- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

HARARE, Zimbabwe Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has clamped down on the opposition, driven white farmers off their land and banned foreign journalists, now has turned his attention to the weather forecasts.
The president's office took control of the forecasting service last week after learning that the drought-affected country is facing two more years of low rainfall.
"The government does not want any information on the weather to be leaked," an official from the Meteorological Office said. "All our forecasts are to be sent to the president's office, and only then can they be released."
The president's office is expected to remove the most negative aspects before authorizing their release, the official said.
Informed sources said Mr. Mugabe feared that the revelation that no early end to the drought was in sight would heighten discontent at a time when nearly half the country's 13 million people are going hungry. Food riots have already erupted in the capital, Harare, and the southwestern city of Bulawayo this month.
The development came as the World Food Program said the harvest of the staple food of maize would be poor for the next two years. "The government and humanitarian agencies need to begin preparing for serious and widespread food insecurity for 2003/2004," it said in a report.
The impact of the regional drought has been compounded by Mr. Mugabe's crude land- redistribution program, which has crippled the country's agricultural sector and left swaths of fertile land unplanted.
James Morris, a U.N. special envoy on southern Africa, yesterday lamented the loss of the country's white farmers. "A highly productive part of the agricultural community is no longer engaged in agricultural production," he said during a visit to Harare.
Nearly all of Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers, who numbered 4,500 three years ago, have had their land seized by the government.

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