HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - A crowd of 200 black farm workers attacked 60 war veterans occupying white-owned agricultural land in northern Zimbabwe Tuesday night and beat them with sticks, a farmers' spokesman said.
``The situation is very volatile as we speak,'' Kelvin Weare, a farming community security spokesman, told Reuters by telephone from Karoi, a farming town about 120 miles northwest of the capital Harare.
``They beat them with sticks. A number of war veterans were quite badly hurt,'' Weare said. ``They were trying to chase them (the war veterans) off the farm.''
He said police were investigating the attack but had made no arrests so far.
``They (the farm workers) were apparently fed up with all the intimidation that has been going on the past few months,'' he said, adding that the farmer they worked for now feared for his life.
Zimbabwe's countryside has been tense since February, when self-styled veterans of the country's 1970s liberation war invaded hundreds of white-owned farms demanding that whites return land they say was stolen at gunpoint during British rule.
President Robert Mugabe says he plans to acquire nearly half the 30 million acres owned by 4,500 white farmers to resettle landless blacks.
A group of veterans Tuesday blocked a highway to protest against the slow pace of land redistribution.
Zimbabwe's policy of redistributing land owned by white commercial farmers threatens "ecological disaster", according to an eminent conservationist.
Professor Johan du Toit, of Pretoria University, South Africa, says it is "inevitable that wildlife populations will be overhunted" if the farms are handed over immediately to black Zimbabweans.
He warns that the country's black rhinos, one of the species that attracts high-spending foreign tourists and hunters, will be at great risk.
But he believes international help could avert the disaster.
Professor du Toit, director of the Mammal Research Unit at Pretoria University, says commercial white-owned farms in Zimbabwe are home to many rare large mammals, including cheetah, black rhino and sable - a type of antelope.
He told BBC News Online: "White-owned commercial farmland and ranchland in Zimbabwe supports a very significant proportion of that country's biodiversity.
"It will be severely impacted if this land is thrown over to subsistence agriculture."
The Zimbabwe Government insists that only about 30% of white-owned land is actually used for farming.
But the professor dismisses this, saying most of the arable land is cultivated already, while the rest supports indigenous woodland that is used for grazing cattle, or for wildlife, or both.
"The issue is that dumping impoverished peasants on geometrically-plotted patches of virgin non-arable land, without any infrastructure, tillage equipment, venture capital, housing, water supplies, or training will result quite simply in an ecological disaster," says Professor du Toit.
"Wildlife populations will be overhunted and snared, habitat loss will be rapid, and the whole crisis will just get exponentially worse."
Professor du Toit acknowledges that Zimbabwe itself cannot afford to provide that sort of infrastructure. But he believes the international community would assist if the land redistribution was drawn up transparently and if the government completely revised its policy.
He believes Zimbabwe can still find a solution. But if it fails to do so, he thinks the future is bleak.
"We're going to lose some large populations and some important gene pools in the near future," says Professor du Toit. "The issue isn't that white people should own land. It's that the land should feed the people."
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has brought a quiet feud
with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe into the open, urging Zimbabwe's people to take up
arms against the "tyrants" who rule.
Ordinary people, Mr. Mandela said, should depose leaders who enrich themselves at the expense of their countrymen by "picking up rifles and fighting for liberation."
Speaking in Johannesburg at the inception of a new UNICEF initiative for impoverished children on Saturday, Mr. Mandela departed from his prepared text to level the unusual broadside.
In the process, he has placed himself at odds with his successor, President Thabo Mbeki, who has publicly embraced Mr. Mugabe in an effort to end a wave of violence in advance of elections for Zimbabwe's parliament.
Mr. Mandela said South Africa was committed to diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, in which supporters of Mr. Mugabe have beaten and killed opposition-party supporters and seized all or part of more than 1,000 white-owned farms.
But he also said ordinary people were not bound by the diplomacy of South Africa and other nations.
"That is the lesson of history. The tyrants of today can be destroyed by you, and I am confident that you have the capacity to do so," Mr. Mandela said.
Asked whether the remarks were directed at Mr. Mugabe, he replied: "Everybody knows who I am talking about."
About 4,000 white farmers have held one-third of Zimbabwe's most fertile lands since before British colonial rule ended in 1965.
In the so-called Lancaster House accords of 1980, Britain and the nation's black independence leaders agreed that after 20 years, the farms could be redistributed to landless blacks, with the consent of whites and adequate compensation to be paid by London.
The redistribution has long been under way but, instead of going to landless blacks, much of it wound up in the hands of well-to-do, well-connected blacks.
So Britain balked on paying compensation.
Mr. Mandela and Mr. Mbeki also differ on Britain's response to Mr. Mugabe's land grab, namely to suspend all new export licenses for arms and military equipment to Zimbabwe and to halt the supply of 450 Land Rovers to Mr. Mugabe.
The British say Mr. Mandela supports their policy. Mr. Mbeki is critical, but the British believe his public remarks mask his real feelings.
Mr. Mandela's call for Mr. Mugabe's ouster was rejected by Mr. Mbeki, who has urged a softer approach to the crisis and solidarity among Zimbabwe's neighbors in southern Africa.
Immediately after Mr. Mandela's remarks, Parks Mankhahlana, Mr. Mbeki's spokesman, said: "That is Mr. Mandela's view. Mr. Mbeki has explained his position."
Herman Nickel, a former U.S. ambassador to South Africa, said in a telephone interview: "Mr. Mandela's call for the overthrow of tyrants is clearly in contrast with the pronouncements and show of friendship toward the Zimbabwean leader by Mr. Mbeki.
