- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

HARARE, Zimbabwe Officials announced plans yesterday to import huge amounts of food to stave off starvation caused by drought and the chaos resulting from the occupation of white-owned farms by ruling party militants.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said the government was seeking 200,000 tons of corn, the staple food, from Kenya, Brazil and Argentina. Over the next 18 months, the country will need to import 1.5 million tons of corn, state radio reported.
The fertile, southern African nation was once considered the breadbasket of the region.
Now Zimbabweans wait in food lines with the hope of getting bags of increasingly scarce corn meal. In November, the government ordered 200,000 tons of corn valued at $25 million from neighboring South Africa.
The farm occupations, along with floods and droughts, have decimated the country's harvest as its agriculture-based economy collapsed.
Last year, Zimbabwe produced 1.54 million tons of corn, down from 2.1 million tons in 2000.
Harvests of tobacco, the main cash crop, also are expected to be down this year by as much as 30 percent.
Foreign loans, aid and investment have dried up. Mining has been plagued by shortages of equipment and fuel. Tourism, the third-largest hard-currency earner, has fallen by 80 percent.
Emergency food distribution by the World Food Program to 500,000 people facing starvation resumed Thursday in south and western Zimbabwe, U.N. officials said.
The distribution was halted a week before the March 9-11 presidential elections so as not to "coincide with political concerns," the WFP said.
Official election results showed President Robert Mugabe winning 56 percent of the vote to 42 percent for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The opposition and international observers have charged Mr. Mugabe with stealing the election through intimidation and outright fraud.
The main labor federation, meanwhile, conceded the failure of its national strike to protest the election results.
The few businesses that observed the strike reopened yesterday, which was to have been the last day of the three-day protest, said Lovemore Matombo, head of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
He said new security laws hindered strike organizers and "heavy-handed" threats by the authorities, and bias in the dominant state media stopped workers joining the action.
At a meeting next month, leaders of the federation will consider possible further action to protest political violence that took the lives of at least 150 persons most of them opposition supporters since 2000.
Also yesterday, hundreds of white farmers and black farm workers attended the funeral of Terry Ford, 51, who was shot in the head in an execution-style killing Monday at his farm west of the capital, Harare.
Mr. Ford was the 10th white farmer killed since the often-violent farm occupations began two years ago.


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