Note: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Movement for
This time Mugabe has gone too far! Since April 2000,
following the defeat of the Zanu proposed new constitution, Mugabe has
pursued a land policy that has said "land is the key to our prosperity as a
people, it is our heritage. The continued occupation by a small clique of
commercial farmers of the best land is not acceptable, the fast track land
reform exercise is our response to this situation". Africa took him at his
word and his statements at face value. A lot of people in the rest of the
world said it was OK - but do it legally. He went on to say, "this is not a
racist agenda, we only want to redress the imbalance. All we ask for is
vacant and under-utilised land, land that is surplus and if a farmer only has
only one farm, he will be offered another, if we decide that we need his farm
for settlement for technical reasons". Sounds OK?
Now, 18 months
later, the government has brushed aside all the niceties, designated for
compulsory acquisition, without compensation, 10,7 million hectares of land
out of 12 million under commercial occupation at this time. He has further
unleashed on these hapless farmers a programme of violent occupation and has
instructed the forces of law and order to ignore the law and to prosecute
only those who resist or show sympathy for, the plight of those
Now 8 farmers and some 40 others have been killed, hundreds
injured and raped, homes burnt, possessions stolen and tens of thousands have
been displaced. Farm activities have been totally disrupted; food production
has fallen by 50 per cent and key export industries face total collapse. Up
to 3 million people face starvation and we are now linked with the Sudan
and Somalia as food crisis countries. The Courts, responding to the appeals
of those affected have ordered the government to stop this nonsense, draw up
a proper land reform programme and then start again - their opinions have
been ignored and the Judges making these legal judgements have been
threatened and their courts and homes invaded.
Now to complete the
scenario, Mugabe and his henchmen have hatched a plan that calls for 3
million people to be moved in the next 6 months. 1,5 million from the cities
onto commercial farmland now forcibly empty and idle and as a consequence 1,5
million people - all of them former dependants on commercial agriculture, now
homeless and destitute, to squatter camps outside the cities. This
Stalin-like, Khymer Rouge exercise is to be undertaken by the Army and the
Police. The new commercial farm "settlers" will be registered to vote on
transfer to their new "homes" and will be paid a per deum and given other
support while they wait until the time comes to vote. Then they will be told
to vote for Mugabe or be displaced - like the farm workers and their
families. The farm workers and their families will be unable to vote because
they are not in their constituencies and as "internally displaced refugees"
they will be disenfranchised. Zanu PF hopes by these draconian means to shift
1 million votes in favour of Mugabe in the presidential election in March
This plan was revealed in a story covered by the Financial Gazette
and has not been denied. It must therefore be true and what a horrifying
story it makes. It's Thabo Mbeki's worst nightmare because, in all
probability, South Africa will find itself subjected to a new wave of illegal
immigrants who will join the millions of other people in the shanty towns of
If nothing is done to stop this madness - and to stop it
now, Zimbabwe will slide inevitably into anarchy and chaos. Its economy,
already teetering on the brink of the abyss will slide into oblivion. Its
people totally dependent on foreign aid to feed themselves and to provide
some form of health and education for their children. I am not the only one
who is thinking in these terms - the exchange rate for foreign exchange is
now 250 to 1 for the US dollar indicating total panic amongst those who have
any resources. Capital flight at these premiums means that people are
dumping their assets at any cost. If you compute our GDP at these rates, we
are suffering from a 70 per cent decline in the GDP in real terms at
As for the farmers - there are close to 10 000 white men
on commercial farms, owners, managers and assistants. These are generally
tough individuals with a very determined outlook on life. Used to making
decisions they are mostly very individualistic and used to giving orders.
Controlling large labour forces is a major part of their responsibilities.
These men and their families have been subjected to insults, physical threats
and worse for the past 18 months. They have had no support from any quarter -
no international organisation has stood up for their rights and no
government has offered any assistance whatsoever. Banks have demanded
repayment of loans and withheld funding for normal activities and theft of
crops and livestock has been commonplace. They have been stripped of their
rights as citizens and as human beings, they have been denied the protection
of the law. They have not been allowed to protect their families, their staff
or their assets.
