March 17, 2005

Mugabe: Zimbabwe short of food

President Mugabe has for the first time publicly acknowledging food shortages. Addressing about 7.000 supporters in Gutu, southeastern Zimbabwe, at a rally of his Zanu PF party ahead of the parliamentary polls, Mugabe said the country faced serious shortages of food but promised not to let his people starve. According to International aid agencies around 4 million people - a third of the population - would need food aid that year after a poor harvest due to drought and inadequate government help providing seed and fertiliser to small rural farmers. "The main problem we are facing is one of drought and the shortage of food, we are going to work out a hunger alleviation programme ... I promise you that no one will starve," Mugabe told. Critics say that his main reason for announcing that was to stop donors operating in rural areas where the government has claimed over the years that aid agencies were helping the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to campaign. Mugabe also promised to tackle transport and road problems in Zimbabwe's rural areas. (Rts)

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