Harare (AFP) - President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has prevented opposition supporters receiving emergency food aid in Zimbabwe, a rights body said Wednesday, as the country reels under severe shortages.
A drought across southern Africa has pitched Zimbabwe further into economic crisis, with public anger over lack of food helping to fuel a series of recent protests against veteran leader Mugabe, 92.
"Ruling party members were the major perpetrators in violations linked to distribution of food," Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) chairman Elasto Mugwadi told a news conference in Harare.
ZANU-PF youths "openly told those affiliated to the opposition (they) would never get food aid," Mugwadi said, adding the problem affected several rural areas across the country.
"Investigating officers were informed (that) youths from the ruling party who are not even part of the distribution committees are involved in the distribution of food aid."
Mugwadi gave no exact figures but said that "huge numbers of people" were affected.
The ZHRC was established under the 2013 constitution.
Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has often accused the government of channelling food supplies to Mugabe supporters.
"Officials (must) desist from using political affiliations as yardsticks and guarantee impartiality in any food aid," Mugwadi said.
Earlier this year, Harare appealed for $1.5 billion of foreign donations to help prevent hunger, saying 4.5 million people -- half of the rural population -- faced starvation.
Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique have all issued drought alerts this year, as thousands of cattle die, reservoirs dry up and harvests fail due to drought caused in part by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
Mugabe has vowed to crack down on the protests that have demanded his resignation.
ZANU-PF party spokesmen were not immediately available to comment on the ZHRC findings.