Mugabe uses food as weapon in election race: group
U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch has accused President Robert Mugabe of using food crisis as weapon for saving his chair. Mugabe's government has stopped another ngo CARE from working in the country.
President Robert Mugabe's government is using food as a weapon ahead of Zimbabwe's June 27 presidential run-off election, U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
The accusation came a day after CARE International said the government had ordered it to suspend its operations in Zimbabwe over allegations it was backing opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's presidential campaign. It denies the charge.
Other humanitarian groups have been told to stop their work for the same reasons, the government said on Wednesday. It did not respond to the charge that it was using food for political advantage in the election race.
"The decision to let people go hungry is yet another attempt to use food as a political tool to intimidate voters ahead of an election," said Tiseke Kasambala, the rights group's researcher for Zimbabwe.
"President Mugabe's government has a long history of using food to control the election outcome."
Zimbabwe's once prosperous agricultural sector has collapsed since 2000, when Mugabe's government began seizing thousands of white-owned farms as part of a land redistribution policy designed to help poor blacks.
Many of the farms have ended up in the hands of senior officials with Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party and other supporters, while others have been tilled by farmers who lack experience and capital.
Zimbabwe now suffers chronic shortages of meat, milk, bread and other basic foodstuffs and relies on imports and handouts from foreign governments and relief agencies to feed its people.
Mugabe blames the country's economic collapse on sanctions imposed by foes in the West.
CARE had planned to start a food distribution program in Zimbabwe before it was suspended last week, said Ken Walker, the group's communications manager for Africa. He said CARE had 300 people working on various projects in Zimbabwe.