Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean information minister denies famine reports

Harare (dpa) - President Robert Mugabes propaganda minister angrily dismissed mounting reports Wednesday of imminent famine.

The government since May has claimed the country was reaping its biggest grain harvest on record - 2.4 million tonnes - and has ordered United Nations famine relief agencies to stop distributing food.

International crop experts, including the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and the International Monetary Fund, insist that a harvest that size is an impossibility by an agricultural industry virtually destroyed after Mugabes land reform programme drove nearly all the country's white commercial farmers from their land.

The UN has been feeding about 5 million starving people for each of the last two years, and says a third successive famine is looming. The municipal health department of the western city of Bulawayo says it has recorded at least 162 deaths by malnutrition this year.

However, information minister Jonathan Moyo told state-controlled daily Herald newspaper there is no food crisis in Zimbabwe, there is no food crisis in Bulawayo.

Moyo blamed the fear of famine on the media. He urged the government to take action against journalists reporting the deaths, the Bulawayo council for publishing the statistics, and Dr Zenele Hwalima, the head of the health department, for peddling lies. dpa jr jm

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