During this 18-month period not a single "war
veteran" has been killed in anger, very few incidents of violence perpetrated
by these white men against their tormentors have been recorded. Not a single
person who has been responsible for various forms of violence against these
farm families and their staff and their families has been prosecuted or
convicted. It represents a totally one-sided application of the laws of this
country and makes a complete mockery of all that Mugabe has been saying for
the past 18 months. Now in a small town called Chinhoyi, Zanu PF thugs are
beating up ordinary citizens - among them 20 white women simply going about
their ordinary business in a small farming town. The objective - to try and
so enrage these courageous people that they will retaliate. It's a sure sign
of complete desperation. Like having a prisoner whom you are beating
and torturing to secure some information and all he does is smile at you
- eventually you haul in his wife and say - what will you do if we meet out
to her, what we are doing to you?
No matter what you might think of
these white farming families, there are principles at stake here which are
universal and every person who stands for decency and the rule of law in
society, has to stand by these people and say to Mugabe and his thugs, enough
Failure to do so will not only make all of us poorer in spirit
and in human values but will condemn yet another potentially prosperous state
in Africa to mayhem and abject poverty. It also justifies all the racial
innuendoes that racists have used over the years to denigrate and undermine
black consciousness. It flies in the face of all that people like Steve Biko
and Nelson Mandela have stood for in life. It's time for black Americans
and Europeans to stand up for justice in this part of the world and to say
to Mugabe that his behaviour is totally unacceptable.
Its time for
those "smart sanctions" against the Zimbabwe leadership. Deny Mugabe food for
his bloated ego; take away their ill-gotten gains from corruption. Exclude
them from the gatherings of international leaders and insist that if they
continue on this course of action, they will be fully excluded from the
international community. At Durban - label the Mugabe land grab as racist
and at CHOGM, tell Mugabe that he is no longer acceptable in that community
of nations because he has violated its principles.
Five farmsteads in the Mhangura/Doma farming area in northern
Zimbabwe have been attacked and ransacked in the last 24 hours. Gangs of Zanu PF
thugs are reported to be roaming the area assaulting and robbing passersby. Some
farmers are reported to have left the area to avoid confrontation with the gangs
of state-sponsored criminals. Alan York, of Cotswold Estates, left his farm to
take up a travel prize he had won after being judged Cattleman of the Year by
the parastatal Cold Storage Commission. After he had left the property, his
house was ‘invaded’ and ransacked. A light aircraft put up by a neighbour
reported that the vehicles on the farm had been ‘requisitioned’ to ferry the
gangs around the area, and wholesale theft of furniture and belongings was
observed at the farmstead. One of the vehicles was within a short time seen to
Reports of similar criminal activity were received from Johan
Steyn of Kismet Farm, and from Peter du Toit, a Mr Hansen, and a Mr Nel – all
farmers in the Mhangura/Doma district. There were similar reports from the
Macheke/Virginia farming area. In Nkayi in Matabeleland, a hand grenade was last
night thrown into a bar which the local MDC MP, was visiting. It did not explode
and is being defused by the bomb squad.
In Nyathi, David Joubert, the farmer beaten and arrested
yesterday was released on bail after being charged with assault, grievous bodily
harm and malicious damage to property. The charges relate to an incident several
days ago in which a gang of Zanu PF thugs who had been ferried onto his ranch in
government vehicles, laid an ambush for the ranch’s game guards, The guards
fired birdshot in self defence – slightly injuring some of the gang, and several
people they had earlier abducted from a nearby mine to use as human shields.
Joubert was not involved in the incidents but was charged anyway. The gang later
burnt staff quarters in the ranch compound Joubert was severely beaten in the
presence of several police officers, including Detective Inspector Marima from
Bulawayo, who had arrived in the district to take charge of the local police
force. No arrests have been made among those who assaulted Joubert or who
ambushed his game guards and burnt the ranch buildings. Lawyers for Joubert say
the police have told them that have orders from above not to investigate the
incidents of assault and arson, or even to open a docket or issue a case
As my car descended a steep section of the highway into Chinhoyi yesterday, I
was suddenly gripped by an acute sense that the whole country was falling into a
dark and bottomless pit.
I was not only unnerved by the tense atmosphere around Chinhoyi magistrates'
court, where 23 white farmers were at a bail hearing after being charged with
"inciting violence" against black squatters.
