Governments must go beyond politics in distributing COVID-19 food aid

by MMC
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As some governments implement much-needed social protection measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, including distributing food aid to poor families and those who have lost income, partisan food distribution patterns emerging in southern African countries, Amnesty International said today.

The distribution of food aid along party political lines is completely unacceptable and undermines the protective measures that governments have committed to implementing to guarantee the right to food for all.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International Director for Eastern and Southern Africa

“The distribution of food aid along party political lines is completely unacceptable and undermines the protective measures that governments have committed to implementing to guarantee everyone’s right to food,” said Deprose Muchena , Amnesty International Director for East and Southern Africa.

“Millions of people are at risk of starvation and are already in a precarious situation as they have lost their income due to the lockdown regimes currently in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. Hunger should not be used for political campaign purposes. Everyone who does not have the means to earn a living must receive food, regardless of their political affiliation.”

In Angola, reports of partisan distribution of food aid surfaced after the government announced relief measures to cover businesses, informal sector workers and families affected by current lockdown regimes. Since March 23, the country has been under a state of emergency which will last at least until May 10. The distribution of rations such as corn, rice, pasta, sugar and cooking oil was launched after the government announced national aid of over US$550,000 through the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women.

Hunger should not be used for political campaign purposes. Anyone who cannot afford to earn a living should receive food, regardless of their political affiliation.

Deprose Muchena

Civil society organizations have expressed concerns about the lack of transparency over food distributed as part of the government’s humanitarian aid. According to information collected by Amnesty International, the families of Provinces of Luanda and Benguela, complained about not being properly informed about who was eligible for food aid and how the government decided who would receive aid in communities. Food distribution has not reached some families considered in urgent need of food in the southern provinces following years of drought and land diversion in pastoral communities. In April, Amnesty International has raised concerns about the lack of government aid to the San people of Cuando Cubango province, but the communities have not received any aid until today.

In Zimbabwe, partisan distribution of food aid has affected the most vulnerable and marginalized groups, including the elderly, child-headed families, pregnant women and people with disabilities. Some report having only one meal a day continue, according to civil society observers. Members of the community of Sakubva, Mutare, alleged that the distribution of government food aid in the region was conducted on a partisan basis.

In Mutasa, Regai Tsunga, an MP from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance, was arrested, and accused of breaching Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 which prohibits unnecessary travel during the national lockdown., for distributing food to the poor and directing complaints to residents who complained about partisan distribution of government-subsidized meals. This contrasts with the situation of ruling party members in other constituencies who were allowed to distribute food without facing any sanctions. More than four million people were food insecure in Zimbabwe due to drought before COVID-19. This number has now increased to 7.7 million according to the World Food Program, demanding a response that leaves no one behind for partisan reasons.

In South Africa, some advisers to the ruling African National Congress party have been accused of looting food parcels intended for the poor. This prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to call for hard action against the alleged perpetrators, the ANC calling for the Stop advisors involved. According to media reports, incidents of corruption and food looting were reported in eight provinces where ANC councilors were responsible for distributing food to local communities. Instead of distributing it to those who needed it, they would have kept it for themselves, their family and their friends. This sparked protests in communities like Alexandra, north of Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Politicians must overcome their political motivations and ambitions and ensure that everyone has something to eat.

Deprose Muchena

“COVID-19 has exposed the ugly face of corruption and inequality in the region. In this desperate time, no one should be denied food because of their political affiliation,” said Deprose Muchena.

“Politicians must overcome their political motivations and ambitions and ensure that everyone has something to eat. »

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