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`This is not about racism, it's politics'
By GARY YOUNGE HARARE - Friday 21 April 2000
 
Tichaona Chiminya was a reserved man but when he talked politics he could breathe fire. His friends describe him as retiring but he knew how to hold a crowd.

"When he was addressing people about democracy he spoke with a certain intensity," says one of his peers in Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.

On Saturday evening he was driving with another MDC supporter, Talent Mabika, when his car was stopped by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party. They carried clubs, sticks and iron bars.

They dragged both him and Ms Mabika into the road, clubbed them to death and then set their bodies alight. His family had planned to bury him on Wednesday but his body was so charred that the funeral parlor needed an extra day to treat it.

In the meantime his father's house in the township of Highfield, near Harare, plays host to displays of defiance and grief. In the front garden MDC supporters toyi-toyi (protest dance) to the chant: "MDC is for the masses."

With T-shirts proclaiming "land to the people, not to the politicians", they shuffle and jive in an apparently endless circle around a drum. They rise and fall with the beat, their open palms - the symbol of the MDC - held high. When they get tired they sit on sofas underneath the lemon tree.

In the back garden family members are grieving: women prepare dinner in tears; others simply sit, in the arms of friends and neighbors, and stare into space. The weeping is sober and persistent.

Mr Chiminya's father-in-law stands by the kitchen door, trying to maintain a dividing line between the personal and political. "To you this is about politics," he says. "To me it is about my daughter's husband."

That line is occasionally breached. A weeping relative will dry their eyes and shuffle past the vegetable patch to join the demonstrators.

Mr Chiminya was not only a husband and son-in-law but also the father of a daughter of 15 and a son of 11.

Once the national organiser of the Chemical Workers Union, he had recently been appointed the driver for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Few of these details emerged when he was killed. Mr Chiminya was one of at least six black Zimbabweans - five MDC supporters and one policeman - who died in the violence that has engulfed the country over the past two weeks.

He was murdered on the same day as David Stevens, the first white farmer to be killed, but while the Stevens murder triggered headlines of impending civil war, the lives of Mr Chiminya and Ms Mabika earned little more than a footnote in reports of the day's violence.

MDC supporters say that the portrayal of recent events in the country as a racial war is precisely what Mr Mugabe was hoping for. With interest rates, unemployment and inflation all high and only a month before elections are due, opposition leaders regard the land invasions as a bloody sideshow.

"This is not about racism but about politics," says Remus Makuwaza, an executive member of the MDC. "The government is trying to divert attention away from its political and economic problems so it has targeted a minority."

White Zimbabweans make up just 1per cent of the population but own the vast majority of the best farmland.

Most Zimbabweans, including many whites, agree there must be land reform. Few, including most blacks, believe the government is going about it in the right way.

Polls suggest Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF remains the single most popular party but little of that popularity is rubbing off on Mr Mugabe. The MDC has been gaining ground, holding rallies around the country.

"We have been independent now for 20 years," says Kitizo, a young man who lives in Harare and refuses to give his full name for fear of reprisal.

"So of course we cannot continue with such a small group of people owning so much land when so many in rural areas have nothing. But we should not be killing them. We need democracy also."


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British multi-millionaire bankrolls Mugabe party

Paymaster: Nicholas Hoogstraten says leader does a good job

Zimbabwe: special report

David Pallister
Friday April 21, 2000

The old Marxist Robert Mugabe may be losing friends around the world at an alarming rate but he still has one unusual and influential capitalist supporter in Uckfield, East Sussex.

Nicholas Hoogstraten, 54, the controversial property multi-millionaire who regards ramblers as the scum of the earth and his tenants and women with even more contempt, has emerged as a long-standing financial backer of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF.

Mr Hoogstraten, who is building a 30m Renaissance-style palace with a mausoleum to preserve his remains, confirmed yesterday that he had funded Mr Mugabe and his party since the early 1960s when he acquired land in the country. He now owns nine farms covering 1m acres and a huge cattle company but, he says, only one of his nominee managers is white.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Hoogstraten is in no doubt where Zimbabwe's current problems stem from. Using his characteristically forceful language, he said: "This has all been stirred up by white disenfranchised trash who still think it's Rhodesia. I have some good white friends in Zimbabwe but those Rhodies, as we call them, are disgusting people. They want to ruin the country. They treat the blacks worse than blacks are treated in America. I've had no problem with indigenising my properties."

Mr Hoogstraten revealed that he continues to provide funds for Zanu-PF candidates. Over the years, he said, he must have contributed hundreds of thousands of pounds.

His money, and his friendship with Mr Mugabe, he believes, will ensure that his properties are not the subject of attacks by the war veterans.

