Christian Churches Defy Zimbabwe´s President Mugabe

Food-Aid Distribution Officially Limited to Ruling Party

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HARARE, Zimbabwe, DEC. 4, 2001 ( Faced with increasing reports of deaths from malnutrition in Zimbabwe, churches are openly defying a presidential edict that only ruling-party officials may distribute food aid.

In Bulawayo and southern rural districts, President Robert Mugabe´s campaign to stay in power has translated into hunger among thousands of people, according to Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube.

The archbishop said that the «hunger is caused by the government´s hypocrisy. It wants to distribute food assistance itself, so as to buy votes. It does not care how many people die as long as it can stay in power.»

The looming crisis comes after Mugabe recently banned hundreds of commercial farmers from working their land and told them that their properties, in effect, had been nationalized.

In Masase, a village of some 2,000 people in the Midlands, Lutherans are defying the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, and covertly supplying food.

It is to people like the Reverend Anders Berglund, from the Swedish Church, that Zimbabwe´s Information Minister Jonathan Moyo refers to when he claims foreigners «might try to smuggle election monitors into Zimbabwe using the guise of food aid.»

Reverend Berglund said that children «are fainting in class and the school day has had to be shortened because kids do not have the energy to concentrate.»

The Financial Gazette revealed today that the 77-year-old Mugabe has ordered bombproof underground bunkers to be dug around his home and offices, as well as the delivery of 86 army trucks, believed to come from Austria, despite an European Union embargo on defense equipment to Zimbabwe.

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