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  • Christine Chumbler
    Jun 1, 2000
      Zimbabwe police create
      pre-vote veneer of order

      Police have started evicting invaders from white-owned farms, in what crirics
      say is an attempt to lull foreign observers into believing a free and fair
      election is possible in Zimbabwe.


      JEREMY LOVELL reports


      IMBABWEAN police have begun enforcing the law after months of
      tolerating government-backed violence intended to crush the opposition's
      electoral challenge.

      But critics say the new tack is simply a ploy to persuade foreign observers that
      the parliamentary election on June 24-25 will have been both free and fair.

      Only in April the police were trying to have set aside a court ruling that they
      should evict black squatters from hundreds of white-owned farms, arguing it
      might spark civil war.

      "There is a before and after," one foreign diplomat said at the weekend. "The
      period before the announcement of the election date, when the police did nothing,
      is gone. History starts with the announcement of the election date."

      On Tuesday police finally evicted invaders -- most of whom style themselves as
      veterans of Rhodesia's 1970s war of liberation from white rule -- from a
      white-owned farm in the eastern highlands.

      For weeks they had refused to go near
      the property, owned by Roy Bennet, a
      prominent businessman and prospective
      parliamentary candidate for the
      opposition Movement for Democratic
      Change. Many of the affected farmers
      back the MDC.

      Police have also repelled attacks by the
      veterans on a police station in the town
      of Mvurwi, 100 km north of the capital,
      killing one of the attackers in the
      process.

      The attacks followed the arrest of one
      veteran who was being held at the
      station, and the arrest in the Harare
      suburb of Budiriro of 46 other militants
      who were accused of torturing
      opponents of the government.

      But critics say these are cosmetic
      reactions to what have been almost
      daily incidents of torture and repression
      of opposition supporters.

      "There are lots of observers landing here almost on a daily basis," one foreign
      diplomat said. "If they (the government) want the elections to be declared free
      and fair, the violence has to stop. The police have to take action."

      "The police have done nothing so far. They have to do something so as to be seen
      being police," said another. "For the elections to be judged both free and fair
      there has to be a cessation of violence and restoration of the rule of law."

      At least 24 people have been murdered, hundreds beaten or tortured and many
      more driven from their homes since February, as police have looked on, in a
      campaign ostensibly intended to reverse the wrongs of colonial land seizure.
      More than 1 000 of 4 500 mainly white-owned commercial farms have been
      occupied.

      Electoral arithmetic makes it virtually certain President Robert Mugabe's ruling
      Zanu-PF will extend its 20-year rule. The president personally awards 30 of the
      150 seats in parliament.

      Mugabe has condemned the violence but said the invasions are justified because
      land redistribution has been too slow.

      Last week the government passed a law giving it the power to acquire land while
      paying only for improvements made and not the underlying asset -- passing that
      particular buck to the former colonial ruler, Britain.

      Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa told the invading veterans at the
      weekend they should prepare to leave the farms, but veteran leader Chenjerai
      Hunzvi said on Tuesday they would stay put until the president ordered them to
      leave.

      -- Reuters, June 1 2000.

      *****

      Farms To Be Seized in Zimbabwe

      By Angus Shaw
      Associated Press Writer
      Wednesday, May 31, 2000; 3:22 p.m. EDT

      HARARE, Zimbabwe ** The government will seize 841 white-owned
      farms and hand them over to landless blacks by the end of June, a
      government official announced Wednesday.

      Vincent Kwenda, described as the director of land acquisition in the office
      of President Robert Mugabe, made the announcement while touring the
      country to explain a new land-seizure law passed by ruling party
      lawmakers last month, state radio reported.

      The law empowers the government to seize private land without paying
      compensation.

      Kwenda said the landless would be allowed to settle on the properties
      before roads, water supplies, schools and other infrastructure are installed,
      the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. reported. That would be a departure
      from the normal practice in which farms acquired for resettlement were
      carved up into plots with access roads and basic utilities.

      Since February, squatters led by ruling party militants have occupied more
      than 1,400 white-owned farms, saying they were protesting the slow pace
      of the government's land nationalization program.