A millionaire by the time he was 20, Mr Hoogstraten first bought some parcels of land for 40,000 in 1963. On a visit to the then Southern Rhodesia he met Tiny Rowland of Lonhro. They agreed that it made sense to back the emerging black nationalist groups, with Rowland siding with Joshua Nkomo and Mr Hoogstraten backing Mr Mugabe. Accurately he predicted that Mr Mugabe would come out on top as the leader of the biggest tribe, but like a canny businessman he did a bit of betting on both sides.

"I gave Zanu-PF five thousand here and five thousand there, a lot of money in those days. I also used to pay for Nkomo's hotel bills when he was in London but I stopped that when his side brought down a civilian airliner."

He later fell out with Rowland. In 1998 he explained that he had sold his 5% stake in Lonhro "because it's a ragbag of investments run by a bunch of incompetents".

In 10 days he flies to Harare. "It's a decent civilised ex-colonial country," he said. "It's a paradise compared with places like Nigeria.

"Mugabe has done a tremendous job keeping the country together and I'm appalled and disgusted at the way the media has treated him."

He dismisses reports of government corruption with a shrug. "It's no more than 10%. In Nigeria it's 90%. I used to own the tin mines there until I flooded them in the early 1980s."

Ever since he began his business career with a valuable stamp collection from his father, Mr Hoogstraten has courted controversy. He now owns large chunks of freehold in Brighton and homes in Cannes, Monte Carlo, Maryland and Florida. In a recent interview he described women as "chattels", and admitted to having a mistress in each of his houses. He also has an extensive collection of memorabilia from the slave trade.

Mr Hoogstraten's unconventional approach to business was demonstrated in the mid-1960s when he fell out with his partner, threw a grenade at his house, and ended up in prison. He made it into the Guinness Book of Records by having the highest disclosed UK personal tax demand in 1981: 5.3m.

More recently he was locked in combat with the Ramblers Association after he blocked a footpath across his estate. The "great unwashed", as he called them, won.


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Diplomats face rush for British passports
By David Blair in Harare

SCORES of worried people crowded into the British High Commission in Harare yesterday, preparing contingency plans for a hasty departure.

Since the farm crisis began in February, overworked consular staff have been dealing with a big increase in applications for British passports and visas. The main switchboard is now jammed with panic-stricken callers throughout the day and two new staff have been flown from London to deal with the rush.

Beneath portraits of the Queen, frightened people jostled. Liz Horsfall, who has lived in Zimbabwe since 1970, said: "I don't think I've ever felt so insecure as I do now. It's a surreal existence." She has a British passport and had joined her daughter to register for consular protection for the first time.

Mrs Horsfall said: "We've been here through everything, through the war and sanctions, but I've never felt so stressed as I do now." Other whites were inquiring about their eligibility for British passports. One farmer said: "It's because of my children. If push comes to shove, I want them out."


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How Britain can trump Mugabe's race card

Cook should remain silent on Zimbabwe, but the Commonwealth must speak out 

Nine years ago Commonwealth leaders met in Zimbabwe and adopted as a manifesto the "Harare principles", setting out the human and democratic rights required of all members. Nowhere now are those rights more comprehensively violated than in Harare itself.

Yet the Commonwealth, lumbering through the sovereignty maze, has barely said a word. There is no question of intervention. Commonwealth observers will monitor Zimbabwe's elections only if asked. Sanctions cannot be discussed until a standing Commonwealth task force meets next month. Quiet diplomacy, surely, has its limits.

Don McKinnon, the former Foreign Minister of New Zealand, took office as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth at the start of the month promising a more outspoken approach to the job. But his first big test has shown the limits of a body that depends on consensus, appears even more zealous than the UN in guarding the sovereignty of its smaller members, and has no enforcement at its disposal except moral disapproval, boycotts and the ultimate sanction of expulsion.

Instead, it has been left to the leaders of four African Commonwealth states to take individual initiatives. Three - from South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique - are flying to Victoria Falls because they see racial polarisation in Zimbabwe as an immediate threat to their stability, their economies and, especially in South Africa, to fragile black-white relations. The fourth, President Obasanjo of Nigeria, is setting aside his own pressing problems to negotiate with President Mugabe because he knows that bloodshed in Harare is disastrous for the image of all Africa, a continent already reeling from every imaginable setback.

But the chanting of the thugs around burning farms echoes far beyond Zimbabwe's hills. The world's most brutal wars, from Chechnya to Indonesia, stem from ethnic hatred; and most societies nowadays are grappling with ways to integrate different races and cultures. The recourse by an elderly, paranoid dictator to the crudest racism to ward off defeat sets an example so contagious that wise leaders everywhere would do well to worry. No wonder Kofi Annan, whose conception of moral as well as political leadership gives him such quiet authority, has already telephoned Mr Mugabe.