I had barely recovered from the horrific experience of covering a
parliamentary by-election in Bindura two weeks ago. I interviewed opposition
supporters who had been maimed, tortured and raped by ruling Zanu-PF party
supporters during the campaign period of the by-election.
There was no doubt in my mind that Zimbabwe, for long an oasis of peace and
stability in volatile Africa, was now on a dangerous knife edge.
The violence in my country, which suddenly erupted again this week with the
clashes between the white farmers in Chinhoyi and the self-styled war veterans
doing the bidding of President Robert Mugabe, is threatening to become a race
The cries of Graham Coleman, a South African tourist, who I had interviewed
on the telephone two days ago, were still fresh in my mind.
Mr Coleman was in Zimbabwe on a three-week holiday but was abducted and
detained by war veterans as soon as he arrived at his brother's farm in
"I have read about violence in Zimbabwe but I didn't know it was this bad. I
wish I had not come here," Mr Coleman had said as he wept on the phone.
He sounded like all the other victims of political violence inspired by
Zanu-PF I had spoken to in the past few weeks.
Peasants who have lost their villages and property because of their support
for the opposition, aid agencies and diplomats who have been attacked for
"funding" the opposition, civil servants who have been victimised and many other
victims of the violence raging in Zimbabwe.
My thoughts also went to the 36 black opposition supporters murdered in the
run-up to the general election in June last year and to the nine white farmers
murdered in ongoing violence on the commercial farms. All the ruling party thugs
responsible for these murders are roaming the streets of Zimbabwe scot free.
Throughout the 75-mile journey from Harare, I realised that everything I had
written about my beloved country over the last 12 months had been about doom and
Now as I descended into Chinhoyi for the second time in two days, I felt
saddened that I was on my umpteenth mission to record another sad chapter about
my country – the arrest of the 23 white farmers after what was clearly racially
On a nearby farm, I tracked down an elderly white woman who had been attacked
in a supermarket on Tuesday. The 72-year-old woman lives on the farm with her
son but had seemed oblivious to the political tensions in the town until she
became a victim herself of the ruling party thugs who went on the rampage,
beating any white person they came across in Chinhoyi, after the farmers'
"I don't think she will speak to you after what happened to her. She has not
come to terms with the incident. She is now dead scared to talk to strangers,"
the guard said.
When I was eventually allowed inside, she pleaded: "Please don't ever use my
name or that of my son. They will come after me... In fact I won't say much. I
don't understand how anyone can dare beat a 72-year-old." She and her niece had
been beaten before strangers had come to their rescue and they managed to flee.
All white businesses in Chinhoyi had shut shortly afterwards on the advice of
Yesterday I spoke with another white farmer as he prepared to abandon his
property. "I can no longer take the risk. I don't think there is still a place
for any white person in Zimbabwe. It's now a choice between life and death,"
said the farmer, who said he was flying to South Africa. He said the mainly
white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) was preparing to evacuate all whites who
wanted to leave Chinhoyi and the surrounding farming areas of Karoi, Mhangura
and Doma. Last night, a CFU official said at least 30 white families had already
fled violence around Chinhoyi. Many more had asked the CFU to help in evacuating
All the white farmers interviewed during my visit to Chinhoyi agreed that
they were victims of racial violence that was being fanned by Mr Mugabe and his
supporters ahead of next year's presidential elections. "We have lived here
since independence in 1980 but we have never experienced these problems until Mr
Mugabe started scape-goating us for his government's failures," said another
farmer. Mr Mugabe blames the whites and Britain for sabotaging the economy.
Blacks in Chinhoyi confirmed that the racial violence in their town was being
driven by ruling party stalwarts who believed they could win more black votes
for Mugabe by driving the whites off their land and redistributing it among
"Now for you to be safe here, you just have to pretend that you are a ruling
party supporter even if you are not," said Andrew Motsi, a black shoemaker.
"If they give me a piece of land I will take it. But that will not guarantee
them my vote," said a local shopkeeper, who did not want to be named.
I asked myself – is this the reconciliation and freedom President Mugabe
promised to all Zimbabweans when he stood with Prince Charles to witness the
bringing down of the Union Jack in 1980? Definitely not. Mr Mugabe's motive is
clear – to remain in power. In pursuit of that goal, he has brought a once
promising nation to its knees.
