Tell Zimbabwe to Stop Using Food as Political Manipulation

Seeds

Target: Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the leaders of Zimbabwe’s main political parties

Goal: Stop Zimbabwe’s government officials from using food as a means of controlling votes

The upcoming Zimbabwe elections, set to take place in July of 2013, are prompting leaders of the two major competing political parties to turn to questionable tactics in order to sway voters. In a country of rampant hunger and starvation, the parties’ most powerful tool is food. Currently, political leaders on both the Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), and the Movement for Democratic Change — Tsvangirai (MDC-T) are distributing and withholding food based on civilians’ likely votes in the upcoming elections.

A report by Think Africa Press, an online supplementary news magazine, revealed a video that brought Zimbabwe’s political food manipulation to light. In the video, an MDC-T activist describes how “a political party should always maintain good relations with its supporters.” The speaker goes on to say that in a heavily charged political climate, like the current state in Zimbabwe, leaders look for any means to sway voters and “if… people are starving, [political leaders] get food to keep them loyal.”

The video closes with footage of ZANU-PF activists distributing maize seeds to villagers in the town of Bindura. A speaker informs the crowd that the seeds are “from ZANU-PF, therefore [they] will be given to ZANU-PF supporters.” In addition, civilians who acquire some form of farming supplies from one political party, for instance, fertilizer, are refused seeds or any other help from the opposing party. People are warned that if they decide to share food or farming supplies with others who “demonize the president,” they will be imprisoned.

In a country of drought and famine, the government’s manipulation of food as a means of obtaining votes takes the emphasis off of starvation in general, and brings the focus instead to politics. Political leaders are focusing on selective handouts rather than on trying to eradicate hunger as a whole. In this way, using food as a political weapon can only do long-term harm.

Demand that political leaders in Zimbabwe stop using food as a weapon and instead shift their focus back onto eliminating hunger and starvation.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear political leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Gabriel Mugabe,

Zimbabwe has long-suffered through drought and famine, a tragedy that has led to the starvation and death of countless citizens. However, the current state of politics in the country as well as the upcoming July elections have led political parties to capitalize on hunger, rather than try to eliminate it altogether.

By offering and withholding food selectively in an effort to sway voters, both MDC-T and ZANU-PF are actively taking the focus off of trying to fix the problem of starvation and instead manipulating those in need. This is not only morally questionable, but it also leads to long-term harm, in that citizens are not receiving the full extent of aid they need.

Despite political differences and the nature of elections, I urge you to stop using food as a political weapon and instead work together to ensure that hunger is entirely eradicated in Zimbabwe. In this way, you will ensure a greater quality of life for your citizens and set a precedent for future generations to follow.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Mina Theofilatou via Wikimedia Commons

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