HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - President Robert Mugabe plans to invoke special powers to seize white-owned farms and distribute the property to landless blacks, Zimbabwe's justice minister said Saturday.
The move was immediately denounced by white farmers, caught in a standoff with armed black squatters who have seized more than 1,000 white-owned farms since February demanding land redistribution.
``Within 10 days, the legal framework to take land and redistribute it to the people will be in place,'' Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa was quoted as saying by the national news agency Ziana.
At least 13 people have died in violence that has accompanied the occupations by the squatters, who claim to be led by veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war in 1980.
Despite a promise by the veterans' leader to put a stop to violence, at least 27 farm workers were attacked overnight and five more farms were occupied, said an official for the Commercial Farmers Union who asked not to be identified.
The head of the farmers' union immediately condemned Mugabe's plans.
``We feel that this is a lack of good faith on behalf of the government while we are trying to negotiate in good faith with the war veterans in an attempt to stop violence and prepare the situation for free and fair elections,'' said David Hasluck.
The opposition has accused Mugabe of organizing the occupations to increase his diminishing support among voters before parliamentary elections. No date has been announced for the vote.
Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, has refused to provide $57 million earmarked for land reform until Mugabe holds free elections and halts the violence.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook condemned Saturday's announcement as ``a big step backwards.''
``There can be no justification for this,'' Cook said in a statement in London. ``This cannot be the way to solve the genuine problems of land reform.''
Mugabe's government has insisted the farm occupations are a legitimate protest against a colonial legacy that left one-third of the productive farmland in the hands of 4,000 white farmers.
``Britain's stance is not our problem,'' Mnangagwa said. ``It does not matter what they think or say. We are going ahead with our plans.''
A spokesman for the main opposition party said Mugabe was overreaching his authority.
``It's quite clearly an election gimmick. It cuts through the separation of powers,'' said David Coltart, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change.
The reports of renewed violence comes in the face of an agreement between the farmers and the war veterans who are said to be leading the squatters.
On Friday, Chenjerai Hunzvi, the leader of the National Liberation War Veterans Association and Nick Swanepoel, an official with the Commercial Farmers Union, announced they had drafted a plan to end the crisis. As part of the agreement, violence on occupied farms was to end.
The farmers' union said Saturday it has contacted Hunzvi and told him that the ruling party supporters who are occupying farms were not respecting what Hunzvi had agreed to.
The list was obtained in a parliamentary written answer in January by the opposition MP, Margaret Dongo, but it has received scant attention in the Zimbabwean press. It also includes land rented out under the tenant farm scheme since 1990. Only a handful of these, which range from very large farms to smallholdings, have been given to genuine farmers.
Mrs Dongo, the president of the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats and a founder member of the War Veterans' Association, has been trying to give the list a wider circulation with a message accusing the ruling Zanu-PF of "corruption and mismanagement".
She added: "I appeal to my fellow war veterans not to let your suffering be used by selfish and greedy politicians who caused your suffering. This will not benefit you at the end of the day. Comrades, you should stand up and be a watchdog of the government. If you do not, you will have fought for nothing."
The nine commercial farms, totalling about 500,000 acres, were voluntarily offered for sale by their owners in 1998 and divided into 253 separate units.
Among the leaseholders and tenants are a cabinet minister, two provincial governors, numerous civil servants, two judges, four members of the president's office and employees of large private and state corporations.
The Battlefields farm, for example, in the cotton-farming area of Kadoma south of Harare, has been divided into 27 parcels, some as large as 4,800 acres. Not one is occupied by its owner. Twenty four of the absentee lessees have no agricultural experience. Although they were given out at the beginning of last year, no lease rates have been assessed.
Of the 50 parcels from the Coburn farm, only nine are occupied by farmers; 22 lessees have no farming experience.
One provincial governor is paying under £1,000 a year for 2,800 acres.
Another governor whose five-year tenancy on 2,400 acres expires this September has still to have his rental assessed. The defence permanent secretary rented 780 acres during the 1990s for just over £1 a year.
