About 100 supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai have staged peaceful protests at a Grain Marketing Board (GMB) Depot in Mutasa district, Manicaland province, complaining about unfair distribution of food aid and agricultural inputs.
The demonstrators, who were singing songs denouncing the government and local GMB leadership, waved placards urging the state-controlled entity to distribute all goods fairly to local people.
Business came to a standstill on Friday at the GMB depot when the angry protestors blocked the main entrance of the facility, claiming that they are fed up of being discriminated by the GMB managers.
They claimed that only supporters of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party are receiving free maize seed, food aid and other items.
Sixty-five year-old Esther Mukoyi, who was part of the demonstrators, said they used to receive goods being distributed by the GMB when there was a government of national unity. Mukoyi claimed that they no longer get anything due to the fact that they are MDC-T supporters.
Another Mutasa villager, Allen Mutema, claimed that the situation has been worsened by alleged corruption at the GMB depot.
“People are demonstrating because of rampant corruption at Mutasa GMB. Inputs are being given along partisan lines and we are unhappy with the goings on here. I have been a resident of this area for the past 20 years and have seen this going on over the years.”
His views were echoed by Samuel Mutimwi, who added that they are staging a peaceful protest to show authorities that everyone needs food aid and other items being distributed by the GMB.
“We have so many reasons for the demonstration, but primarily we are unhappy about the corruption taking place on the distribution of the handouts from the government. Seed maize is given along political lines, and many people are disappointed and the DA (district administrator) has not acted on it for a long time now.”
Another protestor, Patrick Chitiyo, said it appeared as if it is now a crime to be a member of the MDC as all backers of Morgan Tsvangirai’s party are being blocked from getting agricultural inputs, maize and other goods at the GMB.
“There have been complaints all over the ward and we coordinated ourselves to arrange this to have this message sent through to the DA who has not been listening to us for a very long time. We have informed him about this problem but he has not listened.”
Villager, Isaac Pangeti, further noted that disabled people in the region are also being denied food handouts by the GMB.
Pangeti said their absence from political party gatherings is seen by some ruling party supporters as being sympathetic to the MDC-T and other opposition parties.
“The ophans and the disabled including widows who do not attend Zanu PF meetings are assumed to be MDC by their no show at party meetings. They have been left out on the food distribution on many occasions yet they are the most vulnerable group who are in need of it.”
Mutasa Central member of the National Assembly, Trevor Saruwaka, explained that the protest was sparked by the continued abuse of local people, especially those linked to the MDC-T.
“The demonstartion is a result of persistent disregard of people’s needs where we have witnessed our people left outside the beneficiation cycle.”
Mutasa district administrator, Tendai Kapenzi, refused to comment and referred all questions to Manicaland provincial administrator Fungai Mbetsa, who was not reachable on his mobile phone.
Saruwaka later on Friday held a meeting with GMB senior officials, Kapenzi, the police and Zanu PF officials in which they agreed to engage all relevant elected officials when distributing any GMB handouts.