The Zimbabwe government is investigating reports that food aid is being distributed along partisan lines in some drought-stricken parts of the country, says Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Prisca Mupfumira.

She told a Civil Society and Government Food Mitigation Forum here Monday that a team had been dispatched to Mazowe District, a few kilometers north east of the capital, Harare, to investigate allegations of politicization of the government food assistance programme.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) recently released a report alleging that the ruling Zanu PF party was deliberately withholding food aid from opposition supporters.

"As we speak, a team has gone to Mazowe with ZHRC to investigate grievances and then we find a way forward on how to discipline the perpetrators," said Mupfumira.

She said whenever such reports were made, the ZHRC should engage her Ministry so that they could investigate the matter together without politicizing the issues.

"I suggested to the Human Rights Commission that in future where they have such incidents, let's investigate together. There might be someone there with his or her political agenda so the only way we can manage that is to ensure that whatever issue we hear about, is investigated," she said.

"We can have our own political fights wherever, but when it comes to issues of health, education, food and so forth, the government is the responsible authority."

Mupfumira said the government noted with concern the increasing allegations that its Food Deficit Mitigation programme was being run along partisan lines.

"At no time during this elaborate registration process is political party affiliation ever requested. In the last two months we have also included Public Service Commission inspectors at district level and provincial level to also follow up in the monitoring system," she added.

"However, we have in place a grievance system that can be used by those with complaints related to the grain distribution. Any aggrieved person has recourse to the village head, Social welfare Office or to the police."

She said the Ministry was still using the manual system of tracking down the distribution of food and this posed challenges. "Upgrading to the electronic system for verification and tracking will go

a long way towards resolving challenges that are faced from time to time in this programme. And it's a project we are pursuing vigorously as a Ministry," said Mupfumira.

Zimbabwe, like most of its neighbours in the Southern African Development Community sub-region, is grappling with an El-Nino induced drought, which has left almost a quarter of the population in need of food aid.

Nearly 688,000 food-insecure households are receiving food assistance from the government at the moment.