These farms were supposed to be part of the government's ambitious scheme to resettle 150,000 families by 2003.
But after a donor conference in September 1998, when 24 countries refused to come up with the required financial support, the plan was scaled down to the resettlement of 77,000 families by 2001.
But the slow pace of reaching that more modest target has been caused by the government only providing about 15% of its planned contribution, according to Sam Moyo, who led the official land reform technical team. He said earlier this year that support from donors had only been enough to provide start-up money for the trial phase.
Zimbabwe's 4,500 white farmers own about 11m hectacres of prime land, about 30% of the total land mass, while 6m black Zimbabweans are crowded into barren communal areas representing some 41%.
London, UK (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, April 29, 2000) - The British government's insistence on linking land reforms in Zimbabwe with democracy is aimed at deflecting the real issue, which is that British nationals control a huge chunk of Zimbabwean land, says John Nkomo, the country's minister of local government and national housing.
He said there were 203 British individual farm owners with another 252 farms being owned by 82 British companies. Most of the individuals are absentee landlords who are Conservative Party members of the British House of Lords.
Nkomo headed Zimbabwe's delegation that held talks Thursday with the British government in London on resolving the land dispute.
He felt that the Western media was out to "demonise" President Robert Mugabe, so he invited PANA and the editor of New African, Baffour Ankomah, Friday to the Zimbabwean High Commission in London for a special briefing on his country's position on the land issue.
"We are being harassed because we say we want to regain control of our land," Nkomo said. "The (British) Labour Party is under pressure to punish us for that."
He added that the British government had in turn applied pressure on Southern African governments to pressurise Mugabe to back down.
"But the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) meeting agreed that President Mugabe was right and that Britain should pay up. So that issue is over. We have called Britain's bluff," he explained.
Nkomo said that because the Labour government did not want to spend money on compensation that would basically benefit Conservative Party members, it was tying the release of funds to democracy.
He claimed that the British government was backing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. "It's a British-sponsored organisation heavily supported by multinationals and white farmers," Nkomo said. "This was what incensed the war veterans who saw this as an attempt to reverse the gains we have achieved since independence, and to subvert our sovereignty."
He said that even when the veterans occupied white-owned farms, they did so peacefully but the owners responded aggressively.
"I personally sat in at a meeting with representatives of the Commercial Farmers Union where it was agreed that they would tell their members not to show any aggression toward the veterans," Nkomo said.
"They were after all not only protesting against the farmers but also against the government for failing to live up to their expectations on land reforms. We regret this situation and we now feel that it could have been avoided if we had moved much quicker to redistribute the land, " he added.
But, Nkomo pointed out, there were 10 entrenched clauses in the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, which led to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, which could not have been amended until after 10 years of independence. One of these related to the issue of land.
Now, he said, the government would acquire five million hectares of the 8.5 million hectares targeted for redistribution under the resettlement programme.
This will be done under the Commercial Farm Settlement Scheme, inherited from the Rhodesian regime.
During Thursday's talks with the British government, Nkomo said of the scheme: "This initiative is one of many that successive colonial governments and the present government have used to support individuals, with the appropriate potential, to pursue commercial farming through providing land to them on specified leasehold terms.
"The beneficiaries in colonial times were British veterans from the two world wars, other European immigrants, numerous white government officials and ministers of past regimes and other members of the public."
Nkomo added: "The Commercial Farm Settlement Scheme selected beneficiaries using similar criteria inherited from past colonial schemes, and on leasehold conditions more stringent than those followed in the colonial period.
"Whereas under colonial suzerainty the Commercial Farm Settlement Scheme was used to empower the white community, in independent Zimbabwe the same instrument is being employed to empower black indigenous people with potential in agriculture and in the process indigenise large-scale commercial farming.
"To object to the purpose and scope of the CFSS now that the beneficiaries are black Zimbabweans, and exalt its effectiveness during the colonial period when it benefited whites, would be unmistakably racist."
by Desmond Davies
Copyright 2000 Panafrican News Agency.