Should not others also pick up the phone? Should not Mr McKinnon cut short his visit to India and fly to Harare? Most people in Britain, outraged by the pictures, cannot understand why the Government says and does so little - and even, ludicrously, authorises a telegram of congratulation from Buckingham Palace on 20 years of independence.

There is only one good reason for such reticence - and that is because Mr Mugabe is doing his utmost to provoke British anger. Nothing would give greater credence to his bogus claims of colonialism and racism than imperious condemnation by the former colonial master.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the Opposition leader whose stature is growing every day as support swells for his Movement for Democratic Change, is well aware of the game. He says Mr Mugabe sees defeat staring him in the face but will never go quietly. The tactic is to terrorise the democrats, bribe supporters, target opponents with the same measures that eliminated rivals before independence, and so destabilise his country that a state of emergency becomes inevitable. Elections could then be postponed sine die. Mr Mugabe seems to be hoping for the kind of chaos that would wrong foot opponents and let him pose as Zimbabwe's defender against outsiders, saying that he sees no need for UN intervention - yet.

Mr Tsvangirai has explained all this in America and Britain, urging both countries to avoid any action that can be twisted to look like outside "bullying". In America this was hardly difficult: the State Department, preoccupied with the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is more concerned to get Mr Mugabe's co-operation in pulling out troops than to condemn his excesses. But in Britain his warning is taken seriously. There is no idle talk of intervention. The Government is lobbying others, such as the European Union and African leaders, to act. Robin Cook has been remarkably taciturn (though he has not helped the policy by insisting that it was his initiative that prompted both Mr Annan and Mr Obasanjo to intervene).

But that still leaves a silence where others should speak. Where are the Churches in Zimbabwe? Why have the bishops allowed themselves to be so intimidated, when Desmond Tutu shows how courage can shine from the pulpit?

And what can the Commonwealth stand for if it does not proclaim its values when they most urgently need reaffirmation? What would it matter if Mr McKinnon were to upset some elderly autocrats by denouncing the internal affairs of one member? The UN has already moved far beyond such squeamishness: the past decade has shown that dictators can no longer abuse human rights and target sections of their population in the secure knowledge that, as long as no frontier is crossed, the outside world will keep silent.

Military intervention in Zimbabwe is still, rightly, a long way off. Kosovo, Somalia and East Timor demonstrate the failure of all other means, not the greater courage of UN forces to fight evil. The doctrine of humanitarian intervention has yet to be properly elaborated, and after Kosovo few believe that international governance can bring swift stability to shattered societies. Mr Tsvangirai is determined to defeat Mr Mugabe in the only acceptable way: through the ballot box. For that he needs the unambiguous political intervention of those whose voices matter.


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US condemns Mugabe's statement

WASHINGTON (April 21) : The United States on Wednesday condemned Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's description of minority white farmers as "the enemy" but voiced confidence that the recent eruption of violence would not spill over the country's borders.
..........White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said the United States deplored the violence and a "climate of lawlessness" that led to the invasion of white-owned farms by black squatters and the recent killings of white farmers.
.........."We also deplore President Mugabe's labelling white farmers as the enemy," Lockhart, President Bill Clinton's chief spokesman, told reporters at a briefing.
..........Clinton spoke to British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a 35-minute telephone call that included a discussion about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, Lockhart later told reporters aboard Air Force One on a flight to Oklahoma City.
..........Blair described the violence in the former British colony as "disgraceful" and told parliament earlier that Britain condemned "the barbaric attacks on farmers."
..........Lockhart called on Mugabe's government to uphold recent court rulings ordering the authorities to remove black squatters, some of whom are veterans of the 1970s war for independence from Britain, and to help put a stop to their occupation of more than 500 farms.
.........."We expect that they will do that," Lockhart said. "And I don't know that there's any anticipation of that problem spreading."
..........The United States also expects neighbouring central and southern African countries to prevent any similar anti-white property seizures, he added.
..........State Department spokesman James Rubin said Mugabe's hostile remark about white farmers "can only contribute to violence and the further erosion of the rule of law."--Reuters
..........Copyright 2000 Reuters (Published under arrangements with Reuters)

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African leaders hold crisis summit
FROM MICHAEL DYNES IN HARARE
 
SPURRED by mounting international outrage over the rampant lawlessness sweeping Zimbabwe, southern African leaders arrive in Victoria Falls today for a crisis meeting in an attempt to end the violence now threatening to destabilise the entire region.

