HARARE - Zimbabwe's opposition on Wednesday said government officials were refusing aid to hundreds of its supporters affected by floods as punishment for not backing President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party.
Floods have since late last year hit parts of southern Africa, killing at least 21 people in Zimbabwe where the ravaging waters have also swept away homes, crops and livestock in low-lying areas.
The government has declared the floods a national disaster.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and the smaller ZANU Ndonga parties said a top official of the governing party, Enock Porunsingazi, had instructed pro-Mugabe youth militia in the eastern Chipinge rural district and one of the areas worst affected by the floods to block all known opposition supporters from receiving aid.
"We are shocked that Porusingazi is taking advantage of a disaster of such a magnitude to gain political mileage," said Pishai Muchauraya, the MDC spokesman in Manicaland province under which Chipinge falls.
The aid that includes clothing, tents and food was donated by the government and charitable organizations but is being distributed to beneficiaries by officials from the state Civil Protection Unit (CPU), district administrator's office while traditional leaders are also involved in drawing up lists of beneficiaries.
Civil servants such as those from the CPU and district administration officials are susceptible to manipulation by powerful ZANU PF and government officials while traditional chiefs are largely sympathetic to Mugabe's party which has rewarded them with vehicles, salaries and other perks.
Zanu Ndonga national organising secretary Gondai Vutuza said the party had received several reports from their supporters that ZANU PF youths were inspecting lists of beneficiaries and erasing names of people perceived as sympathetic to the opposition.
He said: "There are some overzealous youths who were denying our supporters assistance . . . our supporters are saying ZANU PF youths were refusing to write their names down so that they would also benefit."
Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche, who oversees distribution of aid, was not immediately available for comment on the matter. But Porusingazi dismissed charges that opposition supporters were being denied aid as baseless and mere politicking by the opposition ahead of elections.
"No one was left out. This is election time and they are out to tarnish my name," said Porusingazi.
Zimbabwe holds presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in March, which are expected to be a close contest between the MDC and Mugabe's ZANU PF.
Floods have been a double-edged sword for long-suffering Zimbabweans, destroying crops and life in their wake, while agricultural experts say too much rain will mean reduced crop yields and more food shortages for the southern African country. - ZimOnline