The only independent presidential candidate in Zimbabwe?s March 27 general elections said the current economic and political crises facing the country are due to the failure of the ZANU-PF government leadership. Simba Makoni, who is the former finance minister, said Zimbabwe has the capacity to be the breadbasket not only to the Southern African region, but also to the entire African continent and beyond. He added that the failure of leadership has obliterated the country?s agricultural sector. Makoni?s comments came after President Robert Mugabe unveiled a plan to give "cheap food hampers? which the government claimed would be affordable to poor households around the country. From Zimbabwe?s capital, Harare, Simba Makoni tells reporter Peter Clottey the government?s cheap food agenda is not a panacea to the country?s economic woes.

?Firstly, that has been his (Mugabe?s) point for a long time that he views the northwestern hemisphere are in for a regime change. I remain clear that the problem confronting our country and the people primarily arise from failure of leadership at the highest level in this country,? Makoni said.

He said the government?s new plan to provide cheap food for the poor would not solve Zimbabwe?s problems.

?No, it will not help anything. Firstly, these goodies are all imported. This country has the capacity to produce enough for itself and surplus. This country does not need to be importing bars of soap and bottles of cooking oil and baked beans. It is not the solution, it is for the only connected who are in the patronage system,? he said.

Makoni said the ongoing economic crisis could force the country?s economy to collapse after some economists said demand for food and basic amenities far outweigh what the government can afford to provide.

?Yeah! I agree. Quite clearly what they have been able to import is a drop in the ocean compared to the national demand. And that is why I?m saying that the policy seems to appease those who are connected to the patronage system. The large majority of ordinary Zimbabweans will not access any of this so-called goodies,? Makoni pointed out.

He said President Robert Mugabe knows that the only way out of the current economic and political crisis facing the country is a complete change in Zimbabwe?s leadership.

?The solution to our problems is quite well known by all Zimbabweans, including Robert Mugabe. It is that we need a change in leadership; we need a change in policies; we need a commitment to working for the people rather than working for self, and self-enrichment. We need to capacitate our own institutions, industrial, agricultural, services institutions, which a short five seven years ago were delivering not only full capacity, but also world-class quality. That?s what will solve our problems,? he noted.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe accused former colonial power Britain of supporting what he described as illegal sanctions against the country, which he said are causing untold hardships to the ordinary Zimbabwean.