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Zimbabwe to use army for land resettlement

August 1, 2000

Web posted at: 8:25 p.m. EDT (0025 GMT)

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- A government minister said Tuesday that the Zimbabwe army will be called in to help move 500,000 landless black families onto lands confiscated from white land owners.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's main labor movement on Tuesday reduced a proposed three-day strike to a one-day action on Wednesday, saying it would act as a warning shot against President Robert Mugabe's government.

The strike has been backed by labor, some businesses, farmers and the new opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), making it the most broadly based challenge to Mugabe's authority since the former Rhodesia won independence from Britain in 1980.

"We want to give the government time to respond. If the government does not respond, we will go on a much longer strike," said Nicholas Mudzengerere, acting secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

Schedule set for resettlements

Procedures to nationalize the first 211 white-owned farms will start by the end of the week, preparing the way for resettlement of an initial group of 37,000 families before the rainy season in November, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo said Tuesday.

The plans solidify the announcement on Monday that more than half of all the white-owned farming land in the country would be seized.

The government had already said it would confiscate 804 farms, and late Monday Vice President Joseph Msika announced a sharp increase in the total, saying more than 3,000 farms will be resettled.

Mugabe has said he wants at least 5 million hectares (12.36 million acres) of the 12 million hectares (29.65 million acres) occupied by 4,500 white farmers and will pay compensation only for improvements to the land unless Britain, the former colonial power, helps to pay for the redistribution.

Shocked farmers prepare response

White farmers have expressed shock at the plan, first reported by government radio on Sunday. Farmers' leaders held meetings Tuesday to prepare a response, but they had no immediate comment.

Farmers met in small groups around the country on Tuesday amid rumors that those who join the strike could have their farms occupied by self-styled war veterans leading a six-month campaign against white farmers.

The government, which often has used troops and riot police to break strikes, has called the planned stoppage "ill-advised," but says it will not intervene if the action is peaceful.

The government also has not commented on the charges that it has allowed ZANU-PF militants, led by veterans of the 1970s liberation war, to continue a violent campaign against the MDC in the townships, the countryside and on hundreds of farms they have occupied since February.

At least 31 people, mostly MDC supporters and including five farmers, were killed in a wave of pre-election violence.

Chombo has confidence in army
The 40,000-strong Zimbabwean army, which is supposed to help with the land seizure, has 11,000 of its best troops backing the Congolese president in that nation's two-year civil war. Military officials admitted earlier this year that some troops were on forced leave to cut costs and that the army's transport capacity was only about 200 trucks.

Government minister Chombo expressed confidence that the army has the ability to pull off the plan.

"It has the vehicles needed to move people from one point to the other. It will also establish a communications center to ensure decisions are made fast and are implemented," he said in the government-run Herald newspaper.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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Mugabe mobilises army for huge farm invasion

Special report: Zimbabwe

Chris McGreal in Harare and Patrick Wintour
Wednesday August 2, 2000

Zimbabwe is mobilising its army to rapidly resettle several million black peasants on white-owned farms after the government said it will now seize about two-thirds of all white land.
In a move that dashed hopes of a compromise, the vice president, Joseph Msika, confirmed that the government will dramatically increase the number of farms targeted for confiscation without compensation from the 804 earmarked in May to more than 3,000.

Robert Mugabe's administration says it plans to resettle 500,000 black families on the land before the beginning of the rainy season just a few weeks away. The local government minister, Ignatius Chombo, said Zimbabwe's 40,000 strong army will provide transport and other logistics for the operation.

"It has the vehicles needed to move people from one point to the other. It will also establish a communications centre to ensure decisions are made fast and are implemented," he told the state-run Herald newspaper.

Mr Chombo said the legal procedures to seize the first 211 farms will begin by Friday. That land will be used to resettle 37,000 families.

The move further antagonised the government's opponents ahead of a nationwide general strike today backed by trade unions, the main opposition party and white farmers to protest at the handling of land redistribution and the police's failure to respond to growing political violence.

The strike is expected to shut down all of Zimbabwe's major cities where there is growing anger at the president's heavy-handed response to the surge in opposition support in June's parliamentary election and disillusionment at the economic consequences of the government's policies. Long petrol queues have re-emerged since the election, agriculture and tourism are facing collapse, and power cuts loom.

The government plans to take 12m acres without compensation, about two-thirds of all agricultural land owned by whites. It is seizing farms under new legislation that demands that the UK pay the affected farmers on the grounds that they are of British descent.

There are strong doubts about the planned role for the army, particularly with so many of its resources tied up in the Republic of Congo. But it would only take a few dozen owners to be forced off their farms at gunpoint for many white landowners to give up any last hope of clinging to their land.

