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Mugabe Supporters Said to Be Hampering Food Distribution


In Zimbabwe, supporters of the Mugabe government are reportedly stepping up their interference with the distribution of food aid.

The people in Binga, northwestern Zimbabwe, are regularly short of food because it is a dry area. It is also a stronghold of Zimbabwe's main opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change. In the last year, the British government has been providing food for tens of thousands of people in Binga.

Recently, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace also began distributing food there.

But the Catholic bishop in the area, Robert Ndlovu, said Tuesday that militant supporters of the Mugabe government have tried to prevent the commission from providing food. Bishop Ndlovu said the warehouse storing food for distribution had been taken over.

He said the commission had carried on its work up until now with the backing of local officials.

The government's official spokesman was not available for comment, and the authorities have not responded to concerns raised by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

The commission is the most enduring human rights organization in Zimbabwe. It focused attention on human rights abuses both before and after independence.

President Robert Mugabe's government is accused of using the food shortage to hurt opponents in other parts of the country. Last month Care International suspended food aid in areas of southern Zimbabwe after it discovered that the local authorities responsible for delivering the aid were withholding it from opposition supporters. And in an interview this week, an aid worker in central Zimbabwe, who asked not to be named, said he had witnessed police stopping people believed to be opposition supporters from buying maize meal at supermarkets.