Zimbabwe: government shuts down church food project

 About 300 children in Gwanda town, 126 km south of Bulawayo, may starve, after local Zanu PF activists, among them the son of deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Abednico Ncube, ordered a church-sponsored feeding scheme stopped. Deputy mayor Petros Mukwena said that the ruling party activists last month ordered the Lutheran Church to stop feeding the pre-school children, accusing the church of being sympathetic to the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party. "ZANU PF activists decided to stop the Lutheran Church from running child supplementary feeding programmes because they believe the church is working with the MDC," Mukwena said. "The church has been providing nutritional meals and porridge to two pre-schools around the town. In all, at least 300 children were affected and are in desperate need of food aid right now," he added. Mukwena said the town council was unable to find an alternative donor to supply food to the children with most NGOs scaling down operations in the area and across the country. A Lutheran Church official, who did not want to be named said Zanu PF activists, among them Ncube's son, Leslie, raided the feeding centre offices and chased the staff away. "We were surprised to hear that the son of deputy foreign affairs minister Abednico Ncube had led the team that chased our staff out of the office and locked it up," the church official said. The Ncubes could not be reached for comment yesterday but a member of Zanu PF's provincial executive, Robson Mafu, defended the stoppage of the feeding programme saying it was because the programme was being run by anti-government elements. Mafu said: "It was stopped because it was running around with anti-government plotters. Subversive organisations will not be allowed to exist here, and they surely cannot be allowed to feed our children." Gwanda is located at the heart of the drought-prone Matabeleland South province and vulnerable groups in the town such as children and people living with HIV/AIDS have for years relied on churches and international aid organisations to supply them with food. Source: ZimOnlineSA

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