A looming drought is likely to subject Zimbabwean citizens, especially those in rural areas to political manipulation ahead of next year’s harmonised elections, political analysts have warned.
Despite the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) having predicted normal to above rains in the current 2021 to 2022 cropping season, a prolonged dry spell between February and March has shattered hopes of a meaningful harvest with drought now inevitable.
“It is very dry in the fields; people are complaining all over our area here,” said Modise Ndlovu of Gwanda South.
“We were almost there, meaning to say had it rained just once it was going to be better. Sadly however everything has just dried up and there will be a drought. People are once again going to be used while at the same time being given food handouts from donors being told to support the ruling party.”
He added: “That’s where we are headed because even if it rains today, it is just too late because crops have dried up.”
Mkhululi Tshuma, a political analyst said the looming drought was likely to lead to the politicisation of the distribution of food aid.
“Certain villagers will be denied access to food aid because of perceived links to the opposition,” he said.
“We will hear stories of food being distributed at political rallies. This will be the order of things as the nation hurtles towards the 2023 harmonised elections. Rural voters must stock up especially maize during this time so that they avoid being abused by someone simply because they are dangling a few kilograms of mealie-meal. They must do whatever it takes to ensure that their vote is not swayed by the stomach.”
He also added that it was important for politicians to grow up and abstain from “these stone-age tendencies of politicizing the distribution of food aid.”
“Donor agencies must also ensure that they mobilise enough food resources and stick to their own distribution programmes and curtail the interference by politicians in their distribution programmes,” he said.
“More so it will help if the food is labelled appropriately to announce that it’s from donors and not politicians. This may help curb the scourge.”
Sipho Nyoni, another political analyst said a drought ahead of elections has never been good.
“The looming drought is indeed likely to affect campaigns for next year’s polls in that it will probably result in hunger and mass starvation countrywide and especially in the rural areas,” he decried.
“This will then see the usual political culprits engaging in one of the biggest and saddest acts which defines our Zimbabwean politics year in and year out as well as whenever an election is to be held. That is vote buying for food.”
Nyoni advised rural voters not to fall prey to politicians’ gimmicks.
“I would also advise them that the country and its future belongs to them just as much as it belongs to the politicians and so they shouldn’t be intimidated to vote with their stomachs but rather vote with their minds and hearts so as not to create another cycle of a lost generation for whom time vanished into thin air,” he said.
The only thing that can be done to ensure the drought is not used by politicians to manipulate the voters, Nyoni said, is the provision of drought relief food, funds and subsidies to all citizens regardless of political affiliation.