Felex Share Senior Reporter—
Government yesterday engaged more than 15 non-governmental organisations involved in food distribution programmes to work out modalities that ensure transparency and accountability for the benefit of needy people. The meeting, convened by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, follows complaints by some NGOs that grain under the Government Food Deficit Mitigation Programme was being distributed on partisan lines.
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Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira said the meeting was meant to gather information with a view to improve Government systems. “The systems are not cast in concrete, everything is dynamic,” she said. “It is a matter of listening to what has been said and see if there is need to change or incorporate something. Let us try our best to manage bad practices.”
She said in line with President Mugabe’s principle, food aid would never be distributed on partisan basis. “Government is for everyone, no matter what political party you belong to,” Minister Mupfumira said. “Government has to look after everyone. We can have our political fights but when it comes to issues of food, education and health, it is Government’s responsibility.”
Minister Mupfumira said allegations which had been peddled by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission that in some areas food aid was being given to Zanu-PF members only were false.
“I met the Commission chairperson (Mr Elasto Mugwadi) and I pleaded with him that in future when we have such incidents, let’s investigate together. The Commission should not come to me with a report, which they have investigated. Let’s investigate together. Government has a policy and it might only be a case of an individual with a personal agenda. As I speak, we have a team that has gone to Mazowe with the Commission to investigate those grievances. It is only after that, that we will find ways of disciplining offenders should there be any.”
She said since the declaration of the State of Disaster by the President, Government was supporting nearly 700 000 food-insecure households. “The Food Deficit Mitigation Programme is a strategy that was adopted by Cabinet as part of the larger drought relief management programme to assist vulnerable households that include older persons, persons with disabilities, the chronically ill and orphaned children with food handouts to mitigate the impact of drought,” Minister Mupfumira said.
“Each year, a crop and livestock assessment is carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development followed by rural livelihoods assessments. It is the reports of these assessments that form the basis of determining which areas are food insecure by percentage of population in order that the programme targets and registers beneficiaries from those areas.”