- May 9, 2000U.S. Official Condemns Zimbabwe
By Ravi Nessman
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, May 9, 2000; 10:06 a.m. EDT
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa ** U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott condemned the government of Zimbabwe on Tuesday for
political violence that has killed at least 18 people * mostly opposition
supporters * in recent months.
"What is happening today in Zimbabwe is tarnishing southern Africa's
otherwise well-deserved reputation for building civil society, respecting
human rights and establishing the rule of law," Talbott told a conference on
U.S.-Africa relations at the University of Witwatersrand.
Also Tuesday, Norway froze much of its economic aid to Zimbabwe to
protest the situation and to "send clear signals to the authorities in
Zimbabwe," Development Aid Minister Anne Kristin Sydnes said.
Armed black squatters, some of whom have said they are being paid by
the ruling party, have occupied more than 1,000 white-owned farms
across Zimbabwe this year, demanding the land be seized and
redistributed to some of the country's 7.5 million landless blacks. At the
same time, other ruling party militants have beaten * and in some cases
killed * opposition supporters in advance of a parliamentary election that
legally must be called by August.
Talbott decried the tattered state of democracy in Zimbabwe.
"We all recognize that there are historical inequities in land distribution in
that country * inequities that can and must be rectified. But that's no
excuse for the Zimbabwean government to condone * and even instigate *
blatant violations of the rule of law and violence against supporters of
opposition parties," he said.
He called on the Southern African Development Community, which
comprises 14 countries in the region, "to do everything it can to encourage
free and fair parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe before August and to
insist on an end to the violence."
Talbott spoke before heading to Pretoria to meet with President Thabo
Mbeki, who is making a state visit to the United States later this month.
Zimbabwe school farm
Squatters have invaded about 1,200 farms
Supporters of land occupations in Zimbabwe
have invaded a school farm, forcing pupils to
The squatters are demanding the use of half of
the buildings at the Rydings primary school
near Karoi, in the north west of the country.
Teachers said they feared for the safety of
300 children, all aged under 11.
and veterans of
war have invaded about
farms since February as
part of a
The Rydings school sits
on a 1,100-acre farm,
run by a non-profit-making organisation which
uses the farming activities to subsidise school
fees for children from neighbouring Zambia and
Head teacher Iain McKenzie said: "I would hate
to have 300 children here without certainty of
He said after
parents he had decided
not to reopen the
school for the start of
the new term until the
safety of pupils is
Mr McKenzie said the
war veterans had
demanded a significant
section of Rydings
Charles Slight, chairman of the board of
trustees of Rydings, said: "The farming
community has tried to keep this issue as
non-confrontational as possible, but they've
been told by the war veterans that they also
want 'half the school.'"
US speaks out
The school farm invasion came as US President
Bill Clinton expressed hopes that the land crisis
would be lawfully resolved.
President Clinton said: "I've got (Washington's
UN) Ambassador Holbrooke over there now,
working on a lot of the troubles in Africa,
including the situation in Zimbabwe, and I hope
it can be worked out in a lawful manner.
"I think it's quite sad, what's going on,
because it's a very important country, and it's
very important to South Africa and South
Africa's future as well as to the future of the
people who live in Zimbabwe," he said.
War veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi earlier
served notice that the invasions of
white-owned farms would be stepped up.
He urged his followers to seek out British
passport holders and force them to leave the
The UK Government has said it has
contingency plans to evacuate up to 20,000
people in the event of an emergency.
At least 12 opposition supporters - including
three white farmers - have been killed in
political violence that has accompanied the
The Zimbabwe Government has pledged to
break up big, largely white-owned farms and
redistribute them to landless peasants.
White Kenyan Says 500 Families Invade Two Farms
NAIROBI (Reuters) - A white Kenyan government minister said Tuesday that
hundreds of families had invaded two farms following calls by two radical
parliamentarians for the occupation of under-utilized white-owned farms.
Basil Criticos, the assistant minister for roads and public works, said in a
statement that about 300 families had moved onto his farm and beaten up his
security personnel. Another 200 families had invaded another farm, he said.
"Since the debate on this sensitive subject began, my farm has been invaded by
over 300 families...who not only burned over 2,000 acres of arable sisal but also
cleared the burned sisal and started cultivating and subdividing the land with
impunity," Criticos said.
The statement did not say when the invasions began but said they followed
exhortations by Social Democratic Party MP Steven Ndicho, and Sharif Nassir,
a minister in the Office of the President.
There have been fears that Kenya could be enveloped by violence similar to that
in Zimbabwe where veterans of the country's civil war have occupied hundreds
of white-owned farms they say were stolen by British colonists about a century
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