Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) has expressed concern over the lack of consistency and transparency in the distribution of subsidised roller meal during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) released 40 000 tonnes of maize meal reserved for non-essential services to help alleviate the shortage of the staple during the current government-imposed national lockdown period which has been further extended by 14 days.
The subsidised mealie meal is being sold at ZWL$70 for a 10kg bag.
In a statement by BPRA said they have received reports from wards in the city which indicate that some shop owners were withholding the product.
“Reports from Wards: 3; 4; 10 and 15 indicate that there is a lack of consistency and transparency in the sale of the much sought after commodity with selection being left at the discretion of a few, with unchecked powers,” it read.
“In Ward 3 (Mahatshula) residents have complained of hoarding of mealie-meal by some unscrupulous shop owners (names withheld) who sell less volumes and then announce to residents that mealie-meal has run out. On-the-ground monitors have reported that the volume of mealie-meal sold at the end of the day does not tally with what the shop owners would have received. Under the same ward, areas such as Mahatshula South, North and Woodville do not appear on the distribution list.”
The association also claimed that the mealie meal was being distributed on partisan lines.
“BPRA has been monitoring the distribution of Government Subsidized Roller Meal in Bulawayo using its structures and has noted soy-meal, amongst other worries. The unprincipled community and business leaders have hijacked the process and are using it for rent-seeking purposes,” read the statement.
“The corrupt and partisan distribution of mealie-meal is a big push back on government efforts to combat the virus which does not discriminate according to colour, creed or ideology.”
BPRA also noted that there was information blackout with regards to the outlets which are selling the subsidised mealie meal.
“In Ward 4, residents in areas such as Sunninghill, Lochview, Matsheumhlophe, and Riverside have complained over information blackout regarding the selling points and times for mealie-meal and that the roller meal distribution roster for the ward is not publicly accessible,”.
“Residents have also raised concerns regarding the selected selling venues that are neither central nor accessible. Walking distances to access these selling points exposes them to the wrath of security forces, some of whom have acted with heavy-handedness in dealing with residents suspected of violating the lockdown regulations.”
BPRA also condemned the alleged interference of other residents’ associations in the distribution process.
“In Ward 10 (Entumbane) there has been an outcry over the leadership of the Ward leadership of the Bulawayo United Residents Association (BURA) which has been denying access to the commodity from residents belonging to other residents associations and requiring that only residents with BURA cards access mealie-meal. This happened on Friday the 17th of April 2020 at Nhliziyo Shopping Centre in Ward 10 (Entumbane) whereby some members who do not belong to BURA were chased away. BPRA condemns this abnormality and upholds that residents associations should not be involved in the distribution of mealie-meal or food aid since their role is that of monitoring”.
Contacted for a comment, BURA Chairperson Winos Dube refuted the allegations.
“It is not true I haven’t heard of anything like that how can we deny people to buy the product when we do not have it ourselves. When people talk about BURA then directly mean me and I have not seen this,” said the Chairman.
He also added that BURA is not part of the distribution committee.
“There is absolutely no way this is true because BURA is not part of the distribution Committee put in place by the government and GMAZ,” said Dube.
“Our role as an association is to promote all government programs to make sure that everyone benefits.”