Zimbabwe government suspends aid group activities
Back in the late 70s, Robert Mugabe was considered to be the new savior during the transition from Rhodesia / Zimbabwe. I attended a lecture he gave at LaTrobe Uni. here in Melbourne back then. The crowd loved him. He represented hope for all of Africa. So what happened? His first wife seemed like a compassionate woman. He is second wife is reputed to be a power monger. I'd venture to say that's how and when Mugabe became a twisted, brutal man!
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) — CARE International said Tuesday that Zimbabwe's government suspended the group's aid operations in the country after accusing it of campaigning for the opposition. At least two other aid groups also said they had been told to curb some activities.
Walker said CARE "categorically" denies it encourages or tolerates political activity by staff. "We have a very strict policy against political activity," he said.
The group provides aid to about 500,000 Zimbabweans and had been scheduled to expand food distribution to about 1 million people this month, he said.
Zimbabwe, once a breadbasket for southern Africa, now struggles to feed its people without international assistance.
The key agriculture sector shriveled after President Robert Mugabe ordered the seizure of farms from whites beginning in 2002, leading to an economic collapse that has left millions unable to pay for food and other essentials.
Mugabe claimed the land seizures were to benefit poor blacks, but many of the farms were doled out to the loyalists who have helped him cling to power since independence in 1980.
On Tuesday, Mugabe accused the West of using non-governmental organizations to channel funds to the opposition.
"Further, these Western-funded NGOs also use food as a political weapon with which to campaign against government, especially in the rural areas," he said at a U.N food summit in Rome.
The United States criticized the decision to halt CARE's work, calling it a "tragedy" and said it showed a "hardened indifference on the part of the Zimbabwean government to the plight of its people."
"It is a cruel irony that this is taking place while President Mugabe is in Rome feigning interest in the issue of food security," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.
Rachel Pounds, Zimbabwe director for Save the Children, said the group was told by a local official in a rural area to suspend aid work, but that other work was continuing.
"We weren't told anything specifically about why," she said.
An official of Atlanta-based ASAP-Africa said his organization had been asked late last week to pull its dozen or so field workers out of rural areas but officials gave no reason.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter was sensitive, said the group had complied and added that such requests were typical at election time.
World Vision said its Zimbabwe operations had not been affected by the "crackdown on NGOs." But it said in a statement that it has minimized "exposure to risk by maintaining minimal activities" and was closely monitoring the situation.
Civil and human rights groups predicted Tuesday that there will be more violence after the presidential runoff, saying they do not believe Mugabe will step down if he loses.
"Mugabe will not transfer power to the winner," Gorden Moyo, with the civil rights group Bulawayo Agenda, said in South Africa.