MUTARE – The stoppage by government to distribute food aid in rural areas during the COVID-19 lockdown period has seen an escalation in criminal activities as desperate Zimbabweans look for alternative survival means, a local community-based humanitarian organisation has said.
The government has directed citizens to stay home during the 21-day lockdown period as a way to curb the spread of coronavirus that has wreaked havoc globally.
The Zivanai Community Empowerment Community Trust (ZiCET) programmes co-ordinator Mildred Muzanechita on Thursday said villagers were now more worried about what to put on their table during this lockdown period.
She said most villagers in rural communities had raised concern with regards to increased livestock and grain thefts.
“Villagers are living in panic as they are now harvesting their crops prematurely as thieves are stealing their crops both for consumption and sale in order to sustain themselves,” Muzanechita said.
“Most families in these areas survive from hand-to-mouth, thus this coronavirus lockdown has left them with no option than looking to government for food supplements,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the majority of youths and women in areas like Chigodora survive through selling fruits and vegetables,” Muzanechita added.
Misheck Magosvongwe from St Warburg’s in Chigodora said he had also lost a couple of maize cobs to thieves.
“Only recently, l lost a some maize cobs to thieves. I think it is the issue of hunger. These are people who are stealing the maize cobs either to cook for themselves or for resale in the village,” he said.
“People are hungry and that is why cases of theft from fields have risen,” Magosvongwe said, adding that his neighbour has also recently lost some bananas and vegetables.
In Muchena village, Hebert Sanyanga said he also recently lost two goats.
“Surprisingly, the (theft) cases have become widespread during this lockdown period. It is because people do not have food. I think something must be done urgently,” Sanyanga said.
Muzanechita said the failure by government to urgently distribute food to desperate families had exacerbated cases of theft in most parts of the country.
“The number of meals per day has become less in some households during this COVID-19 lockdown era.Some unscrupulous business people have increased prices of basic commodities, leaving villagers with no hope of completing the stipulated lockdown timeframe,” she said.
Muzanechita urged government to address the urgent plight of villagers regarding food aid distribution, amid the coronavirus scourge.