Billed as a security summit to kickstart the stalled peace process in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, it is widely seen as a belated attempt by African leaders to bring an end to the government-sponsored campaign of terror which has triggered Zimbabwe's descent into anarchy. The violence and bloodshed accompanying the occupation of more than 1,000 white commercial farms has sparked fears of waves of refugees fleeing across Zimbabwe's borders, destabilising its neighbours, unless President Mugabe can be found a face-saving way out of the crisis he precipitated.

Attempts by Mr Mugabe to claim that the invasions were the result of a "spontaneous uprising" by war veterans were further undermined yesterday after local press reports that officers from the Zimbabwe National Army had been deployed to direct the occupations by mobs and supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Among those attending the summit are Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa, Sam Nujoma, the President of Namibia and Joaquim Chissano, the President of Mozambique, the three countries immediately threatened by the chaos which has convulsed the country, along with Mr Mugabe.

The move follows the growing international condemnation of Mr Mugabe's "reign of terror" north of the Limpopo by Britain, America, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand, and mounting criticism over the failure of black African leaders to publicly condemn his actions. Mr Mbeki, who was not due to visit Zimbabwe until May, had earlier stressed that "quiet diplomacy" was better than strident criticism in dealing with the prickly Mr Mugabe. That policy appears to have failed.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and the main threat to Mr Mugabe's 20-year hold on power in the coming elections, yesterday called on African leaders to demand an end to the terror.

"I hope they rise above the petty excuses that characterise African heads of state," Mr Tsvangirai said. "When one of them makes a blunder, there is always this apologist stance." Mr Tsvangirai said that he had impressed on Mr Mbeki the need to stop standing on the sidelines while Zimbabwe burnt. "If Zimbabwe is destabilised the whole region is destabilised," he added.

Mr Tsvangirai said that Zimbabwe's crisis had been manufactured by a Government fearful of losing power. "The whole issue has nothing to do with race," he said. It's all about intimidating the opposition and subduing the nation so that when elections come (the Government) is in a stronger position."


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Britain Says Mugabe Wreaking Damage on Zimbabwe

KATHMANDU, April 21 (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said on Friday Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe was wreaking "enormous economic damage" on his country by failing to halt a violent wave of farm invasions.

Cook said Mugabe's policies, publicly aimed at redressing colonial injustices by allowing independence war veterans to seize white farmlands, were self-defeating.

"If President Mugabe is really concerned about the future of his country and the future of his people, it's time he started to assess the enormous economic damage he is doing to his people as a result of the current breakdown of the rule of law," he told reporters.

"It's going to hit them first and hit them hardest. It's time we got back to the rule of law and got back to building the economy," Cook said in Nepal, the last stage of a week-long Asian tour.

Cook said he had spoken on Friday to a member of the white farming community, who told him of the economic impact of the current unrest in Zimbabwe.

"The tobacco crop is due to start being auctioned next Wednesday. Because of the disruption of the last few weeks, nobody knows what will happen when the auctions begin," he said.

"Sowing of winter wheat is down 40 percent on last year," he added.

Cook said he also spoke on Friday by telephone to Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, who is attending a summit of southern African leaders in the Zimbabwean resort of Victoria Falls.

He said Chissano agreed that the farm occupations must end, before the issue of land reforms could be addressed.

Britain, the former colonial power in Zimbabwe, has been lobbying African nations to put pressure on Mugabe to halt the farm occupations. It says it is ready to help fund a programme which compensates white farmers for handing over land to the country's rural poor.

But it says half the land handed over since the country's independence in 1980 has gone to friends or relatives of government officials.

Cook said he hoped the African leaders would press Mugabe to send a delegation to London next week to discuss the reforms. British officials have said they expect the delegation on April 27 but are still awaiting confirmation.

Copyright 1999 Reuters...........


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Another Zimbabwe White Farm Attacked

Australia Issues Warning to Citizens in Zimbabwe (Page down)

The Associated Press, Thu 20 Apr 2000

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Nearly 200 attackers rampaged through a white-owned farm Thursday, beating dogs to death and burning down dozens of workers' homes a day after a leader of the farm occupations promised to end hostilities.

The attack was the latest violence by armed squatters who have occupied nearly 1,000 white-owned farms across Zimbabwe over the past two months. In the past week, two farmers have been killed, six others have been abducted and beaten, and several farmhouses set ablaze.

The white farmers are considered supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change, an opposition party with support far beyond Zimbabwe's 70,000 whites. Two black party activists were killed in a firebombing Saturday.

Occupation leaders had promised — after meeting Wednesday with farm leaders and President Robert Mugabe — to end the violence, though they said they would not leave the farms.

