaka district, 87 km south east of Masvingo with allegations that Mugabe’s Zanu PF party is abusing it in a desperate attempt to reclaim lost support ahead of elections.
The peasantry communities of Jerera area rely mainly on farming and support from breadwinners who live in towns. The area provides a wretched atmosphere as the sun has scotched their maize fields.
Driving to Jerera, numerous villagers could be seen along the roads awaiting transport to carry their bags of maize from as far as Gutu to combat the hunger hitting the area hard due to erratic rains this year. Dealers in Zaka district are taking advantage of the food situation and a 20 litre bucket of maize costs $9.
In such difficult situations, villagers look up to the government’s grain loan scheme for survival. Realizing the desperation of villagers, some politicians in Jerera are hoping to use the scheme to twist the voting pattern in their favor.
Zanu PF has changed the culture where councilors were at the forefront of distributing government aid to villagers preferring the use of chiefs and herdsmen.
Zanu PF is taking advantage of Chiefs and herdsmen who are not elected but appointed and failure to influence villagers to vote for Zanu PF results in them losing their positions.
Villagers allege that this is meant to ensure that only Zanu PF apologists benefit from the grain loan scheme, scaring and forcing villagers to support Zanu PF in the forthcoming elections.
In Zaka rural district council there are 20 MDC-T councilors and Zanu PF had 13 of which two passed away and Zanu PF seeks to regain community support.
Villagers alleged that some chiefs in Zaka district have intensified their support for Zanu PF as elections draw closer with Chief Rangarirai Nhema approving names of Zanu PFsupporters in the area to benefit from the government food aid scheme.
At times villagers who support other political parties are not informed that names are being sent to GMB and would only see the maize being distributed to Zanu PF supporters.
“It was very clear to other villagers that the programme was meant to benefit Zanu PF members because the names were secretly written.
“We urge GMB to use the old system where councilors would distribute food aid. We know that they would want us to vote for them and they will write names and distribute food aid fairly and openly,” said Imbayarwo an MDC-T councilor.
Imbayarwo added that councilors would be fair to everyone because they would be looking for votes. Hence they seek to please villagers unlike Chiefs and Herdsmen who have nothing to lose if they do not distribute food fairly.
Villagers who spoke to this reporter expressed disappointment in the way the government grain loan scheme is being implemented. They urged the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to revert to the old system where councilors were responsible for distributing food aid.
Flora Nyamunda, a villager said that Zanu PF had intensified its strategies by ensuring that MDC-T supporters do not benefit from the government grain loan scheme. “A few months ago GMB distributed rice and only well known Zanu PF supporters managed to access it,” said Nyamunda
“Zanu PF is using chiefs and herdsmen to control us because they know that these traditional leaders have power and can even chase us away if we disobey them. There are, however, some chiefs and herdsmen who are with us in the struggle and they help us in accessing food aid,” said Nyamunda.
Imbayarwo argued that the strategy used in distributing food aid makes it seem as if only Zanu PF members are poor in the area.
“The scheme is meant to benefit members of society facing food challenges but every time they distribute Zanu PF members benefit as if they have a monopoly of hunger and poverty,” said Imbayarwo. Efforts to get a comment from GMB where fruitless. They did not respond to emails sent to them.