SCORES of pupils invited to attend President Robert Mugabe’s pre-Independence Day celebrations in Harare went home hungry yesterday after their food was allegedly looted by police officers manning the entrance points at the City Sports Centre.
Each year, Mugabe hosts an Independence Day party for children below 18 years, a day before the main celebrations.
The pupils, drawn from schools in all the country’s 10 provinces, claimed the food ran out around midday, as some police officers were seen sharing it among themselves.
Pupils were expected to be given their share of the take-away food upon producing an invitation card and a meal ticket at the gate, but the majority allegedly eventually entered the venue without food after being told that it was finished.
NewsDay yesterday saw some police officers scrambling for the food and stuffing it in paper bags, as hungry children trooped into the venue with their food vouchers in hand hoping to be served later.
Contacted for comment, deputy national police spokesperson, Superintendent Paul Nyathi initially said he would investigate the matter, but his mobile phone later went unanswered.
“We were told that there was no more food at the first entrance and advised to go to another entrance where we were forced back because they also said they no longer had the food. We eventually got inside with our tickets, but without the food,” one of the affected pupils, said.
Rural Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture and Heritage minister Abednico Ncube, whose portfolio was responsible for guests’ food, could not be reached for comment
This is not the first time distribution of food has become a problem at Zanu PF functions. In the previous years, food meant to feed party supporters and the under-privileged has been looted by party chefs, with some of the cases ending up in court.
In his address yesterday, Mugabe admitted that the country was facing severe food shortages due to drought, and promised to roll out a national feeding programme in schools.
He implored them to behave and aim to excel in their studies, but expressed concern and the upsurge in cases of drug abuse among youths.
“You need to develop self-discipline, to be focused, and remain always serious with your studies. It is the desire of all the parents to see their children succeed, in school and in life,” he said.
“When I have the occasion to watch television or listen to the radio, I have been pleased to hear young children, including those in Grade Zero, saying when they grow up, they would want to be doctors, lawyers, and veterinary surgeons. Yes, young people should indeed be ambitious. However, you should add hard work to your ambition.
“Sadly, some of the youths have not lived up to our expectations. They have instead become victims of hedonism; the perception that pleasure is the highest good and proper aim of human life. Day in and day out we read stories about young people dying after taking mind-bending and behaviour modifying substances. We hear stories of children being involved in the so-called wild parties, where drugs are peddled and consumed with ease and abundance.”