Civil Society and Churches Joint Forum (CSCJF), an organisation that brings together civil society and churches to the agenda of redefining people’s struggle, shot down in flames reports of politicisation of Cyclone Idai relief aid in parts of Manicaland which were hit by the weather-induced catastrophe last month.
The distribution of aid to the cyclone-ravaged communities has been fraught with controversy, with some political officials accused of hijacking the process and doling out handouts along partisan lines. This according to various reports, had left in particular the purported MDC supporters (victims) vulnerable, as priority is being put on members of the ruling party ZANU PF.
In the wake of such media reports which violate the Code of Conduct for Humanitarianism, a delegation led by human rights defender and CSCJF National Coordinator, Ms Abigale Mupambi visited Chipinge and Chimanimani from 7 -10 April 2019 on a fact-finding mission.
The purpose of the study mission was to interface with implementing the aid intervention and assess the gaps and challenges being faced from an independent Human Rights-based perspective so as to make recommendations that will help in promoting transparency and accountability in the intervention.
The study mission used a random sampling methodology that was both qualitative and a quantitative to assess the situation in terms of the above objectives. They interviewed the District Administrators, aid workers, church leaders and the victims of cyclone Idai in two districts of Chipinge and Chimanimani.
According to CSCJF’s preliminary report which was presented in a press briefing on Friday morning in Harare, respective stakeholders in Chipinge dismissed reports of politicising donation distributions as malicious and unfounded.
The mission noted:
“Due to the massive destruction of roads soon after the disaster struck, the main road leading to Chimanimani from Silver streams was not accessible. An alternative road was created that goes through the mountains and due to the terrain in the mountains, no other car expect army trucks and 4×4 vehicles could access the area using the alternative road.
A call was made by President ED Munangagwa for donations of 4×4 vehicles to assist in carrying aid into Chimanimani and ZANU PF Manicaland Province donated 4X4 vehicles that were used to assist like everyone else in getting aid to the victims in Ngangu. This was sustained by aid agents from reputable International Organizations whom we interviewed, who did the first distribution under the supervision of the Civic Protection Unit.
No distribution of food was done by a partner or transporter as a stand-alone. Systems were set to make sure victims are identified and assisted through the set teams. Major players on aid were the UN Agencies and the Red Cross whilst government was mainly coordinating. Red Cross officials including the Red Cross Ambassador Mr Macheso confirmed that the food distribution process was transparent and that there is no any kind of discrimination in the distribution process,” said the report.
Chipinge District Administrator William Mashava further challenged the delegation to observe the food distribution program which at Kondo Clinic in Chipinge ward 16 under Red Cross.
“Present was also the local councillor for Ward 16 Mr F. Sithole who expressed satisfaction with how the food was being distributed appealed for more support,” CSCJF noted.
“Civic Protection Unit Members were also there, and we interviewed the District Information Officer who was equally satisfied with the processes at hand. Beneficiaries who spoke to us at Kondo clinic were actually appreciating the partners for what they termed an organised way of doing. Asked if there was any form of discrimination they said this disaster unified them and they had no time to talk of any political parties issues, all was going well according to them.”
CSCJF team also interviewed a local NGO Development youth Agenda Director who had observed the AID distribution process at Tongogara Refugee Camp where the World Food Programme distributed aid on the 9th of April. According to the report, he described the process as free and fair.
The delegation proceeded to Ngangu community in Chimanimani and its primary school Ngangu where 103 survivors are camped and receive diversified aid from different players. It noted that the victims there had just received clothes from one partner. Albeit,
“…they were instead worried about the long term solution to their situation since most of them had their homes destroyed. They actually expressed satisfaction with the current aid distribution process. The Assistant D.A Chimanimani had however clarified how and in particular the AID process was being done in the district and had dismissed the reports of partisan, unfair and looting as malicious and unfounded before giving us a green light to tour the district and have an appreciation of the status quo.”
Overall, although the respective D.As highlighted that there were however few individuals who in their personal capacities were found wanting, CSCJF submitted:
“There was no sign of partisan agendas or intention noted among both distributors and Beneficiaries. Local leadership were represented in all processes. No segregation, discrimination, and or Partisan Slogans, Regalia or any talks of politics whatsoever, instead unionism was noted among the community members.
Food aid and shelter is mainly being handled by International organisations that are bound by a strict International code of conduct that restricts them from segregating victims on any grounds The clothing and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) as well and education programs are led by UNICEF that is bound by International code of conduct, hence it is impossible to have partisan distribution.”
Elsewhere, the mission’s report noted that government has set up a system of coordination that is chaired by the Minister of Local government and includes other ministries such as health, education, defence among others and that structure cascades down to the province, then to districts.
NGOs and other stakeholder sit in that structure at various levels and there is a cluster committee that is chaired by various agencies, for example, UNICEF chairs education and WASH, while WFP chairs food aid.
The delegation’s report also observes that the government opened up for everyone and anyone who is bringing aid to participate only within the prescribed coordination mechanism to avoid duplication and promote accountability.
Among other recommendations that CSCJF made were that there should be responsible social and mainstreaming media reporting including civic society reporting to avoid misinformation and that the state set up robust and effective monitoring and evaluation system.
There is a need for trauma healing processes at a local level, as
“…survivors in Ngangu are traumatized and devastated emotionally and spiritually and these include the government officials. The effects of trauma will have lasting devastating effects and there may be a need for the government to consider relocating them away from the area.”
In free-wheeling questions and answer session Max Mkandla, human rights activist and director of the Vice President of the National Association of Schools Development Associations of Committees (NASDAC), called upon all politicians to bury their hatchets and establish a robust recovery framework that is issue based.
Watch Civil Society and Churches Joint Forum’s CycloneIdai Fact Finding Mission And Recovery Strategy FrameWork here:
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