Zimbabwe white farms evacuated as unrest
widens By Tony Hawkins in Harare Published:
August 9 2001 18:51GMT | Last Updated: August 9 2001
At least 20 white-owned commercial farms in the Mhangura and Doma districts
of north-east Zimbabwe have been evacuated after unrest that broke out in
Chinhoyi earlier this week spread to neighbouring areas.
Farm spokesmen said at least five homes had been ransacked and that parts of
the area had been cut off by war veterans who had used tractors and other farm
equipment to set up road blocks.
The Commercial Farmers Union said workers had been evacuated from most of the
affected farms, but some who had stayed had been being "forced to assist in the
widespread looting process".
There were also reports of a break-in at Two Trees Hill farm where shots were
heard, and "there may be casualties", the statement added.
Cattle were being driven out of paddocks - more than 2,000 on one farm alone.
In an effort to restore calm, the authorities have deployed the para-military
Police Support Unit in the area.
In Chinhoyi town, 22 white farmers arrested after clashes on a white-owned
farm on Monday appeared in court again seeking bail and facing charges of
assault and incitement to violence.
The magistrate adjourned the hearing in the afternoon without giving a
ruling, leading lawyers to speculate that the farmers might be forced to spend
the long holiday weekend in prison.
Friday and Monday are public holidays. The CFU said the prosecutor in the
case had opposed bail on the ground that with feelings in the town running high,
the lives of the white farmers could be in danger.
Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away in the south-west, state radio reported
that six settlers had been injured in clashes with a farmer and three game
Radio Zimbabwe said a "shoot out" between the veterans and the farmer and his
guards had lasted for two days, after the farmer had tried to evict the settlers
from his ranch.
He was subsequently assaulted by the settlers and has been admitted to
In what is seen as an ominous development for the government, two black
workers have been shot dead in the industrial town of Redcliff in the Midlands
in what police describe as "an accidental discharge".
Trouble broke out at the state-owned Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Co (Zisco) where
workers had launched a "sit-in" as part of their demands for a pay increase. A
police spokesman said 45 officers were sent to the complex but were unable to
restore order and called for help from the defence forces.
A detachment of troops was sent and two steelworkers died in a clash in which
soldiers had been "mobbed by workers". The police spokesman said shots were
fired accidentally but a trade union spokesman accused the soldiers of opening
fire "without provocation".
State radio said the steel complex, recently renovated by a Chinese company,
had been heavily damaged. Zisco officials put the cost of the damage at US$25m,
the radio said.
Urban unrest of this kind and the use of the military to restore order is a
serious setback for the government which is determined to demonstrate to the
international community that the Zimbabwe crisis is a race conflict entirely
attributable to the inequitable pattern of land holdings.
The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) has expressed concern at the
deteriorating lawlessness in the country over the last few days and has called
on Government to act swiftly to quell any and all incidents of unrest.
Citing incidents in, Beatrice, Mvurwi, Banket, Norton,
Marondera, Mutare, Chiredzi, Gweru, Matabeleland, Chinhoyi and a Kwe Kwe
incident resulting in the death of Mr. Ralph Cobbert. The CFU executive are
becoming increasingly concerned for the safety of their members.
Violence broke out in Chinhoyi town, 100 kilometers from Harare
on Monday 6th August. This incident has resulted in the arrest of 21
Commercial Farmers, who have been detained in Banket and Chinhoyi prisons for
the past 2 days.
Press and witness reports have been received that acts of
physical violence spread through Chinhoyi resulting in further assaults and
intimidation of white members of the community. 3 of the detained farmers were
subsequently arrested when they visited the Police Station to offer support to
fellow farmers and at least 3 wives were assaulted when they attempted to visit
their husbands at the Police Station. The perpetrators of these attacks, some of
which occurred within Police grounds, are allegedly "youths’ from the ruling
ZANU PF party. A certain Mr. Chirawa has identified himself to the local CFU
representatives as being the leader of this group.
The situation on the ground remains tense with the farmers
preparing to attend a remand hearing in Chinhoyi Magistrates Court.
Factual reports filtering in to CFU Headquarters indicate the
following sequence of events:
At 9:00 am on 6 August, farmers in the Chinhoyi district
received a distress call over the local radio network from a local farmer, Mr.