Earlier this week, the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents most of Zimbabwe's more than 4,000 white farmers, noted that soldiers had been spotted visiting farms, particularly in Mashonaland, where a high proportion of land has been ear marked for confiscation.

"At this stage, this seems to be little more than an intelligence-gathering operation," the union said.

The CFU is throwing its weight behind the strike led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions today to protest at the land confiscations and soldiers routinely beating up opposition supporters in townships.

But the union appeared to lose its nerve yesterday and scaled back a planned three-day action to just 24 hours, despite the powerful backing of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which came close to beating the ruling party in June's elections.

The union said it did not want to do further damage to the economy.

"We want to give the government time to respond. If the government does not respond, we will go on a much longer strike," said Nicholas Mudzengerere, acting secretary-general. "We have taken this decision because we want to use the strike as a warning shot and we think one day would be adequate."

The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, urged all Zimbabweans to support the strike and accused Mr Mugabe of pursuing a political vendetta against opposition supporters.

"There is no need to pursue political vendettas in a manner that destroys the social and economic fabric. There is no need for suicidal policies just because things did not go well for him during the elections," he said.

In London, the Foreign Office said the latest reports, if confirmed and acted upon, were "very disturbing". Foreign Office ministers are anxious not to become embroiled in another propaganda war with Mr Mugabe.

However officials warned last night: "Mass acquisitions would not help the people of Zimbabwe. We have always said we are willing to co-operate in a programme of genuine land reform, including by offering cash.

"However, mass acquisitions would not be fair to the farmers of Zimbabwe and not the fresh start that Zimbabwe so badly needs after the elections."

The farmers union had hoped to meet Mr Mugabe on Monday to reach a compromise on land distribution but the president cancelled the appointment.
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Wednesday, August 2 3:07 AM SGT

Zimbabwe dollar devalued by more than 30 pct against dollar
HARARE, Aug 1 (AFP) -

The Zimbabwe government has devalued its currency by 32 percent against the US dollar, to 50 Zimbabwe dollars to the greenback, with immediate effect, Finance Minister Simba Makoni announced Tuesday.

"We could not allow a massive free fall at this stage because of the implications it would have on prices in the market and various commitments, especially external payment commitments," Makoni said on state television.

Before the announcement, the Zimbabwe dollar had been trading at around 38 to the US dollar.
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Wednesday, August 2 9:08 AM SGT

Zimbabwe set for general strike to end anarchy on white farms
HARARE, Aug 2 (AFP) -

Calls for an end to anarchy on Zimbabwe's white-owned farms, where the government's efforts at land reform have sparked violence and intimidation, will be at the center of a broad-based general strike Wednesday.

The action called by the powerful Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unionsis the first since two strikes over deteriorating economic conditions brought the country to a standstill -- and troops to the streets of Harare -- in 1998.

Wednesday's strike aims to press the government of President Robert Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, to restore law and order after allowing thousands of war veterans and their supporters to remain illegally -- according to two High Court rulings -- on some 1,600 commercial farms.

Minister of State for Information Jonathan Moyo warned Friday that the planned action was "ill-advised," asserting that "adequate security arrangements (have been made) wherever need has been demonstrated" on the farms.

Originally called for three days, the planned work stoppage was reduced to Wednesday only pending an assessment of the government's response, according to ZCTU acting president Isaac Matongo on Tuesday.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the National Constitutional Assembly grouping civic organizations, and the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) representing the country's 4,500 white farmers all said they would follow the lead of the ZCTU in reducing the strike to one day.

Matongo said the strike would serve as a "warning" to the government, which has not intervened to stop intimidation and attacks on white farmers and black laborers by the occupiers, many of whom have been on the farms since February.

"It's not that we decided one day and that's enough," Matongo told AFP. "It depends on whether there's going to be any positive response."

Mugabe has not reacted to the strike plan, nor to a direct legal appeal for urgent intervention lodged a week ago by the CFU.

The strike will also be in protest at attacks by police and soldiers on civilians in the poor black suburbs of Harare and the central town of Kwekwe in the days following the historic June elections that swept 57 MDC members into the 150-seat parliament.

Analyst Brian Kagoro told AFP on Saturday that Mugabe "may try to ignore the calls" but was "most likely" to try to block the strike by "invoking some section of the law and order maintenance act" or presidential powers.

"He may try to force a standoff in the most extreme case," said Kagoro, a human rights lawyer.

