Saturday, 29 April, 2000, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK -BBC
Mugabe moves to seize
President Robert Mugabe is planning to use
special powers to allow him to redistribute
white-owned farms without paying
"Within 10 days the legal framework to take
land and redistribute it to the people will be in
place," Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa
said, promising the land would immediately be
Zimbabwe war veterans have led a campaign
of invading more than 1,000 white-owned
farms in Zimbabwe since February.
Mr Mnangagwa said
that since parliament
had been dissolved in
elections, the president
would use his special
powers to repeal the
law which required
compensation to be
paid for seized farms.
UK Foreign Secretary
Robin Cook quickly
announcement as "a big step backwards".
"There can be no justification for this," he said
in a statement in London. "This cannot be the
way to solve the genuine problems of land
Britain has refused to hand over £36m ($58m)
to fund land reform unless free elections are
held and there is an end to violence, in which
at least eight people have been killed.
The director of the
Union, David Hasluck
was also quick to
denounce the move as
evidence of bad faith
on the government's
"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," he
The announcement of new presidential powers
coincided with a series of rallies by the main
opposition party, the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), the first ones since police were
given new powers to restrict political
The opposition accuses Mr Mugabe of
orchestrating the farm invasions to bolster his
diminishing support among disillusioned voters.
Two rallies passed off mostly peacefully, apart
from a few skirmishes with government
supporters who held a demonstration nearby.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Mr
Mugabe's Zanu-PF party was using intimidation
as a tactic.
group, the National
(NCA), cancelled a
saying it was afraid of
conceded at a rally of
150 supporters near
Harare that the
opposition campaign, ahead of as yet
unscheduled elections, was likely now to shift
towards door-to-door canvassing, given the
climate of intimidation.
He had earlier told a BBC News Online Forum
that the MDC was considering challenging the
police decision on Thursday to use special
powers to ban rallies.
"We are examining the possibility of taking this
issue to the Supreme Court," he said.
Despite Friday's agreement between farmers'
and war veterans' leaders to end the violence
associated with the illegal occupation of farms,
there have been reports of further attacks.
Groups of government
supporters arrived at
one farm, about 35km
south-west of Harare,
demanding money from
the farm owner,
threatening to burn
down the farmhouse
and warning him to
leave his home.
Hundreds of squatters
are reported to have
been bussed in to
white-owned tobacco farm.
At a pro-government rally in Harare, the war
veterans' leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, told his
supporters they must ensure that the ruling
Zanu-PF party remains in power.