Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo has said he does not fear the Zimbabwean government's latest threat to clamp down on critics. He said: "they will not silence me and I will continue to denigrate the evil things they have done against their own people." A ruling party conference has called for the security forces to draw up a list of Zimbabweans whose passports should be seized under new laws aimed at muzzling opponents. The passports of the main opposition party spokesman and a leading Zimbabwean publisher whose papers have carried stories critical of the government have already been confiscated. After a four-day tour of the country, the UN humanitarian envoy, Jan Egeland, recently described Zimbabwe as being in "meltdown". He estimated that around three million people would be in need of food aid by February. The country's agricultural output has fallen by more than half in the last five years. "We are in the Guinness Book of Records for having the highest inflation in the world," said Archbishop Ncube. Although it officially stands at 500 per cent, he felt the real figure was closer to 700 per cent. "Essential staff such as teachers feel devalued when their wages can buy very little," he said. Harare's Herald newspaper noted that a two-kilogram chicken for Christmas dinner would cost around 273,000 Zimbabwean dollars. In October, Archbishop Ncube predicted that some 200,000 Zimbabweans could starve to death as a result of the Government's destructive policies. He based this figure on the effect of severe food shortages on a population ravaged by HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty at a time of hyperinflation and near-80 per cent unemployment. Source: CISA
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