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 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 12:05 GMT
Zimbabwe food riots spread
Food queue in Harare
Half of the population needs food aid
Four police officers have been injured in a dormitory town near Harare, when youths attacked people queuing for food on Sunday, police have said.

In the second city of Bulawayo, there is tight security around the courthouse, where 39 people are appearing in connection with food riots on Friday, reports the French news agency, AFP.

Up to six million people, half of the population, are suffering from food shortages according to aid agencies.

Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe has moved to tighten his control of the main cities, which are opposition strongholds, by announcing that he will appoint governors for both Harare and Bulawayo.

Correspondents say that governors enjoy considerable power and they are likely to be used to sideline opposition mayors in both cities.

'Green Bombers'

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said that about 200 people were queuing up for mealie-meal, the scarce staple food, when a group of youths attacked the police who were controlling the crowd.

"In the process of controlling the crowd, some youths came and disrupted the queue resulting in four police officers being injured," Mr Bvudzijena told AFP.

Robert Mugabe
Mugabe blames colonialism for Zimbabwe's problems

Opposition supporters have been prevented from receiving food aid and even from buying food in urban areas, says the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and donor agencies.

But it is reported that activists from Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party were behind the disturbances in both the town of Chitungwiza, 23km south of Harare, and Bulawayo.

The privately owned Daily News reports that "Green Bombers", graduates of a government-run youth training scheme, were involved in the Chitungwiza riots.

The police said they had not identified the culprits.

In Bulawayo, a group of "war veterans" was dispersed by riot police when they tried to protest outside the courthouse on Monday.

State media have accused the "war veterans", who have been used to intimidate opposition supporters, of organising Friday's food riots.

They were apparently unhappy at the unfair distribution of food.

The state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported that residents had accused grain board officials of corruptly supplying maize to unscrupulous millers, who then sold it on at exorbitant prices.

'Laughable'

Zimbabwe's eight largely rural provinces already have governors, who also sit in parliament.

Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo denied that the new governors would make the opposition mayors redundant and said they would coordinate development.

But MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyati told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that it was "laughable" for the government, which had presided over a 22-year decline in services, to say it would now turn things around.

The new governors would usurp the powers of the elected mayors, he said.

Opposition parties point the finger of blame at Mr Mugabe and his government for the food shortages because of disruption caused by his controversial programme of land reform.

The president says the cause of the crisis is a combination of a drought and a Western imperialistic plot aimed at keeping power in the hands of Zimbabwe's whites.


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23 Dec 02 | Africa
28 Nov 02 | Africa
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