CFU vice president William Hughes said the farmers union did not want to be seen as being at the forefront of the protest action, saying that "our members are under immense pressure" as it is.
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Mugabe to seize more land

Times 2 August, 2000 - FROM JAN RAATH IN HARARE

PRESIDENT MUGABE, in the most desperate move yet in his self-declared war against Zimbabwe's white farmers, has announced that his Government is to take more than 60 per cent of their land.

Vice-President Joseph Msika, in charge of Mr Mugabe's land seizure committee, said that in addition to the 804 farms listed "for compulsory acquisition" in June, another 2,237 properties have been identified for nationalisation. The legal process of gazetting and formally taking possession of them was at an advanced stage.

The 12 million acres Mr Mugabe has set as his target will leave farmers with only 7 million of the 19 million they now own.

The farmers' union and economists say that even though the bankrupt Government has no hope of settling even a tiny proportion of the target of 500,000 families, the announcement has delivered what probably will be a fatal blow to the confidence of the farmers whose production drives the country's economy.

They predict economic collapse in the coming months. "It is a recipe for absolute economic disaster," Jerry Grant, deputy director of the Commercial Farmers' Union, said.

Meanwhile, Simba Makoni, the Finance Minister, has announced that the national currency is to be devalued - from 38 Zimbabwe dollars to the US dollar to 50, with immediate effect.
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Tuesday August 1 7:54 PM ET
Zimbabweans Strike Over Violence, Farm Occupations

By Manoah Esipisu

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabweans go on strike on Wednesday to press President Robert Mugabe to end a wave of violence against opposition supporters and the occupation of white-owned farms.

The new challenge to Mugabe comes only weeks after his party barely survived a tough electoral contest.

Zimbabwe's government has condemned the strike as unnecessary and warned it would sack all public service workers joining it, but said that while protecting those who want to work it will not intervene to prevent the action.

``We will not allow any disruptive behavior. We will be tough and protect those who are on the side of the law,'' Acting Police Commissioner Godwin Matanga told a news conference.

The protest is backed by labour, some businesses, farmers and the new opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), making it the most broadly based challenge to Mugabe since the former Rhodesia's independence from Britain in 1980.

The main labor movement on Tuesday reduced its proposed three-day strike to a one-day action, saying it would act as a warning shot against Mugabe's government.

``We want to give the government time to respond. If the government does not respond, we will go on a much longer strike,'' said Nicholas Mudzengerere, acting secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

Government Warns Of Losses

The government has called the action economic sabotage, warning that even a one-day strike would cost millions of dollars.

Zimbabwe devalued its currency by 25 percent of Tuesday in a drive to revive the flagging economy, which has been further battered by months of political turmoil and the farm invasions by self-styled independence war veterans.

MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged Zimbabweans to support the strike, saying Mugabe was pursuing a political vendetta against people who voted against his party in June.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party narrowly survived the first real challenge to its dominance in a June vote, winning 62 of the 120 parliamentary seats up for election. The MDC, only 10 months old, won 57 seats.

The Commercial Farmers Union, representing 4,500 mostly white farmers, said its members would rather work but had no choice but to join the strike given the invasions of land by squatters who were making farming impossible.

The government raised pressure on the farmers on Monday, officially confirming reports that it had identified more than 3,000 white-owned farms for redistribution to black peasants.

Mugabe has said he wants at least five million hectares (12 million acres) of the 12 million hectares (30 million acres) occupied by white farmers and will pay compensation only for improvements to the land, unless Britain, the former colonial power, helps fund the redistribution exercise.

At least 31 people, mostly MDC supporters and including five farmers, were killed in a wave of pre-election violence.

South African President Thabo Mbeki is due to meet Mugabe in Harare on Wednesday. Mbeki faced international criticism earlier this year for failing to condemn pre-election violence in Zimbabwe and the farm occupations.

His government has said it will look for ways to help ease Zimbabwe's economic crisis.

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National News - The Herald

Government identifies more land for redistribution

Herald Reporter

THE Government has identified an additional 2 237 properties, yielding a total of 3 041 farms, measuring just above five million hectares, for resettlement.

A statement from the chairman of the National Land Acquisition Committee, Vice-President Msika, last night said the properties were now at various, advanced stages of processing for gazetting, acquisition and resettlement.

"The whole exercise is being undertaken against the Government goal of acquiring about five million hectares from the commercial farming sector for distribution to the landless people for fairness and greater productivity," he said.

Mashonaland East had the highest number of identified farms with 664, followed by Mashonaland West with 617, Matabeleland South 465, Mashonaland Central 361, Midlands 321, Manicaland 284, Masvingo 237 and Matabeleland North 92.

