- Jun 1, 2000Zimbabwe 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
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
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
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
-- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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