The African leader some call a hero and others a destructive despot suggests people in his country aren't hungry, they just can't eat their favourite food.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Friday that his people are "very, very happy", though aid agencies report four million of 11,6-million face famine.
"You describe it as if we have a whole cemetery," Mugabe said of a reporter's description of the Southern African nation's dire straits, blaming "continuous years of drought".
The problem is reliance on corn, he said, "but it doesn't mean we haven't other things to eat. We have heaps of potatoes but people are not potato eaters ... they have rice but they're not as attracted [to that]."
But the cost of potatoes is beyond the pocket of ordinary Zimbabweans.
Internationally, Mugabe has become a pariah and looked set for further isolation at the weekend, when the United States government said it was preparing travel sanctions against him, his government and family members, prohibiting them from travelling to the US.
That would be punishment for alleged gross human rights abuses, including torture of opponents and theft of elections, most recently in March.
Zimbabwe became one of Africa's most vibrant economies under Mugabe, who was elected in landslide 1979 elections after a seven-year guerrilla war forced an end to white minority rule in Rhodesia, once a British colony.
He assured nervous white farmers, then fleeing the country, that "there is a place for you in the sun".
Zimbabwe became the regional bread basket, with about 5 000 white commercial farmers growing enough to feed the nation and export.
Buyers from all over the world came to Zimbabwe's annual tobacco auction and tourists flocked to the Victoria Falls and wildlife reserves, while its Sandawana emeralds and renowned Shona stone sculpture were widely popular.
That changed in the 1990s. Mugabe's rule became increasingly repressive against a growingly vociferous opposition and corruption grew rampant. Mugabe then seized on an issue that long has preoccupied Africans -- land ownership.
Pointing to a distribution that had a few thousand whites owning tens of thousands of hectares of rich lands, the government began appropriating white farms in a violent campaign in which some white farmers were killed.
Tens of thousands of farmworkers lost their jobs and most land was distributed to the family and friends of politically connected Zimbabweans, though some ordinary people got small plots.
Last week, the Commercial Farmers' Union said fewer than 1 000 white commercial farmers remain, working a fraction of land they once sowed. A parliamentary committee said there would be no farming season this year, even if the drought breaks, because there are no seeds, no agricultural chemicals because there is no foreign currency, and no fuel to transport products or work tractors.
Potato Printing - Zimbabwe
Potatoes are one of the most available natural resource in Zimbabwe. Talented artisans have discovered that their value extents beyond nutritional. By carving flat sections of potato, they create stamps on which pigments are placed before imprinting fabric. This intricate art requires incredible patience, along with a well-developed sense of color, design, and attention to detail. Zimbabwe artisans are becoming known for their skill in this wonderful medium, similar to the wood block techniques used in other parts of the world.