Food – Mugabe’s key weapon

As four million Zimbabweans are in desperate need of food aid and the shelves of the country's shops stand empty, President Robert Mugabe has made it a crime for his citizens to import foodstuffs bought in neighbouring countries.
Yet his wife Grace is known to go on shopping sprees to

South Africa and Europe, spending huge sums of hard currency on household goods and groceries.
The “Control of Goods (Import and Export)” agriculture regulations outlawing the trans-shipment to the starving nation of a wide range of live and processed food and animal products was gazetted by Mugabe on July 6 and comes into effect next week.
In 2003, it was reported how Grace forked out SAR99 604 in a five-day spending-spree in South Africa, including a R51 860 dinner set imported from Britain, bought at the Sandton City store, David Daniel.
Her splurge – revealed in VAT refund documents and till-slips lodged by her entourage at the then-Johannesburg International Airport – included R26 613 spent on fashion items.
It is not known if Grace still shops in South Africa, but in a fortnight’s time purchases such as the R16 159 she spent in 2003 on equipment from Buchel Hardware in Pretoria and the R3 443 she spent at Pick ‘n Pay – including orange juice, biscuits, snacks and toilet rolls – could well become contraband.
Elinor Sisulu, the media and advocacy manager at the Harare-based NGO Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said she feared Mugabe’s motive was to starve Zimbabweans into submission.
“Perhaps they (the government) think this will stimulate food production, but with the enforced price-cuts, it is simply not viable to grow food for resale. This is quite terrifying.”
She said increasingly food was becoming politicised and hunger could be seen as a pre-election weapon in Mugabe’s hands. – Nokhuthula Khumalo

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