Concerns Over Lack Of Consistency And Transparency In The Distribution Of Subsidized Roller Meal During Covid Lockdown

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association has been monitoring the distribution of Government Subsidized Roller Meal in Bulawayo using its structures and has noted some key concerns over inconsistency in requirements for one to be able to be allowed to buy mealie-meal, amongst other worries. While BPRA applauds the initiative by government to cushion residents and provide constant and cheaper supply of the much sought after commodity during these unkind times our country and the rest of the world is going through, there are however, unprincipled community and business leaders who have high jacked the process and are using it for rent-seeking purposes. 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.

Reports from Wards: 3; 4; 10 and 15 indicate that there is 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. In Ward 3 (Mahatshula) residents have complained of hoarding of mealiemeal 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.

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.

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 17 th 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.

In Ward 15 (Luveve), concerns over partisan distribution of mealie-meal have also been registered with corrupt local leaders selling mealie-meal only to those with links to the ruling party. This has forced many residents not to adhere to the lock down regulations as they wander searching for the commodity in the neighbouring wards. BPRA condemns this in the strongest of terms and urges responsible powers to investigate these developments and book offenders. BPRA is further concerned over the high pricing of basic commodities by local shops as well the few number of COVID-19 tests conducted in Bulawayo so far and would like to call upon government to investigate this business leaders who are taking advantage of the situation to fleece residents. BPRA also calls upon government to intensify rigorous screening, testing, tracing and quarantine in Bulawayo seeing that Bulawayo has become the new COVID-19 hotspot. Lastly, BPRA would like to implore the government to further extend the shutdown for a further 10 days accompanied by rigorous testing, tracing and quarantine process. BPRA has been working with the Ministry of Information during the lockdown, sensitizing residents on COVID-19 AND producing situational reports on developments in Bulawayo.

Source: Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA)