"Zimbabwe to import maize to feed citizens"
HARARE, Zimbabwe --The Zimbabwean government plans to assist at least 2.2 million people it says are incapable of feeding themselves until the next harvest, due in April 2006, according to the country's director of Social Welfare.
President Robert Mugabe has so far refused to appeal for assistance but said foreign donations would be permitted, providing they carried no conditional demands for political or economic reform, and contained no genetically modified foodstuffs.
Mugabe's leading human rights critic, Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, alleges the authorities have widely abused access to food, through the state monopoly Grain Marketing Board, as a weapon of political intimidation. Pro-government tribal leaders were required to exclude families of suspected opposition sympathizers.
Independent experts say shortfalls result from destruction of commercial agriculture, through Mugabe's seizure of 5,000 white-owned farms, and a resulting economic collapse causing lack of seed, fertilizer, fuel, equipment and chemicals for small-scale farmers.