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Daily Telegraph: ‘Half of Zimbabwe will soon need food aid’

Daily Telegraph photograph 

Zimbabweans line up to receive food aid 

By Sophie Arie
Last Updated: 2:28am BST 27/09/2007

Half of Zimbabwe’s people will be dependent on emergency food aid next year, a senior British diplomatic source has said, in a damning indictment of President Robert Mugabe’s regime.

Of an estimated eight million Zimbabweans still in the country, “we know we’ll be feeding four million people by January or February, possibly more”, the official said.  

He estimated that since Mr Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms in 2000, the population has fallen from 12 million to eight million.

Of the estimated four million who have fled, up to three million have moved to neighbouring South Africa and a large number has moved to London. It is estimated that 100,000 Zimbabweans are crossing into South Africa every month.

The stated aim of Mr Mugabe’s land grab was to make Zimbabwe self-sufficient and assert its independence from Britain. Instead it has rendered half its population dependent on the outside world for their next meal.

Ironically, Britain is now the biggest single donor paying for food supplies for Zimbabweans.

Hyperinflation and recent price cuts have worsened the situation causing “a really very serious food and every other kind of shortage,” the official said.

If Mr Mugabe stays in power for another 18 months, a further two million people may leave, he warned.

Describing Zimbabwe as a place that “feels half empty,” the diplomat said rural areas are particularly badly hit, with middle-aged people “either dead of HIV or gone.” If Mr Mugabe stays in power, the source, said “he would outlive Zimbabwe”.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, recently met the senior diplomat. “He said to me there is no food in this country. That is a slight exaggeration but only a slight one.”

Mr Mugabe was expected to address the UN general assembly in New York last night amid reports that he and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are considering forming a coalition against “global bullies”.

Mr Mugabe’s attempts to control inflation by cutting prices have only made the situation much worse. While inflation is officially less than 7,000 per cent, the official said it was “probably between 13,000 and 20,000 per cent. No one knows”.

He warned that shortages of supplies were now so bad that “even the black market is beginning to dry up”.

Yesterday, the Zimbabwean parliament passed a bill giving local owners majority control of foreign firms.

Shell, BP and Barclays are among the British companies still operating in Zimbabwe although most foreign companies have already reduced their activities in the country to a minimum.

The official said Mr Mugabe was unlikely to relinquish power or be forced to stand aside by members of his own Zanu-PF party.

Parliamentary and presidential elections are due in March. But the opposition is unlikely to mount a serious challenge and, he observed, “the people have chosen flight, not fight”.

Talk of a coup led by retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru is gaining momentum, he said. “What’s left? General Mujuru has a palace coup option,” he said.
 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/27/wzim127.xml

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