How Robert Mugabe tries to control the weather

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ZIMBABWE'S president Robert Mugabe not only directs state propaganda, he also controls the national weather forecast, it has emerged.

Senior forecaster Washington Zhakata has revealed weather bulletins have to be "moderated" by Mr Mugabe's cabinet before they can be broadcast on radio.

Mr Mugabe, 86, considers the forecasts highly sensitive because of his disastrous agricultural policies.

Starving Zimbabweans have been promised "bumper" rainy seasons ever since he launched his violent white land grab in 2000. But in fact the country has endured repeated droughts.

"The public are not thought to be ready for bad weather," the Zimbabwe Independent reported.

Mr Mugabe maintains an iron grip on state media, mainly through his spokesman George Charamba.

The Zanu-PF leader is refusing to register independent broadcasters in the run-up to elections, due to be held next year. Editors have recently been instructed not to refer to Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister in news broadcasts. Instead he is merely called the leader of the rival Movement for Democratic Change party.

Mr Mugabe is used to having his orders obeyed, but even he, it appears, has no control over the Zimbabwean climate.