March 19, 2005

Mugabe: Vote for me despite problems

President Robert Mugabe has urged his supporters to vote for his party's candidates regardless of any of its shortcomings. "You can't afford not to vote Zanu PF. It doesn't matter that the party may have failed to fulfil certain promises, such as employment," Mugabe told thousands of his supporters in the small town of Norton, close to his home village, 40km west of the capital. "We know that at times life gets tough, but you can't say because things are difficult you vote for the MDC, forgetting that you were once oppressed by whites," said Mugabe. "You can't disown your parents because they do not have enough to provide for you," Mugabe told his supporters. "Problems are there, yes, we have not had good rains and there will be hunger, but we are preparing for that," said Mugabe, whose government had told before that the Southern African country was importing food to avert severe hunger due to poor rains. Ha also warned that he would kick out the few white farmers still operating in Zimbabwe if they ever "despise" his government. "We are not saying whites should not have any farms, but we are saying the whites should not despise our government," he told.
Agricultural monitoring agencies, farm unions and also Zimbabwe's own Parliament had before dismissed the government's claim of a "bumper harvest", and forecast output of about 700.000 tonnes of maize, the national staple. National consumption is about 1,3-million tonnes. Human rights organisations say that since 2002, the government has established a deliberate policy of taking total control of grain supplies, restricting movement of supplies and raiding farms and seizing their stocks. With famine-relief agencies barred from providing food, the state grain monopoly, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), has become virtually the sole distributor of maize in rural areas where most Zimbabweans live, selling at depots to the rural poor. It has become an established practice to sell grain to people only if they can produce a Zanu PF membership card, human rights agencies say. Handing out bags of maize at polling stations to ruling-party supporters is also common, they say. "People are starving in at least four of the country's 10 provinces," said Renson Gasela, the MDC's shadow agriculture minister. "We know the regime successfully stopped all food aid, so that they are the only ones with food during the elections." (The Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)

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