Barkley, who reported that his house was being attacked by a group of 40 persons
brandishing axes and sticks. The police were informed but their response did not
inspire confidence that violence would be averted timeously or dealt with in an
Two farmers who visited the scene to assess the situation had
to retreat after being assaulted by the occupiers. A group of about 25 farmers
then proceeded to the farm with a view to assisting the besieged farmer. They
arrived to find the homestead surrounded, and forced their way through the mob
in an effort to determine the state or fate of the farmer and his family. A
confrontation ensued and several occupiers and four or five farmers - were
injured, one seriously enough to be hospitalised. The besieged and embattled
farmer was eventually found barricaded inside the house, out of reach of his
The police eventually arrived and requested that the farmers
report to Chinhoyi police station to give statements. On arrival at the station,
17 farmers were arrested. In addition, a 72-year old man who arrived later to
bring blankets for those who had been arrested was also detained. No member of
the occupiers was arrested or detained for questioning.
Further arrests were made on the morning of the 7 August, when
a group of farmers and local residents arrived at the police station in an
effort to mediate. These additional arrests at the Police stations, brings the
number of farmers in detention to 21.
Chinhoyi Police along with Mr. Chirawa, the leader of the ZANU
PF group of War Veterans and Youth have advised CFU representative, Mr. Jan
Botes to evacuate all whites who live and work in Chinhoyi.
Meanwhile the CFU and its partners, driving the Zimbabwe Joint
Resettlement Initiative (ZJRI) are committed to finding common ground and all
meetings currently being held are devoted to securing consensus on the land
reform programme despite the tense situation on the ground.
At the recent CFU congress members stood firm on the need for
dialogue with Government and to seek a speedy solution that meets the economic
needs of the country by restoring productivity to the agricultural sector.
Press reports indicate that Zimbabwe is headed for food
shortages and farmers countrywide are deeply concerned at their inability to sow
and harvest their crops without hindrance.
THE government has told war
veterans to target and harass individual commercial farmers into abandoning
their land instead of waiting for the arduous legal process of land
acquisition before they get settled on the properties, it was learnt this
Intelligence sources coordinating the war veterans said
time was running out for the government to exhaust all relevant legal
procedures required to seize the 4 700 farms listed for compulsory
acquisition before the onset of the new rainy season in October.
was also the problem of capacity to make valuations for compensations on all
these properties. At the same time the government wanted as many families as
possible to be resettled so they could start ploughing their land before the
"There is thus a shift in strategy. The government wants
the war veterans to harass and scare farmers into abandoning their land and
then they get it for ploughing before October. Issues of compensation and
others become peripheral once a farmer is no longer on the land," one source
"Alternatively, the farmers can be harassed and forced to negotiate
with the veterans and allow them to till part of the farmer’s land if the
farmer remains on the land."
Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) president
Collin Cloete said he was not aware of the strategy, although he said it
could not be ruled out as an option because many strategies had been used
before against CFU members.
In the past few weeks, he said, the veterans
had resorted to barricading individual farmers in their homes and attacking
them or detaining them for up to five days.
"In Beatrice, Marondera,
Headlands and other places, we have had many individual farmers being
targeted and attacked in their homes. It has been a trend in the past two or
three weeks. It’s a tactic to intimidate farmers to leave their properties,"
His remarks seemed to fit directly with the strategy
outlined by the sources but still the CFU president said he was not aware
whether or not the government had agreed to embark on a systematic harassment
of the farmers.
"It hasn’t been as obvious as you have stated it," he
Cloete said the perception that most people wreaking havoc on
commercial farms were landless was not true because most of the illegal
settlers were getting instructions to cause problems on the farms.
of his missions was to re-open dialogue with the government to try to resolve
the land question, he said.
"We can still work together with the
government to resolve the land dispute in the interests of this country. It’s
never too late. There are many genuine people out there who need to be
resettled and we would want to assist in the whole process," he
Cloete said the government had paid compensation for about 20 farms
in the past 18 months. Only about 25 farms had also been legally and fully
acquired in the same period.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made could
not be reached for comment yesterday.
