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Mugabe: Zimbabwe Will Not Ask for Food Aid

Southern Africa is facing a drought induced food shortage. But Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe says that his government will not ask for assistance in feeding its people.

President Mugabe has said Zimbabwe will accept assistance from those who want to give it, but his government is not going to ask for food aid.

"We will have to import maize again, but we have the money to do so and there is no 'begging', as one newspaper said we are back to holding 'a begging bowl'," he said.

Zimbabwe has in the past five years experienced food shortages during successive droughts. Last year it stopped donor agencies that were distributing food in the country from doing so, saying it had a bumper maize harvest.

International aid agencies have also blamed the food crisis in Zimbabwe on Mr. Mugabe's sometimes violent land-reform program that was launched in 2000. The exercise saw white farmers losing their farms, ostensibly for the resettlement of landless blacks.

The president has admitted that some of his top officials abused the exercise and ended up with more than one farm and that some of them are not producing to capacity.

A lack of capital for production materials on the part of black farmers also led to a drastic fall in production.

Regional World Food Program spokesman Michael Huggins recently visited Zimbabwe. He said the agency is presently feeding more than one-million vulnerable Zimbabweans.

Mr. Huggins said if Zimbabwe does have the means to feed its people the WFP would restrict itself to its targeted feeding program.

"The ideal is always for the World Food Program and other U.N. agencies to work in places where we are needed, and clearly if we are not needed in Zimbabwe then there are more than enough emergencies in the world where we can go and deploy our assets," he said.

Mr. Huggins said even if there is enough food there is the problem of peoples' ability to access it. He said because of successive bad harvests, some people have sold all their assets such as livestock to use the money to buy food.

During his campaign for last week's parliamentary election, Mr. Mugabe assured Zimbabweans that no one would go hungry.