ZANU PF minister denies barring UN groups from food assessments

joseph_madeZANU PFs Agriculture Minister, Joseph Made (pictured), has denied barring international aid agencies and other NGOs from participating in food assessment surveys in Zimbabwe, claming he was misquoted.

The IRIN humanitarian news service quoted Made this week as telling them that United Nations (UN) groups in particular, are not welcome in Zimbabwe. He called the food and crop assessments a national security matter that should be treated with the utmost caution and exclusivity.

Hence our decision as government to exclude outsiders from the surveys. UN agencies in particular are not welcome because they send out negative information about the country. We dont want to have politics in food issues, Made is quoted as saying.

The news has prompted allegations that ZANU PF is deliberately hiding the truth of Zimbabwes food situation, in order to once again use food as a political weapon during the forthcoming elections. The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that they believe the decision to exclude the UN and other groups is all related to ZANU PFs political strategy and election campaign. The party has traditionally used food to either garner support or punish the opposition, by controlling food distribution.

Economic analyst John Robertson meanwhile is also quoted by IRIN as saying that the exclusion of the international groups was to hide the truth that Robert Mugabes land reform scheme has been a disaster for the country. ZANU PF insists that Western targeted sanctions are to blame for all of the countrys problems, including the devastation of the once prosperous agricultural sector.

Robertson told IRIN that excluding the UN groups from food assessments is an attempt to cast Mugabes fast-track land-reform programme in a positive light.

President Mugabes side of the government, to which agriculture minister Made belongs, wants to make the statement that land reform in Zimbabwe is succeeding. In this case, they are likely to inflate figures of yields and also seek to blame only the weather for poor yields, Robertson said.

It is no surprise that Made has now backtracked on what he told the IRIN, saying the group misquoted him. He told Voice of America news that he would work with UN agencies and non-governmental organizations as long as they stay out of Zimbabwean politics.

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