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  • Christine Chumbler
    Stories from several sources (Mail & Guardian, BBC, CNN). Zimbabwe faces state of emergency A state of emergency looms over Zimbabwe as a wave of arson attacks
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2000
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      Stories from several sources (Mail & Guardian, BBC, CNN).


      Zimbabwe faces state of emergency

      A state of emergency looms over Zimbabwe as a wave of arson attacks and
      assaults push the country closer to the brink of anarchy.


      By ANDREW MELDRUM and CRIS CHINAKA in Harare


      HE prospect of a state of emergency looms over Zimbabwe as President
      Robert Mugabe's government threatens sweeping action in response to the
      upsurge of politically motivated violence across the country.

      Opposition leaders and white farmers yesterday reported a wave of arson attacks
      and assaults by supporters of Mr Mugabe, pushing the country closer to the brink
      of anarchy.

      The minister of home affairs, Dumiso Dabengwa, said yesterday that he is
      "urgently considering various strict measures to deal with public demonstrations
      until the completion of elections".

      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 sources said the policemen were being held hostage by war veterans who
      had occupied the farm.

      "Although the farmer is being allowed to move around with his family, the
      atmosphere is very intimidating," a farm community source told Reuters.

      The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said a candidate in the
      parliamentary election, Biggie Chigovera, had his home burned in a fire-bomb
      attack early yesterday.

      In almost all the violent incidents in recent days the instigators have been Zanu-PF
      supporters. Yet Mr Dabengwa blamed the MDC for the violence. He said it had
      "worked out a strategy to create anarchy in the country to force the government
      to cancel the forthcoming elections", according to the state-run Herald
      newspaper. Mr Dabengwa said the government would take all necessary action
      to foil the strategy.

      "The Mugabe government is frightened
      by the groundswell of support for the
      opposition. The government is creating
      a climate of violence in the country and
      then blaming the opposition for the
      violence," said John Makumbe, a
      political science lecturer at the
      University of Zimbabwe. "I think they
      are creating this atmosphere of violence
      in order to justify imposing a state of
      emergency in the country."

      Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC,
      warned that the government is planning
      to increase its oppression against his
      party and other opposition groups.

      "A chronology of violence has been
      perpetrated by the state against the
      MDC," said Mr Tsvangirai. "It is
      ghastly. It is like infanticide against our
      young party. The government is
      working to induce fear and intimidation
      across the country. But elections cannot
      be won on a basis of intimidation."

      Mr Tsvangirai said the imposition of a
      state of emergency was "a possibility
      but not a probability. This country
      cannot afford not have democratic
      elections. The situation is very tense, it
      is risky for the opposition. But there can
      be no reversal of the transition to a new government that is already taking place."

      Mr Tsvangirai said the government "has no option but to go forwards and restore
      order in the country. It must carry out elections which they know they will lose."

      He criticised Mr Mugabe for trying to divide Zimbabwe along racial lines.
      "Mugabe wants to use the race card and to win support by attacking whites. But
      race relations are good. The blacks and whites of this country have never been as
      united as we are now in standing against Zanu-PF. In the past 100 years we have
      never achieved such harmony."

      Mr Mugabe's government yesterday continued to rush through parliament a
      constitutional amendment which will give it power to seize land without paying. It
      is expected to be given its third reading today before being signed by Mr
      Mugabe.

      The minister of justice, Emmerson Mnangagwa, introduced the amendment to
      parliament, saying "we now must grant unto ourselves the right to acquire land
      unfettered with colonial laws which require compensation to be paid for stolen
      land." The amendment, the 16th enacted since 1980, states that if Britain does not
      pay compensation for land acquired for resettlement the government would be
      under no obligation to do so.

      Mr Mnangagwa said: "the current Labour government has reneged on the issue of
      paying compensation on land acquired for resettlement."

      The Blair government has stated repeatedly that it will fund land redistribution in
      Zimbabwe, so long as it is designed to reduce rural poverty and is open and
      transparent.

      * Mr Mugabe cannot stand the sight of the British foreign office minister Peter
      Hain, the official Zimbabwe news agency reported yesterday.

      Mr Mugabe, returning from the two-day Africa-Europe summit in Egypt, said: "I
      insisted that the meeting with [foreign secretary Robin] Cook would not include
      Peter Hain as I do no want to have sight of him. [He] has already predicted we
      are going to rig the elections. I told Cook we have never rigged elections."

      *****

      Mugabe talks of
      war with Britain

      OWN CORRESPONDENT, Harare | Thursday 11.30am

      ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe all but challenged
      Britain to war over the occupation of white-owned farms on
      Wednesday.
      Speaking during a stopover in Nairobi on his return from the
      Euro-Africa summit in Cairo, Mugabe said he had told British
      Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that Zimbabwe was prepared
      for war over the issue of white farms.
      "If they [Britain] are on the war path, I told him we will defend
      ourselves and if need be we can go back to the trenches," he
      told Zimbabwean Television. "If they want a war to go on, well
      they will have only themselves to blame." Meanwhile
      opposition leaders and white farmers reported a wave of arson
      attacks and assaults by supporters of Mugabe. One opposition
      chief accused the government of orchestrating the growing
      violence, which has claimed at least two lives. Opposition
      sources and farmers who have 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 1970's liberation
      struggle have occupied about 600 white-owned farms to
      support claims for the redistribution of prime land taken by
      whites under British colonial rule. Mugabe says any
      compensation is for Britain to pay.
      Britain has accused Mugabe, in power since independence in
      1980, of undermining the resettlement programme by giving
      land to his "cronies" instead of poor people who need it most,
      and has criticised his failure to condemn the occupations.
      Mugabe shrugged off Britain's appeals for a diplomatic
      solution, saying he would not be swayed by its global stature.
      He suggested his army was more than capable of handling
      Britain's forces.