Dakar, Senegal (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, April 29, 2000) - Zimbabwe faces an unfavourable food security situation due to adverse weather, serious economic problems and the current unrest related to the issue of land reforms, which have adversely affected agricultural activities on large-scale commercial farms.
Floods in late February caused extensive crop damage in the eastern and southern provinces, says a news release from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome.
Over the past few weeks, groups of independence war veterans and others have attacked owners of these farms and their employees, inflicting serious injuries to many and even killing some, and burning crops in fields and stores.
This has created a climate of fear amongst the farmers, many of whom have abandoned their farms and left their livestock unattended and fled to the relative safety of urban areas.
"There is, therefore, growing concern that if the violence continues, there will be a serious drop in food production and supply, jeopardising national food security.
While the impact of the disturbances on the food supply situation may be significant this year, it may be felt more severely next year," FAO said.
Since independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has made impressive progress in the agriculture sector, being a net exporter of maize mainly to neighbouring countries, except during the drought of 1984, 1992 and 1993, when large quantities of maize were imported.
The maize exports peaked at 731,000 tonnes in 1990 and averaged around 250,000 tonnes per year from 1993 to 1998.
However, in 1999, due to excessive rains and input shortages, the country gathered a below-average cereal harvest of about 2 million tonnes, which was well below the utilisation requirements.
The cereal import requirement for the marketing year 1999/2000 (April/March) was estimated at 545,000 tonnes, about half of which was covered by commercial imports, resulting in reduced utilisation.
Since 1980 there has also been an increase in maize production coming from the communal farm sector from around 31 percent in 1983 to a peak of 66 percent in 1997, albeit with fluctuations in some years.
"These gains are likely to be compromised by the disturbances and the deepening economic problems," warns FAO.
"While it is difficult to gauge the full implications of the current volatile situation, a continuation of the current economic difficulties and violence could reduce production and export availability, deter investment in the agriculture sector and lower revenues from the tourist industry."
It could also fuel inflation (59 percent in 1999) and unemployment, which is already very high. "This will aggravate problems of access to food for the poorer segments of the population," the UN food agency said.
Copyright 2000 Panafrican News Agency.
Violence seen rising ahead of Zimbabwepolls
HARARE, April 30 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's self-styled war veterans and main opposition party have pledged no-holds-barred campaigns for a general election in the coming months.
War veterans leader Chenjerai Hunzvi said his group was committed to the continued reign of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF while Morgan Tsvangirai said his opposition Movement for Democratic Change had vowed to end Mugabe's rule.
On Sunday, a Zimbabwe delegation returns from London after failing to secure British cash for land reform. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told them Britain would offer no money before lawlessness in Zimbabwe was halted.
At least 14 people -- farmers, farm workers and opposition supporters -- have been killed in the nine weeks since land hungry militants began invading hundreds of farms.
Local media reported that a new government framework for the redistribution of land would be in place in 10 days.
Britain is ready to boost aid to Zimbabwe by 36 million pounds ($56.7 million) over the next two years to support the redistribution of white-owned farms to landless black peasants, but says the violence and farm occupations must end first.
VETERANS STRATEGY IS TO INTIMIDATE OPPOSITION
Thousands of Hunzvi's veterans and allies from ZANU-PF have invaded thousands of white-owned farmlands, saying that they were stolen from their forefathers by British colonialists.
Analysts say the occupation is meant to intimidate opposition supporters ahead of parliamentary elections, which under must be held before the end of August.
Farmlands occupied by war veterans remained quiet on Saturday. But senior farming sources said the veterans were being funded by ZANU-PF, and received supplies daily from the ruling party.
On one farm near Harare, veretans had raised a flag with the words: ``ZANU-PF. War veterans headquarters. This is Mugabe's party and country. We will not allow threats to his rule.''
The owner of the farm said the veterans received food, newspapers and daily pay from ZANU-PF couriers every morning.
Tsvangirai told Reuters on Saturday that ZANU-PF, which he described as 'ZANU Poor Finisher', had intimidated and threatened further violence against farm workers in attempts to prevent them from attending opposition rallies countrywide.
