Mon, Aug 20, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Deadly desperation in Zimbabwe

HUNGER STRIKES After two people died in a stampede for sugar on Wednesday, a security guard was arrested for allegedly killing a colleague over a bag of cornmeal


A private security guard attacked and killed a colleague he accused of stealing his bag of cornmeal amid acute food shortages in Zimbabwe, official media reported.

The arrest of Voice Tongotaya, 29, for alleged murder followed the deaths on Wednesday of two people crushed in a stampede for sugar.

Tongotaya allegedly slashed a man repeatedly with a machete after his 10kg bag of maize meal -- a staple in food -- went missing at a security company depot in the eastern border town of Mutare, the state Herald newspaper reported on Saturday.

A 10kg bag of cornmeal cooked sparingly can last an average family about 10 days.

Shortages of food and basic goods have heightened tensions in the southern African country where lengthy and unruly lines of shoppers waiting at stores and markets for food deliveries occur daily.

In Bulawayo on Wednesday, hundreds of people surged toward the gates of a yard where sugar was expected.

The perimeter wall collapsed, killing a man and an infant.

Police were called to one Harare supermarket on Friday to quell mobs jostling for cornmeal.

Only a few blocks away, youths standing in line for transportation hurled rocks at passing cars and the few minibus taxis still operating, witnesses said.

Gas shortages have crippled the country's commuter transport since a June 26 government order to slash the prices of all goods and services in efforts to tame rampant inflation given officially as 4,500 percent, the highest in the world.

The order has left shelves bare of cornmeal, bread and meat, as well as other basics.

Independent estimates put real inflation closer to 20,000 though doctors have reported an increase in conditions related to poor nutrition, contaminated water in the nation's collapsing sanitation facilities, daily water and power outages and shortages of basic drugs.

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