ok, this looks ominous.
Arson attacks waged over farmland claims in Zimbabwe
April 5, 2000
Web posted at: 12:29 PM EDT (1629 GMT)
HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) -- Opposition leaders and white farmers reported
a wave of arson attacks and assaults Wednesday by supporters of President
Robert Mugabe, pushing Zimbabwe closer to anarchy.
Opposition and farming sources who asked not to be identified told Reuters
of petrol-bomb attacks and beatings east, north and west of the capital
Harare during the night.
An estimated 3,000 veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s war for independence from
Britain have occupied about 600 white-owned farms in support of claims for
the redistribution of prime land taken by whites under colonial rule.
Mugabe, who returned from the Europe-Africa Summit in Cairo early on
Wednesday, has refused to condemn the farm invasions, and the war veterans
say they have his support.
The president is fighting for his political life after a referendum defeat
Mugabe told the state-run Ziana news agency during a flight home from a
summit in Cairo that Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had agreed to
mediate between Zimbabwe and Britain.
Mugabe had said earlier after talks with British Foreign Secretary Robin
Cook that he would be willing to send a delegation for talks in London.
He told Ziana, later: "He (Cook) had met with Mr. Obasanjo and other
presidents and asked Obasanjo to assist on relations between us and
The British government has been sharply critical of Mugabe's failure to
condemn the occupation of about 600 mainly white-owned farms by veterans of
the country's 1970s war for liberation from Britain.
Britain says it has contingency plans to take in more than 20,000 Zimbabwean
whites with British passports if the violence against them worsens.
Eight policemen were ambushed late on Tuesday and had their automatic rifles
taken when they tried to investigate a reported assault on a farm northeast
of the capital.
The policemen were being held hostage by war veterans who had occupied the
farm, the sources said.
"Although the farmer is being allowed to move around with his family, the
atmosphere is very intimidating," a farm-community source told Reuters.
Two other farmers were reportedly being detained in their homesteads by
Earlier on Tuesday, a police officer was shot and killed during skirmishes
on an occupied farm in the east.
"A police officer was killed and investigations are still going on," a
police spokesman told Reuters.
He also said the owner of the farm, Ian Kay, had been assaulted during the
scuffles, but declined to say whether any arrests had been made.
A friend of the farmer said Kay was sent home on Wednesday after a night in
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said a candidate in
parliamentary elections due between May and July, Biggie Chigovera, had his
home burned in a fire-bomb attack early on Wednesday.
South African radio reported another firebomb attack against an opposition
leader in a northern suburb of Harare.
A member of the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents about 4,500
mainly white farmers, blamed the escalating tension on provocative
statements by Mugabe.
"We are not surprised that this is happening considering the statements that
have been made," the farmer said.
Mugabe backs war veterans
Mugabe has said the war veterans were entitled to seize farms following the
55 percent vote in the February referendum against his proposed new
constitution, which would have given him the right to seize farms without
In remarks later explained by a party official as "metaphorical," Mugabe has
also said his critics could die for their opposition to his 20-year rule in
the former Rhodesia.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe's 150-member parliament began debate on a bill which
would amend the constitution to allow the government to acquire white farms
with responsibility to pay compensation falling on Britain.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa urged
support for the bill, which must be approved by at least 100 legislators not
in Mugabe's cabinet, saying it would be a logical conclusion to land
"Never, never, never again shall our land be alienated from its people or
our people from the land," Mnangagwa said.
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