Tsvangirai spoke after Hunzvi followers chased and whipped several MDC supporters and some sustained minor injuries.
Further clashes were reported between MDC members and ZANU-PF activists at a rally in Domboshawa, on the outskirts of Harare.
TSVANGIRAI SAYS MUGABE HAS RUN ZIMBABWE DOWN
Tsvangirai said the violence would not deter his campaign to remove Mugabe.
``Robert Mugabe has run this country down. The economy is on its knees, agriculture is in shambles and the government is allowing its people to be killed. How can this man say he is president?'' Tsvangirai asked.
Foreign journalists have also come under attack from the veterans, government leaders and state-owned media. They have been accused of being partisan or brainwashed by MDC.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions cancelled Monday's May Day celebrations across Zimbabwe because of security fears.
The MDC is independent Zimbabwe's first viable opposition party. Its campaign accuses Mugabe of mismanaging the economy, allowing corruption and misjudging the costly deployment of 11,000 troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Police have reintroduced the draconian Law and Order Maintenance Act which gives them powers to restrict the movement of supporters of political parties and ban public gatherings that ostensibly threaten law and order.
The deaths are the latest in a series of lethal acts of political intimidation in which 14 opposition members have been killed by Mugabe's backers in the past month.
White farmers, black peasants and upwardly mobile young black professionals have all been targeted by Mugabe's ruling party, Zanu-PF, to frighten them from supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
In most of the killings Zimbabwe's police have not taken any action, either to stop violence as it is taking place or to investigate the murders and other crimes that have been committed.
The details of the Kariba killings are chilling. Comrade Rex Jesus, a notorious leader of the war veterans who support Mugabe, arrived in Kariba, which is on the shores of Lake Kariba, because of reports that the MDC had a great deal of visible support. He reportedly had orders to stamp it out. Jesus had already carried out a campaign of intimidation in the farming town of Karoi.
With a band of more than 30 men, Jesus abducted MDC members Luckson Kanyurira, Nicholas Chatitima and three others from their workplaces on Tuesday and beat them for three hours at Banana Charara farm, according to accounts from local residents. He then paraded the bloodied five before residents of Kariba's Nyamunga township. Kanyurira collapsed and died on the spot. Chatitima died in hospital and two others are in critical condition with broken arms and legs and head injuries.
In two other incidents in Kariba, Jesus rounded up 30 farm workers and 20 Nyamunga township residents and beat and tortured them. Three are now presumed dead, according to local doctors.
Horrified Kariba residents demanded that police take action and Jesus and 15 others were arrested and charged on Friday with two murders and public violence. The disappearances of the three others are being investigated.
In addition to the intimidation of black supporters of the opposition, Mugabe's supporters have apparently subdued the country's white farmers and their labourers. Across the country, Zanu-PF officials are holding rallies with white farmers and their workers. The war veterans and ruling party officials tell the white farmers in no uncertain terms that if they want to continue farming they must drop all support for the MDC or any other opposition party.
'You white farmers must make a decision,' said Comrade Koche, the local leader of the war veterans at a rally in Goromonzi, 20 miles east of Harare on Friday. 'You can either decide to be farmers and grow agricultural crops or you can decide to be politicians, allied with the MDC and face the consequences. It is your choice.'
It appears the farmers are choosing to be apolitical farmers. Terrified by the brazen killings of two white farmers earlier this month and the beatings of five others, the farming community appears to have agreed not to support the opposition.
Now it appears Zanu-PF is turning on Zimbabwe's business leaders who have also supported the MDC. Top businessman Nigel Chanakira, who is an economic adviser to the MDC, was arrested this week on charges of fraud that are widely believed to have been trumped up. Five other leading businessmen have been arrested and released on bail in connection with the fraud charges at First Mutual Life.
'It is nothing less than intimidation of businesses that were openly supporting the opposition,' said a Harare financial expert, who did not want to be named. 'The government is going after business leaders, both black and white, who support the opposition.'
