You are all aware ladies and gentlemen that government rolled out a plausible ongoing food aid programme to alleviate poverty and hunger on the part of the communities affected by the current drought. The implementation of this programme has however, caused some displeasure within certain communities resulting in a flood of complaints to the Commission which has the Constitutional mandate to protect, promote and enforce human rights.
In discharge of its Constitutional mandate the ZHRC is among other responsibilities empowered to carry out the following functions in terms of Section 243 of the Constitution:
a. to promote awareness of and respect for human rights and freedoms at all levels of society;
b. to promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights and freedoms;
c. to monitor, assess and ensure observance of human rights and freedoms;
d. to receive and consider complaints from the public and to take such action in regard to the complaints as it considers appropriate.
It is in light of the aforesaid that the Commission proceeded to investigate complaints of alleged discrimination in the distribution of agricultural inputs and food aid in some constituencies that include Bikita East, Buhera North, Mazoe Central and Muzarabani North and South as well as Zvimba South.
The complaints were submitted and investigations conducted between the periods May to August 2016.
The long and short of the findings or outcomes of the investigations was that there was unbridled maladministration on the part of some public officials who were allegedly performing their duties partially and with bias against persons of particular political affiliations in contravention of the provisions of the Public Service Regulations SI 1/2000 which requires public officials to be apolitical and discharge their duties impartially and objectively.
There were also allegations of criminal violation of human rights by some public officials who were said to be stealing trust property in the form of food aid entrusted to them for distribution as well as Criminal violation of alleged assault perpetrated by some ruling party members on the Buhera North Ward 7 MDC-T councillor.
In all the five districts covered by the investigations, community leaders such as Village Heads, Headmen, Village Secretaries and District Administrators and in the case of Bikita East the Councillors who are all members of the ruling party were alleged to be biased in favour of members of their own party and against members of the opposition whom they told openly that those affiliated to the opposition would never get food aid.
The investigating officers were informed that in both Bikita East and Mazowe Central Constituencies, youths from the ruling party who are not even part of the distribution committees are involved in the distribution of food aid and agricultural inputs. Furthermore, the investigators were informed that in the two districts in question, older persons who are not politically active but have family members such as children and grandchildren who are affiliated to the opposition parties are also being denied food aid.
In both Bikita East and Buhera North Constituencies, persons affiliated to the opposition parties were also being excluded from food for work programmes. From the interviews conducted, it was noted that complainants from Buhera North Constituency were not conversant with the criteria of food aid distribution as stipulated in the National Policy on Drought Management. The lack of this vital knowledge exposes them to manipulation due to lack of transparency and accountability compounded by their ignorance of grievance procedures that may be available to them.
Besides being negatively affected in their food production efforts by the El Nino induced drought, villagers in the Dewure Resettlement Area in Bikita East had their crops and livestock falling prey to and ravaged by wildlife such as elephants, buffaloes and hyenas hibernating in the neighbouring Save Valley Wildlife Conservancy.
The complainants in Mazowe district reported that they were aware of the grievance procedures or appeal processes against the conduct of the ward food distribution committee. However, when they approached the District Administrator for remedy, their complaints could not receive attention at all.
In Muzarabani North and South, in particular Wards 6 and 17, investigators found that food distribution was on partisan basis and that politicians were interfering in the distribution process for their own personal political gain.
Although the Respondents or alleged perpetrators denied the allegations, the Commission on the basis of evidence gathered, came to the conclusion that there was indeed discrimination and exclusion of certain citizens in the distribution of food aid in Bikita East, Mazowe Central, Muzarabani North and South and Buhera North Constituencies. These findings were replicated in the outcomes of similar investigations carried out in Zvimba South District. The ruling party members were the major perpetrators in violations linked to distribution of food, agricultural inputs and other forms of aid.
In some instances, community members are not aware of the food distribution criteria resulting in their exposure to manipulation by those responsible for food distribution. For those who are aware of the grievance procedures, there has been no remedy even though they followed the proper channels. The practice therefore is a violation of UN Principles on fundamental Human Rights to Food which guarantee freedom from hunger and access to safe and nutritious food by way of Availability, Accessibility, Sustainability and Non-Discrimination.
The rights that the ZHRC found to have been violated are Right to equality and non-discrimination (section 56 of the Constitution), Right to sufficient food (section 77(b) of the Constitution) and Right of older persons to receive reasonable care and assistance from their families and the State (section 82 (a) and (c) of the Constitution).
From the aforementioned facts of this report, the ZHRC makes the following recommendations:
- That as already clearly enunciated by His Excellency the President and Head of State and Government, Cde R.G Mugabe, food aid should not be distributed on partisan lines.
- The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare should strengthen its mechanisms for addressing complaints arising out of food aid or agricultural inputs distribution or any other programme that is intended to assist vulnerable households to ensure that there is equity and public confidence in the system.
- The Ministry should also ensure that public officials act in their official capacity and desist from using political affiliations as yardsticks and guarantee impartiality in any food aid or distribution of inputs or any other programme that is meant to assist those in dire need.
- Relevant Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) involved in the food aid distribution should also ensure that it is done in a non-partisan manner.
- The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) should at all times act impartially in investigating criminal violations of human rights, for instance, the assault perpetrated by ZANU-PF members on MDC-T Buhera North Ward 7 councillor should have been criminally investigated without fear or favour and timeously.
- The Parks and Wildlife Authority should erect a durable fence around the Save Valley Wildlife Conservancy so as to curb destruction of crops and killing of livestock by wildlife.
- All political parties with members who are elected into public office (e.g. Members of Parliament and Councillors) should in their public duties strive to accommodate everyone despite political affiliation. In other words a human rights based approach should be adopted in implementing ZIM-ASSET and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 2030).
A complete report is available at http://veritaszim.net/node/2046