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Harare Envoy Dismisses U.S. Criticism And Expanded Food Assistance

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United States on Wednesday took exception to a statement issued Wednesday by the White House deploring the Harare government's attempt to enforce price cuts and offering expanded food assistance.

Ambassador Machivenyika Mapuranga expressed “revulsion” at the U.S. statement. He said that instead of applauding Harare's efforts to make life more affordable for the average Zimbabwean, the U.S. administration seemed to be championing profiteers.

The White House statement slammed the arrest of more than 2,000 business people and shop proprietors in what it called “irresponsible” actions which it said were likely to lead to further economic deterioration and more suffering by Zimbabweans.

The White House pledged another 47,400 tonnes of food assistance to be delivered through the United Nations World Food Program. The total U.S. aid program would feed some 1.4 million people through the 2008 harvest, the statement said.

But Mapuranga told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the U.S. offer was disingenuous and a form of “propaganda.”

The Harare government, meanwhile, has announced its intention to expand the blitz on prices, claiming that the campaign has strong public support.

Agence France Presse quoted ZANU-PF Information Secretary Nathan Shamuyarira as saying the ruling party’s politburo was “quite impressed” by the results of the price cutting initiative. The state-run Herald paper reported Wednesday that the expansion of the anti-inflation campaign also received ZANU-PF central committee backing.

The crackdown has reportedly instilled fear in many businesses and manufacturers who have seen others arrested for failure to comply with price regulations.

Former Bulawayo mayor Joshua Malinga, a ZANU-PF politburo member, said the economy had taken a nose-dive, but blamed this on Western sanctions.

Malinga told reporter Brenda Moyo that the price action has put ZANU-PF in a better position to win next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Others weighing the issue said that while Harare may feel it has gained some political mileage from its war on high prices, such gains are likely to be short-lived.

Coordinator Farai Maguwu of the Civic Alliance for Democracy and Governance said the government’s high-stakes economic gambit will end in failure.

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