The Maori Party says it is difficult to know what is going on in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe because it has to rely on media reports for information.

Co-leader Tariana Turia said the party's experience made it wary of relying on media as the sole sources of authority.

The party's reticence on Zimbabwe comes despite world leaders, including United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, expressing their anxiety about current human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

At least two children have died in the rubble of their homes and others have frozen to death after being left without shelter because of Mr Mugabe's policy of bulldozing homes in the urban strongholds of his rivals.

The UN estimates 300,000 have been left homeless. Half Zimbabwe's 11 million population are starving.

Most of the revelations about abuses in Zimbabwe emerge through human rights groups or smuggled television footage because Mr Mugabe has banned foreign journalists and controls domestic media.

Mrs Turia and her Maori Party co-leader, Dr Pita Sharples, issued a statement questioning whether they could rely on reports to be accurate.

They said Zimbabwe was being singled out for possible sporting sanctions when New Zealand was prepared to trade with other nations with poor human rights records.

"We are uncomfortable about the appropriateness of selecting one country out for international condemnation when we are aware of human abuses being reported with countries whom we are happy to trade with."

Dr Sharples said that China was one such country.

He said on National Radio that events in Zimbabwe were "not good" but the Maori Party did not have enough information to fully judge the situation.

He cited wars in Vietnam and Iraq as examples where accuracy was an issue.

Dr Sharples also said it would be better for Zimbabwe's neighbours, and the African Union, to work for change. South Africa and the AU members say Zimbabwe's affairs are an internal matter.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change MP Welshman Ncube has detailed the current abuses to the Herald, and said the New Zealand cricketers should not tour there next month.

"The situation is very grave. They are just attacking people indiscriminately. It is a real nightmare out there."

Asked about his own safety, Professor Ncube said anything could happen.

"We live in a country that is run by criminals. You can get arrested at any time. Anyone can be shot at any time."

State of play

* The Black Caps are set to tour Zimbabwe despite political pressure to cancel.
* Ministers Phil Goff and Jim Anderton today meet NZ Cricket head Martin Snedden.
* The cricketers say international contracts mean they must tour or face crippling fines.
* The Government opposes next month's tour because of human rights abuses.