President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, under pressure of late to acknowledge food shortages and hunger in his country and request international assistance, charged at a United Nations food safety conference that opened Monday in Harare that Western aid organizations had “dumped” unsafe food in Africa and caused disease.
President Mugabe also used his opening remarks at the conference sponsored by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program to defend the land redistribution program his government has been pursuing since the beginning of the decade and which many consider to be the root of ongoing food shortages.
Mr. Mugabe said seizing land from white farmers was the way to bring “food to the people.” He told delegates from 47 African countries that his “much-vilified” reforms were “creating a wider base of farmers in the country,” AFP reported.
"In our fight for freedom and independence, one of the pillars of the struggle was land grievance -- land, land, land, which means food, food, food to the people," he said. He also urged African countries to monitor imports to keep out poor quality food.
But Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change said the U.N. agencies should not have provided Mr. Mugabe with the conference forum for his views, while civil society organizations complained that they were not included in the meeting.
Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Zvidzai Maburutse, Southern African emergency advisor for the British-based ActionAid. He said the conference is highly relevant to Zimbabwe in its current situation.