      *****

      Zimbabwe Farm Standoff Continues

      By Angus Shaw
      Associated Press Writer
      Wednesday, April 5, 2000; 2:32 p.m. EDT

      HARARE, Zimbabwe ** Militant squatters backed by the ruling party
      besieged a homestead in northern Zimbabwe, leaving a white couple holed
      up inside for a second day Wednesday.

      Police have not intervened and neighbors were attempting to persuade the
      squatters to withdraw. The siege came as an opposition group claimed
      Wednesday that a wave of political violence has been deliberately
      unleashed by the government in advance of expected May elections.

      "It's a tense and worrying situation," Malcolm Vowles, a district union
      official said of the standoff Wednesday.

      About 60 squatters armed with knives and clubs surrounded the home of
      farmer J.J. Hammond on Tuesday in the Mvurwi farming area, 60 miles
      north of Harare, the Commercial Farmers' Union said.

      Telephone contact with the farm was lost, the union said.

      The squatters * led by men claiming to be veterans of Zimbabwe's
      independence war * chased away reporters and a television crew who
      approached the farm Tuesday, hitting their cars with golf clubs and axes.
      No one was injured in the confrontation.

      Some squatters were believed to have stolen firearms from a detachment
      of six police officers they surrounded and overpowered Tuesday, Vowles
      said.

      At least three people have died in recent political violence, the main
      opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change said Wednesday.

      A pregnant woman died Sunday after being assaulted on her way home
      from an opposition rally in Mvurwi. Opposition groups accused President
      Robert Mugabe's ruling party of being responsible for that attack.

      Mugabe has described the illegal occupation of more than 800
      white-owned farms over the past month as a justifiable protest against the
      ownership of prime land by the descendants of British settlers.

      An opposition party member died March 28 in a Harare hospital from
      head wounds inflicted by a stone hurled at the vehicle he was traveling in,
      Democratic Change said in a statement.

      A police officer was shot dead Tuesday east of Harare on a farm where
      white landowner and opposition supporter Ian Kay was assaulted by
      squatters and hospitalized a day earlier. Witnesses said squatters also
      killed the constable.

      Police have refused to evict the squatters, despite worsening attacks on
      farmers, their workers and opposition supporters.

      "This is an orchestrated plan by the government to induce fear. If it's an
      indication of things to come, God help this country," said Democratic
      Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai. "To talk of free and fair elections in this
      atmosphere is a fallacy."

      National elections are expected to be called in May, but opposition
      groups fear the government may declare a state of emergency to give it
      sweeping powers before the vote.

      Mugabe's Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa earlier accused the
      opposition party of provoking violence to force the government to delay
      the elections.

      Since December, the nation has faced the worst economic crisis since
      independence in 1980.

      *****

      Nigerian President to Mediate in Zimbabwe-Britain Stand-Off

      HARARE (April 5) XINHUA - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has
      been asked to mediate in the simmering stand-off between Zimbabwe and
      Britain over land issue in a bid to restore the previous confidence and goodwill.

      Relations between the two countries plummeted to an all-time low because of
      issues mainly pertaining to Zimbabwe's land policies, the Zimbabwe News
      Agency reported on Wednesday.

      The appointment was made following a meeting with British Foreign Secretary
      Robin Cook this week, said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on
      Wednesday.

      "We met with Mr. Robin Cook at his own insistence. He had met with Mr.
      Obasanjo and other presidents and asked Obasanjo to assist on the relations
      between us and Britain," he told Zimbabwean reporters during a stop-over in the
      Kenyan capital Nairobi after attending the first Africa-Europe summit in Egypt.

      Mugabe met with Cook during the Africa-Europe summit which ended on
      Tuesday.

      Britain had earlier approached several presidents including Thabo Mbeki of
      South Africa and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique before settling on Obasanjo
      as the mediator.

      The bad relations between the two countries were further worsened last
      weekend when some white people were caught up in violent clashes between a
      group of opposition National Constitutional Assembly members who were
      marching for peace and veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war, whom the
      marchers accused of illegally occupying white-owned farms.

      The land dispute emanated from the fact that the Zimbabwean government wants
      to acquire farms for resettlement and only pay for improvements, while the
      Britons want compensation to be paid for the land as well.

      A bill which seeks to give the Zimbabwean government power to compulsorily
      acquire land without paying compensation is going through the parliament.

      "I told Cook that we didn't accept the way Britain was treating us," Mugabe
      said, adding that Zimbabwe's "relations with the Labor government are worse
      than those with the Conservatives."

      During the Lancaster House talks that culminated in Zimbabwe's independence
      in 1980, the British government agreed to fund the southern African country's
      resettlement program, Mugabe told Cook.

      "We said we are at a stage where the people are demanding more land, and we
      are supporting the war veterans (on farm invasions)," he said.

      According to Mugabe, Cook pledged his government's commitment to fund the
      land reform program, but insisted that the program should be carried out to
      improve the lot of rural farmers, and that it should be done through the rule of
      law.

      Mugabe said his government would not refuse the assistance as long as the
      British government was prepared to go along with the clause now being debated
      in Zimbabwe's parliament.

      A three-man multi-sectoral team from the Zimbabwean government would now
      go to London to discuss the proposals over the land issue with British officials.
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