Zimbabwe's Ministry of Youth and state-controlled Infrastructure Development Bank have created a Z$250 billion (US$1 million) youth development fund to provide seed capital to income-generating projects, but opposition critics said the program is just a scheme to ionfluence voters in upcoming rural district council elections.

The program's first beneficiary was Innocent Mupanduki of Manjengwa village in the Chief Nenguwo area of Mashonaland East, who received Z$5.8 million (US$23,200) for a hog-farming venture. Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa, Youth Minister Ambrose Mutinhiri and Deputy Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, showed up for the launch.

From the local area only officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party showed up.

Deputy Youth Minister Kasukuwere told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the program is nonpartisan. But Mandivenga Mathuthu, deputy youth secretary for Masvingo province with the Movement For Democratic Change faction of Morgan Tsvangirai, said public funds were being put to partisan political use.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...