By Sydney Masamvu, Political
Editor 8/9/01 8:46:49 PM (GMT +2)
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet is
actively considering declaring a state of emergency if the international
community goes ahead to impose sanctions against him and his senior
government officials, authoritative official sources said this
They said the approval by the US Senate last week of the
Zimbabwe Democracy Bill, which still has to be endorsed by Congress and the
White House, had re-ignited intense debate within Cabinet on whether Harare
should impose emergency rule.
The passage of the Bill, whose sanctions
specifically target Mugabe and his senior officials for their alleged
promotion of violence and lawlessness in Zimbabwe as opposed to punishing the
country, had caused panic within the Cabinet and the ruling ZANU PF
leadership, the sources said
In Capitol Hill in Washington DC,
legislative officials this week said the Bill had received unanimous support
from the Senate and was bound to be passed by the full Congress before the
end of the year, setting the stage for a bitter confrontation with a defiant
"The indications are that the Bill will be passed by the
Congress, that is increasingly looking pretty obvious because it has garnered
overwhelming bi-partisan support," a US official involved in the crafting of
the Bill told the Financial Gazette by telephone.
"Time permitting and
since it has received overwhelming support, we will try to push to get the
Bill passed by Congress before it goes on recess. The question of it being
passed is no longer an issue, the only issue is when it will be passed," the
Political commentators in Harare said the passage of the
Bill by the US legislature was a strong signal from the Bush administration
to the rest of the international community, angered by Mugabe’s refusal to
end lawlessness which has killed nearly 40 people since last year, to impose
sanctions on the Zimbabwean leader.
The 15-nation European Union (EU),
which has given Harare two months to end political violence and uphold the
rule of law with effect from mid-June, is already considering selective
sanctions that will target individual Zimbabwean
Officials in both the Harare government and its governing
ZANU PF party this week said the "law of survival" would take over if
sanctions are imposed on Zimbabwe.
"We will be left with no choice but
to declare a state of emergency if we are under sanctions," said a government
minister, reflecting the toughening mood in Mugabe’s Cabinet.
the way the situation is developing, that cannot be ruled out. The law of
survival will take over," the minister said, preferring not to be
Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo, who spoke on the record, did not
also rule out the possibility of a state of emergency, telling the Financial
Gazette last night that if Zimbabwe came under siege, it would have to
devise strategies to survive.
"We hope the situation won’t reach the
sanctions level, but if we are under siege, we have to employ strategies to
survive. We cannot lie and down and mourn," he said.
"As for declaring
a state of emergency, I cannot say anything at the moment. We will cross that
bridge when we reach it."
He however said he hoped current talks between
the government and the international community on Zimbabwe’s crisis would
yield positive results, making sanctions unnecessary.
efforts to lobby the international community against the sanctions also
involve its ambassadors to the United Nations, Washington and the EU —
Tichaona Jokonya, Simbi Mubako and Kelebert Nkomani respectively — who are
busy talking to US congressmen and the Black Caucus to try to reject the
Zimbabwe’s representatives in the US have also been
lobbying African diplomats based in Washington to oppose the Bill, while
former American ambassador to the UN Andrew Young and a public relations
firm, Cohen & Woods International, have been enlisted by the government
to fight the impending law.
Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge, who has
hinted in the past that sanctions could lead to the imposition of martial
law, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He is in Malawi attending a
meeting of the Southern Africa Development Community.
He is however
expected to use a meeting of Commonwealth foreign ministers, who will discuss
differences between Zimbabwe and Britain over land reform, to clarify his
government’s position on major issues of concern to the international
community ahead of a Commonwealth summit in Australia
According to diplomatic sources, Zimbabwe’s political
crisis is likely to top the agenda of the Australian summit, where Mugabe
could face heavy censure from other heads of state at the once-in-two-years
meeting of Britain and its former colonies.
From David Masunda,
Deputy Editor-in-Chief 8/9/01 8:47:55 PM (GMT +2)
CHINHOYI — One white
farmer collapsed in the dock but later recovered yesterday as senior
magistrate Godfrey Gwaka postponed to today the tension-packed trial of 22
farmers accused of assaulting and injuring black peasants resettled on a farm
The bail hearing was postponed to today to allow tempers to
cool down and to check on the nationality of one of the farmers who carries a
British passport. The farmers, who were remanded in custody, are being
charged with inciting public violence.
