Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mugabe ban to stop food aid

  • April 19, 2007

ZIMBABWE has cancelled the licences of all aid groups, accusing them of working with the opposition to oust President Robert Mugabe, sparking fears the ban could cut food supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in the nation dependent on handouts.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said that all non-governmental organisations had been deregistered and would have to reapply for permits, reports said yesterday.

Dr Ndlovu said the authorities wanted to identify groups working with "agents of imperialism" to overthrow Mr Mugabe, who is facing growing resistance from Zimbabweans impoverished by his 27-year stranglehold on power, The Times reported.

"Pro-opposition and Western organisations masquerading as relief agencies continue to mushroom, and the Government has annulled the registration of all NGOs in order to screen out agents of imperialism from organisations working to uplift the wellbeing of the poor," Dr Ndlovu said.

The news shocked the local NGO community, stoking fears that the ban could stop desperately needed food aid reaching the country, the newspaper said. More than 1000 aid groups operate in Zimbabwe.

Six years of poor harvests after Mr Mugabe began his chaotic program of white land seizures in 2000 have left hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans dependent on handouts, mainly from foreign-funded NGOs. Last month alone, 1.5 million Zimbabweans were given food aid by the UN World Food Program, which uses local NGOs to distribute supplies.

Analysts told the paper the cancellation of NGO licences was linked to the hasty rescheduling of parliamentary and presidential elections to early next year....

With the elections coming the Mugabe Government has to stop NGOs from distributing food. Then it can use food as a political weapon to garner support," Dr Makumbe said.

Lovemore Madhuku, a prominent rights campaigner and chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, said of the NGO ban: "It's obvious. It's to intimidate the population.".....

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