However, Associated Press Television News videotaped nearly 200 youths carrying whips, sticks and rocks attacking Alan Windram's farm in Arcturus district, 35 miles northeast of Harare on Thursday.

They first ran to the farmhouse, which Windram had abandoned after receiving threats, and began beating his six dogs.

Groups of youths surrounded some of the dogs and bludgeoned them to death with sticks. Other dogs were stoned to death, their crushed bodies left scattered about the yard. The attackers then ran to the workers' houses, kicking down doors, smashing windows and setting at least 30 homes on fire as the workers watched stunned.

The farm was targeted because it was an Movement for Democratic Change headquarters, said a man directing the attackers who identified himself as David Mazhandu.

``Our people have been suffering because of these people,'' he said.

Militant squatters marched onto another nearby farm Thursday, forcing the owners to flee, neighbors said.

Mugabe reiterated Thursday that he would not deploy police or soldiers to maintain security on the farms, saying the police wanted to give the squatters time to stop the violence on their own.

``There are many houses broken into in Britain and it doesn't mean there's no law and order,'' Mugabe told the British Broadcasting Corp. from Harare, Zimbabwe's capital.

Saying the United Nations should not intervene, Mugabe maintained his country was generally peaceful.

``They can reach their own settlement without the help of the U.N. This is not a United Nations issue yet. There is peace generally in the country,'' he said.

Mugabe is to meet Friday in Victoria Falls with African leaders, including South African President Thabo Mbeki, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The meeting, called to discuss the Congo civil war, will also touch on the farm crisis and violence in this former British colony in southeast Africa.

Mugabe says the farm occupations are a legitimate protest against the ownership of one-third of the country's productive farmland by 4,000 white farmers. He also says Britain reneged on an agreement to help pay for land reform.

Britain, which pledged nearly $55 million for land reform when Zimbabwe won independence in 1980, delivered nearly 90 percent of that money before freezing the fund in 1990. Britain halted the payments, accusing Zimbabwe of violating the agreement by forcing unwilling farmers to sell to the state.

Opposition leaders say the occupations and other political violence are merely a political ploy orchestrated by Mugabe to distract and intimidate voters ahead of what are expected to be tough parliamentary elections expected to be called for May. In recent weeks many squatters have been wearing ruling party T-shirts.

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said the violence would not intimidate the Movement for Democratic Change into boycotting elections. He also said that chaos in Zimbabwe would destabilize all of southern Africa and that regional leaders should take a stand against it.

``Africa's leadership must put their own house in order,'' Tsvangirai said after arriving home from a weeklong trip to Britain, South Africa and the United States. He called Mugabe ``a deranged dictator.''

``We have to look positively beyond Mugabe,'' Tsvangirai said of the president who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence. ``Mugabe is history.''

Copyright 2000 Associated Press.


Australia Issues Warning to Citizens in Zimbabwe

ADELAIDE, April 21 (Reuters) - Australia has warned its citizens in Zimbabwe to be on high alert for their safety and to avoid travelling to farms in the strife-torn nation.

Australia's Foreign Affairs department issued the consular warning on Thursday over violence triggered by the invasion of white-owned farms by veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s independence war.

At least four people have been killed by mobs in a violent lead-up to parliamentary elections due in May.

The warning said Australian citizens in Zimbabwe should maintain "a very high level of personal security awareness," with the possibility that further civil disturbances could affect tourists and the resident community.

Copyright 1999 Reuters.


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NZ Relaxes Rules for Zimbabweans - Radio NZ

WELLINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - New Zealand has relaxed border controls for people escaping violence in strife-torn Zimbabwe, Radio New Zealand reported on Friday.

Immigration officials have been told to automatically grant people from Zimbabwe a visitors' permit that allowed them to stay for up to nine months.

At least four people have died in violence triggered by the invasion of white-owned farms by veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s independence war.

Although Zimbabweans do not need a visa to enter New Zealand, they would be subject to normal immigration checks at the border to see whether they were genuine visitors or seeking residency, Radio New Zealand said.

"The circumstances that prevail in Zimbabwe at the moment make it very difficult for people to gain travel documentation if they don't currently have it. And we are relaxing our criteria in that regard and all of our branch offices have been informed of that," Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel told Radio NZ.

Officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.

Copyright 1999 Reuters.


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BBC: Friday, 21 April, 2000, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Zimbabwe plays down land issue

Mbeki is not expected to take a tough line with Mugabe
Zimbabwe's Government has played down suggestions that its current political crisis will come up for discussion at a regional summit at Victoria Falls.

Defence Minister Moven Mahachi told the BBC that President Robert Mugabe would "brief" leaders on the situation in Zimbabwe, at a summit which is primarily concerned with peace efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"You don't expect heads of state to come here and start discussing the internal matters of another country," Mr Mahachi said.

