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Top Harare Officials Brace For Unrest Over Food Shortages

Growing concern in Harare as to the chance of civil unrest over food shortages has spurred the formation of a top-level working group of senior security, police, army and intelligence officials as well as the governor of the central bank, governmental sources said. The working group’s brief is to head off any incipient popular uprising.

Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono hinted at such top-level consultations Tuesday in his quarterly monetary policy statement when he told a national television audience that Army General Constantine Chiwenga warned him of the danger that his forces might have to put down disturbances if if food shortages are not addressed.

Gono's remarks were blunt. "To quote the wisdom of General Constantine Chiwenga, ‘a hungry man is an angry man,’ and he said we must do everything to ensure the army does not one day have to face angry hungry people on the streets.”

Governmental sources said Chiwenga is chairman of the working group formed in early January. Its members, besides Gono, include State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, Central Intelligence Organization Director Happton Bonyongwe and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihure, said the sources, insisting on anonymity.

The working group is said to be meeting on a regular basis to coordinate information on food security and other economic conditions, and to defuse emerging unrest.

However, Gono and Mutasa are known to be at odds over continuing farm invasions that the central bank governor has denounced as a form of “economic sabotage.”

Contacted by VOA, Mutasa, who holds the food security and land reform portfolios as well as his state security brief, declined to comment on his working group role.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with senior political analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group's Southern African office in Pretoria, South Africa, about the unusual role which Gono has assumed.

More reports from VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...