Before the bail hearing,
hundreds of ZANU PF youths chased away foreign journalists and the Financial
Gazette from covering the trial that has exposed the underlying racial
tension caused by the government’s illegal fast-track land resettlement
The 22 farmers, who were later smuggled into the magistrates’
court through the back door under heavy police guard, are accused of having
assaulted and seriously injured five resettled peasants on Liston Shield,
about 15 kms from Chinhoyi, on Monday.
ZANU PF youths besieged the
court buildings from early morning anticipating the arrival of the accused,
who have been in custody since Monday but police, fearing a riot, delayed
court proceedings until late in the afternoon.
The farmers, many still
clad in farming khaki shirts and short trousers, had to be smuggled through
the back door normally used by court officials to avoid the ZANU PF youths
milling in front of the court buildings and baying for their
The youths, some visibly drunk and brandishing empty beer bottles,
chased away reporters from the Financial Gazette, Reuters, the Daily News and
the local independent Makonde Star, accusing the journalists of favouring
the white farmers.
The mood got tense just after lunchtime as the
youths, led by war veterans, went through the crowd picking at random those
they suspected of being foreign or independent journalists or supporters of
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Dennis Kagonye, a
Makonde Star reporter, said the youths had gone on a rampage in Chinhoyi on
Tuesday night, beating up whites in the town and damaging their
Kagonye said he was visibly shaken when he watched helplessly
as three white youths coming from school were waylaid by the war veterans and
Silas Matamisa, the MDC’s provincial chairman,
said the ZANU PF youths had also descended on his Chikonohono home and tried
to burn his pickup truck. He said the youths were venting their anger on MDC
supporters whom they also accused of sympathising with the
Kagonye said Joseph Chinotimba, ZANU PF’s self-styled commander
of farm invasions, had been seen in the town in the company of provincial
governor Peter Chanetsa leading the youths on Tuesday night with another war
veteran only known as Musakasi.
Most companies run by commercial
farmers in Chinhoyi were closed yesterday, apparently on the orders of the
police who fear an eruption of white-black violence.
Joubert, a rancher in Nyathi in Matabeleland, has been arrested after violent
clashes between war veterans and his farm guards during which three of the
invaders were injured.
Police said Joubert, who was beaten senseless by
the war veterans, would face attempted murder charges.
Tensions have been rising in Chinhoyi for three
Twenty-three white farmers have appeared in court in the
town of Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, charged with public violence and assault following
clashes with a group of self-styled war veterans who had been occupying a farm.
Tension and violence between white farmers and government supporters has been
mounting in the town 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital Harare for the
past three weeks.
The court appearance was highly-charged and a group of about 200 government
supporters chased away reporters from the foreign and private press.
If the whites start fighting us, then we have to
Patrick Nyaruwata, war veterans association
One told a white
journalist: "We have grievances against the whites. Don't stand here because we
will beat you up."
The group milling around outside Chinhoyi magistrates court had also
threatened to attack the farmers, if they were granted bail.
A British diplomat was present to check on reports that some of the farmers
had dual British-Zimbabwean nationality, which has been declared illegal by
President Robert Mugabe's government.
One of the men, 71 year-old Gert Pretorious, collapsed in the courtroom and
is being treated at Chinhoyi hospital.
The court has now adjourned until Thursday and so the farmers will spend
another night in police cells.
As part of Mr Mugabe's policy of redistributing land, groups of war veterans
and poor black farmers have been encouraged to settle on land forcibly taken
from white owners by the Zimbabwean Government.
Following 80 years of colonial rule, whites own about 60% of Zimbabwe's most
fertile agricultural land.
So far, nine white farmers have been killed in incidents linked to the land
invasions. Two black people - a policeman and a settler - have also been killed.
Ralph Corbett, aged 76, became the latest victim on Monday when he succumbed
to the wounds he sustained after being attacked by unknown assailants on 3
In July, a white farmer allegedly killed a black settler by repeatedly
driving over him in his truck.
Patrick Nyaruwata, acting chairman of the war veterans association, said: "If
the whites start fighting us, then we have to retaliate."
The farmers are accused of ganging up and brutally attacking defenceless
resettled farmers at a farm on Monday, said the government newspaper, The
But the farmers say that war veterans tried to attack one of them.