He accused the foreign media of exaggerating recent events.

"There is no chaos in this country. A few incidents of violence are found everywhere," Mr Mahachi said.

"There was violence yesterday when Leeds was playing a Turkish team. You can't say London is in chaos."

Pressure unlikely

South African foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa also said the summit was primarily about the Congo question, though South Africa would welcome discussion on Zimbabwe.

But correspondents say there are increasing doubts as to whether Southern African leaders will put pressure on Mr Mugabe to end the escalating violence in his country, as Western leaders had hoped.

The person most likely to influence Mr Mugabe - Namibian President Sam Nujoma - is also a close ally and therefore unlikely to criticise him.

It is also unlikely that South African Preisdent Thabo Mbeki will take a tough line against Mr Mugabe.

Earlier this week, Deputy President Jacob Zuma said South Africa was not going to condemn Mr Mugabe, since the country would not be able to play a responsible role in the region "if it is going to stand up whenever there is something and condemn everybody".

Protests

Zimbabweans continued to protest against the ongoing violence.

In the capital, Harare, several thousand people took part in a march, calling for a resolution to the worsening dispute over land rights.

In southern Zimbabwe, 500 mourners attended the funeral of Tichaona Chiminya, an activist from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, who was killed in recent violence.

"This was a deliberate attack on MDC activists. We will see more of this," MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told the gathering near the town of Masvingo.

Over the past two months, war veterans from Zimbabwe's war of independence and government supporters have illegally occupied more than 1,000 white-owned farms.

Violence has continued despite repeated promises from war veterans' leaders of a temporary end to hostilities.

Congo conflict

The Victoria Falls meeting brings together those governments with a stake in the conflict in DR Congo.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan Foreign Minister Andre Bumaya, whose governments back the Congolese rebels, are both attending the summit.

Mr Mugabe and Mr Nujoma support Congolese President Laurent Kabila, who has spent more than 18 months fighting against the rebels, who control about half of DR Congo.

The meeting is being chaired by Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano, who is current head of the Southern African Development Community

A ceasefire agreement signed last year has had little effect.

African leaders want the United Nations to deploy peacekeepers in the Congo.

So far, the UN has reluctant to do so until the warring parties have demonstrated a commitment to a ceasefire.

But on Thursday, a UN mission in Kinshasa said it would sign an agreement with President Kabila's government next week, paving the way for the deployment of UN troops. 



 

MDC to sue Shamuyarira, Chimutengwende

Caiphas Chimhete

THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is preparing to sue The Herald, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and two government ministers following the recent publication of a document which claims that the party is plotting to sabotage the economy with the help of white farmers. MDC’s secretary for legal affairs, David Coltart, this week confirmed that his party intends to take legal action against publishers of the The Herald, Zimpapers; the ZBC as well as Zanu PF’s information chief Nathan Shamuyarira and his deputy, Chen Chimutengwende.

“We want the Attorney General to charge them with criminal defamation whether they retract or not. A retraction does not absolve them from the case but it is just mitigation.

“We are suing the two ministers for making false statements that are damaging to the party following the publication of the document,” said Coltart, adding that if found guilty, the two ministers could face jail terms. At a press conference in Harare last Thursday, Chimutengwende maintained that the document, entitled: Movement for Democratic Change - USA/UK Sponsorship Platform, was authentic. He claimed that its content reflected what came out of a speech delivered by MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai in Norton a week before. The document, dismissed by MDC vice-president Gibson Sibanda as “a preposterous concoction of lies mixed with inadvertent errors,” claims that the MDC is contemplating a “military option” to destabilise the country as well as a “shortages option” to bring about general discontent.

It alleges that, with the help of such countries as the UK and the US, an MDC government would enroll commercial farmers into a reserve force or paramilitary force and guarantee “black-white equilibrium” in numbers and ranks within the defence forces.

In an interview, Coltart said his party’s legal department still has to draft letters of demand “which will be sent out soon”.

Although conceding that the matter is more political than legal, Coltart said the only sensible way to deal with it is through the courts.

The document whose full text was published in The Herald last Friday, further alleges that Econet chief executive Strive Masiyiwa, Bulawayo-based economic commentator Eric Bloch, Kingdom Securities chief Nigel Chanakira and the MDC’s Eddie Cross, were “working out a tight economic blueprint” to derail the economy.