Cde Msika said it was the Governmentís belief that the latest exercise would go a long way towards meeting the huge land demand in the communal sector, as well as lay a firm and durable basis for stability in the country.

"It is also Governmentís expectation that all stakeholders, inclu- ding political groups and the commercial farmers, will come in full support of the exercise, which is national in intention, scope and benefit.

"To facilitate the implementation of this programme, the National Land Acquisition Committee will henceforth meet everyday to ensure the success of the implementation process.

The Government has already identified 804 farms, which were gazetted for acquisition at the beginning of last month.
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Non-Aligned Movement slams proposed US Bill - The Herald

The Non-Aligned Movement has expressed concern at the proposal by the United States to adopt legislation which would prohibit debt assistance to Zimbabwe.

The South African Permanent Issue to the United Nations said in a statement the Co-ordinating Bureau of NAM had expressed concern at a meeting held in New York on July 27.

They said the proposed Bill was in violation of the principles of NAM and the UN charter which commits member states to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all states.

The proposed Bill titled the "Zimbabwe Democracy Act 2000" prohibits assistance or debt relief from being extended to Zimbabwe.

It seeks to block further assistance to Zimbabwe by international financial institutions.

The Bill attempts to prescribe the outcome of the ongoing land reform process in the country.

"NAM supports the declaration on Zimbabwe by the heads of state and government of the Organisation of African Unity in which they expressed their dismay at this interference in the internal affairs of a member state by a foreign power."

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cde Stan Mudenge, said yesterday that NAMís co-ordinating bureau also agreed to send the NAM troika to the American government to try and dissuade it and the American congress from passing the Bill.

The troika comprises current president South Africa, immediate past president Colombia and incoming president Bangladesh. ó Ziana-Herald Reporter.
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Zimbabwe forex market still dry, shrugs off planned boycott

..........HARARE (August 2) : Zimbabwe's foreign exchange market remained acutely short of US dollars on Tuesday with exporters still holding onto what little hard cash they had in the hope of a possible devaluation of the local unit, traders said.
.........."The market is dead. Exporters are holding back their receipts and it's not even as if we are doing much exporting anyway," one dealer said.
..........He said a general strike called by Zimbabwe's main labour movement which is due to begin on Wednesday was unlikely to have much impact on the market.
.........."Whether there is business or not for the next three days, it does not make much of a difference in a market that's already dead," he said.
..........Dealers said while there was a steady trickle of proceeds from the tobacco sector, the country's main foreign exchange earner, the money was being quickly swallowed by a longstanding backlog of importer demand.
..........Tobacco earns approximately a third of Zimbabwe's hard currency but annual auctions of the leaf got off to a poor start this year as producers held back their crop largely in protest against the artificial stability of the local currency.
..........Despite the shortage of hard currency, which has plagued the market since October 1999, the Zimbabwe dollar was unchanged at 37.9/38.0 to the US dollar under bankers' 19-month-old controls.
..........The government has ruled out a devaluation of the local currency for the time being, saying it could worsen a deepening economic crisis in the country.
..........Against the rand the local unit was at 5.45/48, while against the euro it was trading at 35.16/37 on Tuesday.-Reuters
..........Copyright 2000 Reuters (Published under arrangements with Reuters) ..........
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01/08/2000 16:22 - (SA)
Zim 5th parliament to sit on Tuesday

Harare - Zimbabwe's fifth parliament, the first with a sizeable opposition,opens for debate Tuesday in a charged political atmosphere the day before a three-day general strike.

MPs of the ruling Zimbabwe National African Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), notorious in the past for sleeping through parliamentary sessions or skipping them altogether, will on Tuesday take up less than two-thirds of the seats in the 150-member assembly.

With 57 seats for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and one for the small Zanu-Ndonga party following the June elections, parliament has never had so many opposition members since independence in 1980.

Debate is set to open at 2.15pm (1215 GMT).

MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube said the first order of business would be a debate on the speech made by President Robert Mugabe when he officially opened the body on 20 July.

"We will talk more about what he (Mugabe) didn't say", in his opening speech, Ncube said, adding that the speech showed that he was unaware that "the country stands on the verge of economic and political collapse".

The general strike set to begin on Wednesday has been called to protest lawlessness in rural areas linked to Mugabe's controversial land reform policies and to press him to rescue the agricultural sector from collapse.

Thousands of liberation war veterans have occupied - often violently - some 1 600 white-owned farms since February, killing at least four white farmers and three black labourers in the run-up to the elections.

Reports of violence and intimidation against white owners and black workers alike have continued unabated since.

The veterans have rejected High Court rulings that their occupations are illegal, and the government has not intervened to force them off the farms.