Two other farmers in the area reportedly came to his aid, and they too were
set upon and left with broken ribs and head injuries.
Then about 20 other farmers in the vicinity came to the scene and a fight
broke out between the farmers and the war veterans.
Many settlers have been living in the open for 18
months, waiting for the land promised by Robert
Five war veterans sustained injuries during the fighting.
When the police arrived, all of them were questioned, but only the farmers
Peter Chanetsa, Governor of Mashonaland West province - of which Chinhoyi is
the capital - told state television that the farmers who were in custody should
know that they had definitely lost all of their land.
The land invasions are widely seen as a ploy by Mr Mugabe to overcome the
threat of the new opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC.
At least 30 black MDC supporters have been killed in political clashes before
and after the June 2000 parliamentary elections, in which Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF
narrowly defeated the MDC.
Much of the violence was orchestrated by Zanu-PF supporters based on occupied
white-owned farms around the country.
Presidential elections due in April 2002 are expected to be the most keenly
contested - and violent - in Zimbabwe's 21-year history.
ARARE: Violence between white farmers and blacks in
Zimbabwe in which two people have been killed and several injured in recent
weeks has sparked fears of an upsurge in racial conflict ahead of
presidential polls next year.
"I think in the months to come we are
going to see a lot of racial tension as part of a conflict that is going to
manifest itself in many other forms, including inter-party conflict," said
Joseph Kurebwa, a University of Zimbabwe political science
He was commenting on clashes in the northwestern town of
Chinhoyi on Monday between white farmers and blacks who have settled on their
land, which left several people injured on both sides and saw 23 farmers
Also Monday, a white farmer died of injuries he received during
a brutal attack last week on his home in which his hands were tied with wire
and he was hit on the head with an axe.
The incidents have ratcheted
up tension in already racially-riven farming communities, according to media
Following Monday's clashes in Chinhoyi, whites in the
farming town have come under threat and some have been physically assaulted,
the state-run Herald reported.
"Angry resettled (black) farmers and
ordinary people yesterday retaliated and attacked several whites in
Chinhoyi," it said.
The privately owned Daily News reported that at least
10 white people, including a 64-year-old man and his wife, were attacked by
ruling ZANU-PF party youths in Chinhoyi.
The Commercial Farmers' Union
(CFU) offices in the town were closed and police reportedly advised white
people there to stay out of sight.
The clash came just two weeks after a
white farmer allegedly killed a black would-be settler in eastern Zimbabwe,
running over him with his van at high speed and dragging his body for several
Veterans of the country's 1970s liberation war
interpreted the incident as a declaration of war. "If the whites start
fighting us, then we have to retaliate," said acting chairman of the war
veterans association Patrick Nyaruwata.
This week's incidents are the
latest in a bitter dispute between landless blacks and white farm owners
which has seen bloodshed and farm invasions since early last year.
CFU which represents 4,500 mostly white farmers last month reported
an increase in burning of fields, eviction orders, and hostage-takings by
the self-styled war veterans who have occupied hundreds of farms here for
Last month private media reported that 45 farmers near the
northern town of Karoi, north of Chinhoyi, were forced to abandon their
farms, due to increased violence. Kurebwa said the use of violence by
government as a tool has a spiralling effect.
"It works in the short
term until such a time that whites consider themselves as an endangered
species and see every black settler as a potential risk," he
John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe political scientist, also
predicted a bitter build up to next year's presidential poll. "I actually
foresee an escalation in racial tension because the governing party has taken
on a number of weapons to fight for election, and these are land, violence
and racism," he said.
"I think it will get worse as we get towards
elections and I think we will see some of it in urban areas," he said, adding
that "a number of white people" could leave Zimbabwe in coming
He estimated that the population of whites in Zimbabwe has
already dwindled to about 65,000 from 80,000 before legislative elections
The government of President Robert Mugabe has embarked on a
controversial land reform scheme aimed at correcting colonial-era imbalances
which left white Zimbabweans - less than one per cent of the population -
owning some 70 percent of the country's prime farmland.
of the former British colony, which won independence in 1980, has listed
nearly 90 percent of white-owned farms for resettling of
Violence linked to the land reform campaign, launched
last year ahead of the legislative polls, claimed some 34 lives, including
those of opposition supporters and several white farmers. ( AFP )