Masiyiwa and Bloch have instructed their lawyers, Kantor and Immerman, to file a lawsuit against Zimpapers and the two government ministers.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official of the law firm confirmed that they were suing Zimpapers, Chimutengwende and Shamuyarira for defamation of character on behalf of Masiyiwa and Bloch. She said they were still to decide on how much to demand in damages. “We are also writing to the Attorney General and Commissioner of Police (Augustine Chihuri) to investigate the matter as criminal defamation.” The official said they have already sent letters of demand giving the respondents up to Friday (tomorrow) to retract. “But that would only lessen the charges because we are going ahead whatever comes.” Speaking at the funeral service of the late Bulawayo mayor Abel Siwela, vice-President Joseph Msika, castigated The Herald’s Bulawayo-based sister paper, The Chronicle, for not publishing the document.

“We gave copies to The Herald and The Chronicle but The Chronicle did not publish it. I want to find out who The Chronicle stands for,” Msika was quoted as saying. MDC spokesperson Learnmore Jongwe said his party’s lawsuit is given weight by the fact that both The Herald and ZBC chose to run the story, taking the document as truth, without seeking any comments from MDC officials.

“They never consulted with us. They chose to do it Nicodemously, meaning that they had an agenda to pursue,” said Jongwe, who believes that the document was manufactured by enemies of the party. He said the MDC was aware that Zanu PF had beefed up its propaganda machine and as a result has worked out a comprehensive counter programme.

“The nitty-gritties of the programme cannot be disclosed but very soon Zanu PF will be disclosed and discredited,” said Jongwe, adding that the police need to intensify efforts to restore order in wake of increased political violence.

Jongwe denied suggestions that his party was calling for sanctions against Zimbabwe. “We can’t do that because sanctions will affect the very same people we are supposed to liberate from the tyranny of the ruling party.”


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Tension in Zimbabwe As African Leaders Meet
 
Reuters
Apr 21 2000 11:52AM ET
 

HARARE (Reuters) - Five African presidents met on Friday at the Victoria Falls resort to seek a solution to the campaign of farm occupations that has plunged Zimbabwe into a deepening economic and political crisis.

As they did so, mobs of independence war veterans kept up their campaign of violence against white-owned farms.

Black self-styled veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war have invaded hundreds of the farms, obstructing production of the crops on which the country largely depends for food and foreign exchange.

While white farmers are the target, their black farm workers are bearing the brunt of the increasingly lawless campaign.

On several farms on the outskirts of Harare, laborers were carting their possessions off to relatives in urban areas, fearing they might be the next target.

``People are very scared. We just want to be left alone to do our work,'' said Enoph Enoph, a 22-year-old laborer at a farm about 30 miles east of Harare, as he stood in his empty house.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has endorsed the invasions and called white farmers who resisted the land-grab ``enemies of Zimbabwe'' as the country celebrated 20 years of independence from Britain this week.

At least four people -- two white farmers, a policeman and a pregnant woman -- have died as a result of the land invasions.

The violence has continued despite a call Thursday by War Veterans Association leader Chenjerai Hunzvi for it to end. He said the occupations would continue without hampering the work of the farmers.

About 2,000 Catholics marched in Harare in what they called a Good Friday ``prayer for peace.''

REGIONAL LEADERS MEET

In Victoria Falls, Mugabe had talks at a hastily arranged summit with Namibian President Sam Nujoma, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, Rwandan Foreign Minister Andrew Bumaya and South Africa's Thabo Mbeki.

Before considering Zimbabwe's troubles, they were first debating how to strengthen the shaky cease-fire in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola have troops in the Congo, where they are backing embattled Congolese President Laurent Kabila in his war with rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda.

A cease-fire agreement reached last July and reaffirmed in Uganda this month has been violated repeatedly by both sides in the conflict.

The twin crises -- Congo's war and Zimbabwe's woes -- have cast a shadow over the region and are seen deterring badly needed investment on the world's poorest continent.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which poses the biggest challenge to ZANU-PF in parliamentary elections due in May, has called on the presidents to put pressure on Mugabe to resolve the land issue.

The invasions and a fuel shortage have hit Zimbabwe's vital foreign-exchange earning tourist industry hard.

There could be no clearer illustration of the scale of the problem than the one-day emergency summit, held at the five-star Elephant Hills hotels owned by the InterContinental Group.

Last year saw 2.5 million tourists arrive in Zimbabwe. This year, at the start of the Easter weekend, the hotel was able to accommodate the heads of state of five countries, their delegations and hordes of reporters at scarcely 24 hours notice.


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Land grab divides Mugabe cabinet
By Anton La Guardia in Harare

PRESIDENT Mugabe seems to be increasingly at odds with many of his ministers over his support of invasions of white-owned farms.