The Mugabe government is also stepping up its pressure on the press. A bomb went off last week at the offices of Zimbabwe's only privately-owned daily newspaper, the Daily News. The paper has been outspokenly critical of Mugabe's economic and land policies. Daily News editor Geoffrey Nyarota received a death threat days before the bomb blast. The suspicion that the bombing was carried out by Mugabe's supporters was strengthened when the Daily News received a bomb threat on Wednesday last week and the phone call was traced back to the headquarters of Mugabe's Zanu-PF headquarters.
Rather than following that lead, the police have arrested an international photographer on suspicion of carrying out the bombing. Obert Siyabuliza Zilwa, a South African photographer working for Associated Press, was held in jail for three nights. Zimbabwean police admitted yesterday morning that they had no case against Silwa and he was released. But he was still prevented from leaving Zimbabwe.
The Mugabe government's multi-pronged attack on the opposition appears to have succeeded in subduing dissent in urban townships, on white-owned farms, in the business community and in the press. But several opposition supporters say the Mugabe government has only won the first round.
'With hindsight we stood up against the government too soon,' said one white farmer. 'We came out and campaigned openly too early and that made us a target. People are scared now, but already some are thinking of other ways to carry on.'
Morgan Tsvangira, president of the MDC, said: 'We are not giving up. We are not throwing in the towel. There is violence and our people are being killed. But we will continue. With all this intimidation and state-sponsored violence the elections cannot possibly be free and fair. But we will stand in the elections in any case because we are committed to changing the government through democratic means.'
Zimbabwe agrees to electionmonitors
A Commonwealth team is to travel to Zimbabwe as early as next week on a reconnaissance mission aimed at establishing the number of monitors that would be needed.
In another move that appeared to ease the crisis, Zimbabwe's white farmers and those leading the land occupations yesterday clinched a deal which they claimed would end the violence on occupied farms but allow squatters to stay on land that has already been seized.
The latest developments are typical of the bewildering speed at which Mr Mugabe engages in diplomatic manouevring: a hard uncompromising approach one day, often followed by a softer line the next.
The Foreign Office urged caution on the deal struck between the white farmers and those leading the land invasion: "Let's wait and see what happens on the ground." The British government's fear is that there was a large element of intimidation in the deal, with a hidden threat that the white farmers should not provide any support to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The Foreign Office was more enthusiastic about Harare's decision to accept Commonwealth monitors. Britain had been pressing for two months for Mr Mugabe to accept European Union monitors but a Foreign Office spokesman said it would be satisfied with a Commonwealth team.
Mr Mugabe has still to set an election date. He promised last month it would be held in May but that timetable now looks unlikely. Under the constitution, it has to be held by August.
In African elections last year, the Commonwealth provided 23 monitors for Nigeria and 10 for both Mozambique and South Africa.
Harare's concession came less than 24 hours after talks between the foreign secretary, Robin Cook, and a Zimbabwean delegation, including the foreign minister, Stan Mudenge, collapsed in failure.
Mr Mudenge met the new Commonwealth secretary general, Don McKinnon, in London yesterday afternoon. At an impromptu press conference outside the Commonwealth secretariat after the hour-long meeting, Mr Mudenge was asked how many monitors Zimbabwe was prepared to accept. "The more the merrier," Mr Mudenge said.
Mr McKinnon expressed optimism that the situation might be easing: "Seeing will obviously be believing. Certainly, I am getting the kind of messages we want to hear."
In Zimbabwe, representatives of both the farmers and the "war veterans" hailed their agreement as a major breakthrough although it was condemned by the leader of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai.
The unspoken understanding underpinning the deal is that the farmers would end their support for the MDC and not allow any MDC activity on their land.
The war veterans leader, Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, blamed the violence on a "criminal element" among the veterans and insisted that henceforth those who committed violent acts would be dealt with severely. "All violence must end," he said. "However, veterans will stay on the farms but they will not interfere with any farming activities."
