The Zanu PF government is limiting a maize meal subsidy programme to rural areas, its electoral bedrock, under an opaque new coupon scheme announced on Wednesday.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the maize meal subsidy, first announced last December, had been abused by millers, retailers and street traders – forcing the latest rethink.
Under the new scheme, the government says poor and vulnerable communities will be placed on a register and issued with the coupons, allowing them to purchase maize meal from designated shops and centres at $70 for 10kg, while the rest of the population will buy at the market rate.
“A targeted coupon scheme for the vulnerable is in the offing with the compilation of a database at an advanced stage. The subsidy programme is not supposed to target everyone in the country but only those who are vulnerable, so we will continuously review the scheme to ensure that it becomes efficient,” Mutsvangwa said, speaking after a Cabinet meeting.
“In terms of knowing who is vulnerable, we have the data; it is a question of going through all the districts and get the names of all the vulnerable. This is what the government is doing at the moment.”
Mutsvangwa said the price increase for maize meal from $50 to $70 announced by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube on Tuesday was designed “to ensure that the rent-seeking opportunities which were being offered by the low prices shrink so that it becomes unattractive to hoard or side market the subsidised mealie meal.”
The opposition fears the Zanu PF government will use the new scheme to collect ID numbers, names, phone numbers and addresses of beneficiaries, data which the party could use to target voters in the 2023 elections.
Zanu PF officials have been caught on video in the past stating publicly that government food aid will not be extended to opposition supporters.
Fadzayi Mahere, the MDC’s secretary for education and sport said: “Under this government, we know that ‘vulnerable’ means Zanu PF supporter. The politicisation of food aid and national benefits is how Zanu PF retains power using our taxes.”