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Zimbabwe Catholic bishop calls on Mugabe to quit

The Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, has called on President Robert Mugabe to stand down because his controversial land reform program is ruining the country's economy and putting millions at risk of hunger.

He says black farmworkers are the real victims when white farms are handed over to government supporters. Mr Mugabe, he says, seems ready to starve his own people to keep power.

The Archbishop of Bulawayo, a longtime Mugabe critic, told the BBC that Zimbabwe's economy is in tatters, with both professional people and the poor leaving the country in droves because of Mr Mugabe. He said the president does not care if his people starved and he should stand down.

Aid agencies have already warned that up to six million Zimbabweans face severe hunger because of drought.

They will admit privately that land reform has hastened a crisis but will not criticise the government publicly because it is drawing up laws to restrict, even ban, their operations if food is not distributed as it sees fit.

Meanwhile the country's Catholic Agency for Overseas Development has failed to get permission to import 100 tonnes of food aid, which sits at the Beitbridge border post with South Africa. The Movement for Democratic Change has also been refused permission to import food.

BBC/The Age

'Since I was born, I've never seen such hunger' (The Guardian)
Thousands pay for their political beliefs with hunger (The Age)
Zimbabwe bishop stays silent on harassment of priest (28/10/02)
Mugabe threatens to 'regulate' meddling Catholic Justice Commission (14/10/02)

8 Nov 2002