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Zimbabwe Cabinet Takes Up Food Aid Politicization Amid Deepening Hunger

Zimbabwe's cabinet was on Tuesday pre-occupied with the unfolding hunger crisis in the country following complaints by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC formation that most needy families were being denied food aid by ZANU-PF activists.

The MDC says the situation in most rural communities is becoming untenable with allegations that President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party activists were politicizing food aid ahead of elections that Mr. Mugabe wants this year.

After intense debate, the cabinet mandated its task force on food security to ensure there is no politicization of food aid on the ground as details emerged the food crisis had also been underestimated.

Reports also indicate that ZANU-PF officials are using food aid to lure voters in their on-going restructuring exercise that has seen district coordinating committee elections being called around the country.

Some officials in the agriculture ministry and rights groups have also alleged that ZANU-PF officials are hijacking maize from the Grain Marketing Board that is meant for the poor and giving it to their supporters.

The task force is expected to report back to cabinet as soon as it finishes its probe in the communities.

Two weeks ago cabinet resolved to declare five provinces disaster areas following a disastrous farming season. These are Manicaland, Masvingo, Midlands and the two Matebeleland provinces.

But technical staff on the ground say hunger is wide spread, adding cities like Harare may need to import more food to avert shortages.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told the state media early this month that nearly 45 percent of the maize crop that was planted this farming season is a complete write-off.

The country needs at least 2.2 million tonnes of maize to feed itself annually but Made said Harare currently has only 400,000 tonnes of maize grain reserves.

Spokesman Douglas Mwonzora of the MDC formation of Prime Minister Tsvangirai told VOA's Jonga Kandemiiri his party took the matter to cabinet because it was concerned some families were suffering due to the politicization of food aid, adding such reports were growing by the day.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed the MDC claims as cheap propaganda.

But political analyst Trevor Maisiri says ZANU-PF has a long history of abusing food aid.