Ncube said the MDC would call for the "removal of the thugs from the farms and the townships".

The MDC on Saturday urged its members to participate in the stayaway, initiated by civic groups and endorsed by the powerful Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on Friday. It is also backed by the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents most of the country's 4 500 white farmers.

Ncube, in launching the call on MDC members to join the strike, said the opposition called on the government "as a matter of urgency (to) withdraw the war veterans from the farms, who are busy raping, beating and killing farm workers".

Ncube told AFP on Tuesday that the opposition would condemn Mugabe's failure in his opening speech "to appreciate the economic crisis, failure to put forward a plan for economic recovery, the failure to address the economic fundamentals of high inflation, high budget deficit, high interest rates, et cetera, et cetera".

"We will focus also on the political situation - lawlessness, insecurity. Again, it was conspicuously absent in his speech," Ncube said.

In his address, Mugabe vowed to accelerate the land resettlement programme, promising at least five million hectares (12.5 million acres) of land to black peasants.

"This should result in increased agricultural production and promotion of economic indigenisation," Mugabe said. - Sapa-AFP

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Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
Zimbabwe court hears election fraud claims

The opposition is challenging results in nearly 40 constituencies
By Grant Ferrett in Harare

A month after Zimbabweans cast their votes in the country's most fiercely contested elections in 20 years of independence, the ballot boxes are once again being unloaded.

This is happening because the High Court is considering legal challenges by the main opposition party to the results in nearly 40 of the constituencies.

Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party is dismissing the recount as a publicity stunt

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says that there was violence during the election campaign, as well as irregularities during polling itself.

They are demanding a re-run in nearly two-thirds of the seats won by the government.

The ruling party, Zanu-PF, has dismissed the legal challenges as a publicity stunt but the court cases could still prove to be highly significant.

Voting irregularities

We've got people who ... are still on the run. We would like to see democracy prevail, and by that we mean there should be a re-run in this constituency

Elliot Pfebve, defeated opposition candidate

The opposition has been focussing on the results in the Mazowe East constituency, which was won by a clear margin by the then Information Minister, Chen Chimutengwende.

As he watched the boxes being unloaded, Mr Chimutengwende brushed aside suggestions that he and the ruling party faced a serious problem.

"We won't lose," said Mr Chimutengwende.

"I don't think they'll find any irregularities which can cause that kind of situation."

Mr Chimutengwende : 'We won't lose'

"It's just for them. It's a way of getting publicity and they make money out of it because the donors are paying all the legal expenses and that's it."

Whatever Mr Chimutengwende's assertions, the government faces, at the very least, a long and time-consuming battle through the courts as it responds to legal challenges to its victory in seats throughout the country.

Campaign of violence

Elliot Pfebve: Defeated MDC candidate

Elliot Pfebve is the defeated opposition candidate for Bindura.

His lawyers are trying to find the government's victorious candidate, Border Gezi, as part of their legal challenge to the results in this constituency.

However, their opponent is proving elusive. Mr Pfebve and his supporters faced one of the most concerted campaigns of violence of the whole election.

His brother was one of the more than 30 people murdered nationwide during the run-up to polling.

Even now, he says the town still has not returned to normal.

"We have people whose properties were burned," he says.

Allegations of intimidation have persisted since the elections

"We've got people whose cars were torched, and people who are still on the run."

"We would like to see democracy prevail, and by that we mean there should be a re-run in this constituency."

The opposition is challenging the results not just because of election violence.

It also alleges that there were serious flaws during the two days of voting, with names of dead people appearing on the voters' roll, some people voting more than once and ballot boxes disappearing.

Better luck next time?

Many of the contested seats are in rural areas where the government would normally expect to do well.

However, the opposition thinks it has a real chance of winning a significant number, according to one its most senior figures, Welshman Ncube.

"We would win even without any further campaigning in about eight or 10 of the constituencies that we are contesting and that would make a difference for us," he says.

Welshman Ncube: Confident of winning more seats

However, given the opposition's complaints about the unfair nature of the original contest, does it think any re-runs would be any better?

Mr Ncube says yes.

"It's going to be as difficult as it has been. But, we think that people will be more informed."

"Obviously, if we're dealing with one constituency at a time, it will be more difficult for them to cheat."

"Our entire manpower would be deployed in that constituency whereas in the general election we were all over the country."

If the opposition wins just three of the contested constituencies, the government will find itself with a minority of the elected seats in parliament.

Such an outcome would not only make it more difficult to push through unpopular legislation but, more significantly, would mark an unprecedented general election defeat for President Mugabe's party after 20 years in office.
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