This is the second public announcement of an agreement between squatters and farmers in just over a week. Given the volatility in the rural areas, the most recent spate of political violence by supporters of Zanu-PF against members of MDC and the invocation of special police powers to ban political gatherings, the agreement was greeted with cautious optimism in Harare.
Insiders in the farmers' union said they believed the war veterans were sincere this time. But the private agreement to stop the MDC from campaigning on white land brought a sharp rebuke from Mr Tsvangirai. "The farmers and the farming leaders are wrong to be negotiating with outlaws," he said.
The 60 white farmers who gathered on an open field knew what the message of the rally would be: don't support the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and you will be allowed to continue farming.
Wearing scruffy shorts, baggy shirts and floppy hats, most farmers at the rally housed Mr Mugabe's supporters on their property; some had received death threats, others had had their houses ransacked. All of them appeared worried, even frightened.
Two weeks ago and just 30 miles away, fellow farmer Dave Stevens was dragged from a police station, beaten and shot dead by Mr Mugabe's supporters. Five other farmers were beaten unconscious. The Goromonzi farmers wondered if and when such a fate would befall them.
More than 1,000 farm workers sat in a semi-circle. They had arrived on tractor trailers and many were dressed in their Sunday best, in long trousers and shirts with collars.
There was some desultory singing and sloganeering by the Zanu-PF officials. " Pamberi ne Zanu-PF! Pasi na MDC! " they shouted in Shona (Forward with Zanu-PF! Down with the MDC.) They pointed at groups of the farm labourers who were not enthusiastic and ordered them to sing and shout louder. Soon the Zanu-PF officials began speaking.
"You commercial farmers must make a decision," said Comrade Koche, the Zanu-PF district commissar, wagging his finger and swaggering towards the white farmers. "You can make a decision to be farmers and produce agriculture and make wealth for the nation. Or you can decide to be politicians allied to the MDC. It is your choice."
The white farmers looked at Comrade Koche with stony gazes, but did not protest.
The point was driven home by another party official. "You farmers must accept to redistribute your land to our war veterans and other Zimbabweans," he said. "If you want orderly change then join Zanu-PF. If you want to work for change outside the party and in the opposition, then there will be problems."
A deal has been struck between Zimbabwe's white farmers and Mr Mugabe's party. The farmers can continue to live on their farms if they do not support the MDC. Otherwise they risk the kind of violence that killed Mr Stevens and has seen hundreds of farm labourers beaten and tortured.
Similar rallies have been held across rural Zimbabwe. Farm labourers have had to hand in MDC T-shirts and are issued with Zanu-PF T-shirts with portraits of Mr Mugabe emblazoned across the chest.
A more formal agreement along the same lines was announced in Harare earlier yesterday by Chenjerai Hunzvi, the leader of the war veterans who have spearheaded the invasions of more than 1,200 white-owned farms. He met leaders of the Commercial Farmers Union, representing Zimbabwe's 4,200 mostly white large-scale farmers.
"I want to say to everyone, war veterans and white farmers alike, that violence is not needed and should stop forthwith," said a beaming Mr Hunzvi. "We have agreed that land must be redistributed in Zimbabwe and should be done quickly. We are working out a programme," he said.
Looking less happy, Nick Swanepoel, a leader of the farmers' union, nevertheless agreed with Mr Hunzvi. "As Zimbabweans we can solve this land problem together."
Referring to the talks in London, Mr Swanepoel said: "By meeting here today and reaching agreement, we have shown the world the we will come to a solution. We appeal to international donors to look at us carefully and come to the table to help make this plan work."
It appears that Mr Mugabe's strategy of using violence to stop the white farmers supporting the opposition has succeeded. The white farmers and their workers, who just a few weeks ago had been avid MDC supporters, were now agreeing to stop.
But one of the white farmers who spoke at the Goromonzi rally gave what appeared to be a coded message. "We must learn what many people in London have learned," he said. "If you want to get somewhere it is easy to take a taxi or a bus. To take the underground is more difficult and it is hard work, but you move ahead more quickly. So we should take the more difficult route, the underground."