The Financial Gazette, an independent weekly, said yesterday that there was a cabinet rift, with most favouring compliance with High Court orders for the squatters to be removed. Only "a small clique" backed Mr Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe has twice contradicted ministers who had threatened to send police to evict the squatters or said that the time had come to end the increasingly violent campaign. The invaders, Mr Mugabe has consistently said, will stay on the farms until the land is redistributed.

With Mr Mugabe in Cuba last week, acting president Joseph Msika, apparently supported by several ministers, said it was "no longer necessary" to continue invasions after the government amended the constitution to allow it to take farms without compensation.

Squatters promptly said that Mr Mugabe was "alone" against his ministers. Chenjerai Hunzvi, who leads the campaign, said: "We're not going to let our leader down, even though other leaders of the party do."

Mr Msika and Dumiso Debenga, the ministers most critical of farm invasions, were formerly in the Zimbabwe African People's Union, which was dissolved and merged into Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF.


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Families flee as squatter mobs attack more farms
By Anton La Guardia and Peter Foster

A MOB of squatters ransacked a white Zimbabwean farmer's homestead yesterday and burnt down the living quarters of his workers, despite promises by leaders of the land invasions to "cease hostilities".

Hundreds of farmers' families have moved out of their properties following the murder of two farmers in the past week. But while there was a nervous calm among many farming communities after President Robert Mugabe held talks with leaders of both the squatters and the farmers on Wednesday, many farm labourers remain as exposed as ever to intimidation and beatings by the invaders.

One mob rampaged on the Rudolphia Farm in the Arcturus area 25 miles east of Harare and set the workers' compound on fire. They also beat to death the owners' dogs, a neighbour said. Alan Windram, the owner, was away at the time and his family had been moved to safety earlier in the week.

Neighbours said Mr Windram was an organiser of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and his affiliation had been discovered after a lorry carrying labourers to a rally was traced to him. Farmers in the area reported that another looming attack on a farm was stopped after negotiations with the owner.

One farmer said: "The situation is very tense. We don't know what is going to happen in the next few hours. I heard that my farm will be trashed and I've made contingency plans to evacuate if they come." Farm workers are also reported to have been beaten in the Virginia area, where David Stevens, a farmer, was murdered last weekend.

Dozens of farmers and their families evacuated the area on Saturday and farmers returned in groups to inspect their properties for the day. Most will spend the night in the safety of towns. Farmers said there were unconfirmed reports that Mr Stevens's black foreman had been killed and that his corpse was mutilated.

One worker on a farm north of Harare expressed the fears of many farm labourers, who stand to lose the most if whites are driven off the land. He said: "If they force my boss to leave, I will lose my job. We have kids who are depending on us. What happens to them? Since these guys [the squatters] arrived, we have been living in terror.

"They told me that, if you are not a member of Zanu-PF, when we win the election you'll be kicked out with your white masters or we'll kill you. If the boss is not here, there will be nothing to protect us if these guys want to beat us." In the Karoi region, about 120 miles north of Harare, Michelle Connor, the wife of a farmer, said she had sent her children to stay with friends in Zambia.

She said: "It's chillingly quiet around here. Anyone who hasn't already gone will go soon. The only people you see are squatters. I am rattling around in this big house with no children. I miss them so much." Many farmers in Matabeleland have retreated to Bulawayo following the murder on Tuesday of Martin Olds, a farmer, in Nyamandlovu, about 50 miles north-west of the city.

Farmers gathered at the offices of the Commercial Farmers' Union to wait for news following reports that a band of 250 armed supporters of Mugabe were at large in the area. It is believed that the most violent squatters have travelled from Harare. Mike Wood, whose farm, Glen Curragh Ranch, borders Martin Olds's farm, had heard reports that people were threatening to burn down his farmstead.

He said: "My cook who is still at the farm got us a message through the mission saying that they had threatened to burn us out. He was terrified. We've had mysterious phone calls all day wanting to know whether we're in or not. I telephoned the police in Nyamandlovu and asked them to send people up there to see what was going on. I went back to them two hours later and they'd done absolutely nothing."

Mr Wood, a fluent Ndebele speaker, has had the farm in the family for three generations. His son Craig, 28, was still trying to make radio contact last night with the farm to find out if the squatters had taken any action. Farmers are despairing at the lack of co-operation from police and security forces.

Helen Herbst, whose husband, Wally, owns another farm near Mr Olds's, said: "During the liberation struggle in the Seventies when the commercial farmers were being driven off their land, there was still the army and the police to give protection. Everybody, black or white, was accountable to the law."

Ian Smith, the former Rhodesian Prime Minister, said last night that the country was on the verge of descending into anarchy. He said: "There is a sense of great worry. We are in a state of chaos verging on anarchy. All Mugabe is concerned with is keeping power. These squatters seem to be able to do exactly what they like."


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