THE ruling Zanu PF has entered into a secret arrangement with the Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) over a corrupt food-for-votes deal that will be rolled out ahead of the crucial 2018 general elections, it has surfaced.
By Elias Mambo
This comes after GMAZ, through its chairman and Zanu PF loyalist Tafadzwa Musarara, secured a US$20 million grain matching facility with the Department for International Development, an arm of the United Kingdom government which administers aid, sources said.
As the Zanu PF government manoeuvres to use food to secure votes during the next elections, the United Nations yesterday warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe if US$140 million is not made available urgently to buy relief food for millions of hunger-stricken Zimbabweans who have nothing to eat in this “peak hunger period of the lean season”.
Donors have raised only US$212 million of the US$352 million aid requirement spelt out in the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan, the UN resident co-ordinator Bishow Parajuli said. Aid agencies have so far managed to feed only 1,7 million out of 5,2 million people facing starvation.
Zimbabwe has been facing severe food shortages since its violent and chaotic land reform programme which started in 2000, destroying agriculture and leaving the country facing serious food insecurity.
Zanu PF has over the years been using humanitarian aid to grab votes. Only recently, relief agencies working with government in developmental programmes, including food assistance, threatened to suspend funding if there is lack of transparency in the distribution of aid to vulnerable groups.
Politically-motivated conditionalities on humanitarian aid have pushed charity interventions to serve partisan politics with little or no regard for the consequences.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that Crown Agents — an international development company that partners with governments, aid agencies, non-governmental organisations and companies — is handling the facility.
Crown Agents is in nearly 100 countries around the world.
“We work to minimise this impact and to enable stakeholders, at regional, national or local level to build institutional capacity to enable ongoing stability and financial autonomy,” it says on its website. “Crown Agents can call upon a long history of partnering with donors and governments to provide swift humanitarian assistance when disaster strikes and to reduce the risk and build resilience to withstand future shocks.”
The sources said the GMAZ’s US$20 million facility is expected to be rolled out before the end of December this year. The millers’ association is supposed to import maize from Brazil, Mexico, Ukraine and Tanzania which will later be distributed to Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces.
Zanu PF will then get maize and mealie-meal for distribution to the poor on condition that they vote for the party, those involved in the deal indicated.
The deal comes at a time Mugabe is under intense pressure from the discontended electorate for failing to deliver on his 2013 promises, including the main one to create 2,2 million jobs.
Growing social unrest against a backdrop of economic implosion has piled pressure on Mugabe, who is likely to face a coalition involving his former vice-president Joice Mujuru and long-time bitter rival Morgan Tsvangirai in the next polls.
In a bid to shore up his prospects in the elections, Mugabe and his party are already manoeuvring to use the usual dirty tricks to win by fair means or foul, the sources said.
Musarara, believed to be close to the donor community and has been protecting some of the few remaining white farmers in the country, will play a crucial role to make sure Mugabe wins the polls by doling out food, it was further said.
Sources said Mugabe has given a nod to the GMAZ deal and for Musarara to source maize from Brazil, Mexico and Ukraine after Zambia barred grain exports due to its own food vulnerabilities.
Zimbabwe has been hard hit by a severe El Niño-induced drought, leaving about five million people in desperate need of food aid.
Sources said GMAZ has already acquired 99 wagons and some locomotives which will be used to transport the maize to various provinces across the country.
Information gleaned from the sources showed that the Forbes Border Post in Mutare will be used to facilitate the entry of maize via the Beira port from Mexico, Brazil and Ukraine. Maize from Tanzania and a few individual sellers in Zambia will come in through Chirundu Border Post.
Sources close to GMAZ also said the association is strongly backing the government’s ongoing command agriculture programme and will buy close to 800 000 tonnes of maize from command farmers countrywide.
“GMAZ is now strongly behind Mugabe’s 2018 bid and will do everything to ensure the ageing leader wins the elections,” one source said. “The food-for-votes deal, together with manipulation of the system, will be central to his election strategy in 2018.”-ZimInd