      It was not immediately clear whether squatters on farms not among the
      841 to be nationalized would be forced off land they have claimed.

      Kwenda spoke in the agricultural center of Chinhoyi, 70 miles northwest
      of Harare. His remarks came despite a plan proposed by President Thabo
      Mbeki of South Africa in which Saudi Arabia, Nordic countries and other
      donors would contribute $14 million to pay 118 farmers who did not
      contest seizure but demanded fair compensation.

      The 118 farms would serve as a model for future land reform.

      State radio said the government will list the 841 targeted properties in an
      official proclamation Friday.

      David Hasluck, director of the Commercial Farmers' Union, said even
      under the new land nationalization law, the state was required by the
      constitution to give owners 30 days to respond to the proclamation. It
      therefore could not act before the end of June, he said.

      However, ownership rights enshrined in the constitution and laws
      protecting private property have been ignored by the government during
      violent land occupations by mobs and veterans of the bush war that ended
      white rule in Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known before independence
      from Britain.

      Mugabe has described the occupations as a justified protest against unfair
      land ownership mainly by the descendants of British settlers.

      The Movement for Democratic Change opposition group, the biggest
      threat to the ruling party in parliamentary elections slated for June 24-25,
      accuses Mugabe of allowing the occupations and promising land to bolster
      his flagging popularity among the rural poor, and to punish white farmers
      for openly supporting the opposition.

      At least 26 people, most of them opposition supporters, have been killed
      in political violence that began in February. Four of the dead were white
      farmers.

      *****

      ZIM TO BEGIN WITHDRAWAL
      FROM DR CONGO ZIMBABWE
      will begin a phased withdrawal of
      troops from the Democratic
      Republic of the Congo at the end
      of the month, the privately-owned
      weekly Financial Gazette said on
      Thursday. The paper quoted
      military sources as saying under a
      preliminary plan, 5 000 troops will
      be withdrawn at the end of June
      while the remainder will pull out in
      July when United Nations
      peacekeeping forces are expected
      to be fully deployed in the DRC.
      Despite widespread opposition at
      home, Mugabe has deployed
      11 000 troops, a third of the
      Zimbabwean army, to the
      22-month- old war to support
      President Laurent Kabila against a
      Tutsi-led rebellion backed by
      Uganda and Rwanda. Zimbabwe's
      costly involvement in the conflict,
      which some analysts say has
      carried a price tag of hundreds of
      millions of dollars, has added to
      the woes of the country's
      economy.

      *****

      Manhunt for killers of
      Zim farmer launched

      CRIS CHINAKA, Harare | Thursday 2.40pm.

      ZIMBABWEAN police launched a manhunt on Thursday for
      the killer of a fifth white farmer shot dead in a gun battle with
      intruders on his farm.
      Tony Oates was asleep in his farmhouse northwest of Harare
      when two intruders cut the burglar bars in the bedroom where
      he was sleeping on Wednesday night.
      "He [Oates] shot at the intruders and killed one of them, but he
      was also shot and died," a spokeswoman for the Commercial
      Farmers' Union said, adding that it appears to be a criminal act
      unconnected with recent white farm invasions.
      Oates's wife was watching television in another part of the
      house when the shooting occurred. She was slightly injured
      after a brief scuffle with the remaining attacker and fled the
      house.
      The incident occurred on the Shelton farm in the Trelawney
      district. It was not among the hundreds of white-owned farms
      occupied by self-styled war veterans since February.
      "Police are investigating. We have launched a manhunt. We
      believe it is a criminal act," said Chief Superintendent Wayne
      Vudzijena.
      Oates, in his 60s, is the fifth white farmer to die since liberation
      war veterans and supporters of President Robert Mugabe
      began invading more than a thousand white-owned commercial
      farms in February, demanding land they say was stolen during
      the British colonial era.
      About 200 veterans protested outside the British High
      Commission in Harare on Thursday, waving placards for
      Mugabe's Zanu-PF ruling party and chanting anti-British
      slogans, including "Peter Hain, Robin Cook. Stop lying about
      Zimbabwe."
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