Thousands of villagers displaced by the Tokwe Mukosi floods have been living in appalling conditions in Chingize holding camp since January.
Last month, with their children strapped on their backs, many walked 130 km to Ngundu Growth Point to demonstrate against government neglect. Since then, food aid and other donations have been withheld and they have been accused of trying to tarnish the image of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF).
“All the people linked to organising the demonstration and those who participated are being victimised and denied relief food aid. They are starving,” said a villager who refused to be named for fear of victimisation.
Silas Mudowa, a villager at the holding camp, said politicisation of food aid had become a common thing. “We demonstrated with the intention of making sure that government paid attention to our cause,” he said. “Our concerns were genuine but to our surprise we are now being labelled sell outs and supporters of opposition political parties - just for expressing our views through the demonstration.”
Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, denied punishing anyone over the demonstration. “We are giving assistance to these people without discrimination and those peddling such lies are just ungrateful,” he said.
Last month former prime minister and leader of the opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai, was barred from visiting Chingwizi. Bhasikiti said if Tsvangirai had anything to offer to the flood victims he should channel his donations through government structures.
Government has unsuccessfully tried to persuade the flood victims to leave the camp and take up one hectare plots of land – but villagers have refused to leave the camp before being paid compensation. They also say government had promised them four hectare plots.
Bhasikiti had to take to his heels recently after the angry villagers threw stones at him when he tried to explain that government does not have any funds to compensate the flood victims.