"When Mr. Mandela went to London, [Prime Minister Tony] Blair issued a statement noting that the former South African president supported the British position on Zimbabwe."
Britain has pledged to contribute to compensation to the white farmers provided the illegal farm occupations stop.
Asked how he viewed Mr. Mandela's remarks, Mr. Nickel said, "Mr. Mandela has always been his own man and at times a bit of a loose cannon."
Reports of a feud between Mr. Mandela and Mr. Mugabe -two of the continent's best-known leaders of liberation movements against white domination -have long been whispered. However, Mr. Mandela's latest remarks are believed to be the first time either has so openly criticized the other.
For Mr. Mandela, Mr. Mugabe represents a type of African independence leader who fought successfully for independence, then drifted toward tyranny by clinging to power, said Joseph Sala, a former State Department official who served in the region.
Mr. Mandela did the opposite, assuming the leadership of his nation and then stepping down after one term in office.
"There are leaders in Africa . . . who have made enormous wealth, leaders who once commanded liberation armies. But rubbing shoulders with the rich, the powerful, the wealthy has made some leaders despise the very people who put them in power, and they think it is their privilege to be there for eternity," Mr. Mandela said in Saturday's speech.
Mr. Mbeki, meanwhile, is preparing for a two-day summit next week in London with Mr. Blair.
Mr. Mankhahlana, the South African president's spokesman, said it was critical for the British to hear the voices of the southern African leaders.
After the recent meeting between Mr. Blair and Mr. Mandela, a senior British official suggested that Mr. Mandela was speaking with Mr. Mbeki's blessing.
"He is free to say what everybody feels. Do not underestimate how tough Mbeki is in private talks with Mugabe," the official told a British newspaper.
Mr. Mbeki is also reported to have offered Mr. Mugabe a deal: Public backing by southern African leaders for a land-resettlement deal in exchange for the calling off the confrontation.
Daily News: 8/21/00 2:06:18 PM (GMT +2) - Margaret Chinowaita
A prominent Harare businessman, Muchineripi Chigwedere, 50, was savagely murdered at his factory in Msasa on Saturday night in full view of his wife and uniformed police officers following a dispute with an employee.
A distraught Rosewinter
Chigwedere described yesterday how her husband was stabbed more than 10 times
while she, two policemen, three security guards and other workers watched
"It was horror at its worst,"she said. " used to think that horror was only for the films. Last night I watched as my husband was repeatedly stabbed."
One of the police officers fired twice into the air as the stabbing continued but ran out of ammunition. Rhodesville Police Station, whose officers witnessed the brutal murder, last night refused to comment.
Chigwedere bled to death after he was stabbed by William Masale, a machine operator, following a protracted argument over a wage rise at Gelatine Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd. Witnesses said Masale initially urged fellow employees reporting for the 11pm shift not to work until they were awarded their increment. Masale is resident in Epworth.
Masale is alleged to have switched off machinery. Other workers are said to have failed to restrain him. All workers were ordered out of the premises by the factory supervisor, who immediately contacted Chigwedere and Rhodesville Police Station. Rhodesville immediately dispatched two officers to the plant.
Chigwedere and his wife arrived at the factory around 11pm. They found Masale standing by a security guard. Other workers had left by then. Masale immediately confronted Chigwedere and a fight ensued. Masale was overpowered and left.
He then reappeared and attacked Chigwedere from behind while the police officers and security guards watched helplessly from a distance.
"The police were useless,"said Angela Chidavanyika, Chigwedere's sister.
"We hear they watched as my brother was being stabbed. They failed to save him."
The incident exposed a major inadequacy on the part of police preparedness.
Witnesses said the police officers arrived with only two bullets, which they used up in firing into the air to scare off Masale. Undeterred and with the police reduced to mere spectators, Masale continued to stab Chigwedere with a double-edged knife. It is alleged that he reported for work armed with the knife, an axe and an umbrella rod.
Chigwedere, a chemical engineer, was a self-starter who at the launch of Zimbabwe's structural adjustment programme in 1991 resigned from National Breweries in Bulawayo to venture into the manufacture of pet foods and a wide range of dried soya bean-based foods in his plant in Harare. Business thrived and at the time of his death he was employing 52 workers.
Construction of a multi-million dollar new factory was recently completed in Ruwa. The company was due to move to its new home next month.
Chigwedere is survived by Rosewinter and three children. Mourners are gathered at 17 Bargate Road, Northwood.
His pet food range, brand-named Hwau Hwau, took the market by storm to challenge long-established products.
Chigwedere directed that 10 percent of proceeds from the sale of Hwau Hwau products be donated to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
On Saturday night he died a cruel death.
Daily News: 8/21/00 2:03:26 PM (GMT
TWENTY of the 25 war
veterans and Zanu PF supporters charged with freeing a colleague suspected of
murdering a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporter in pre-poll violence
from police custody, appeared for the second time on Thursday last week at the
Murehwa magistrates' courts.
Ariel Kamupira, the
presiding magistrate, further remanded them in custody to 31 August.
The 20, one a 17-year-old girl, first appeared before the same magistrate two weeks ago charged with public violence or alternatively contravening section 44 (2) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. They face a maximum jail sentence of seven years each if convicted.
They are Ella Tigere, 17, her brother Marvellous, Tendai Chikerema, Washington Makoni, Charles Munyawiri and Betty Mudyamhuru, all aged 18.
Daniel Zingunde, 19, Zivanai Shonhai, 20, Emilia Chitsungo, 24, Nicholas Moyo, 27, Christopher Ncube, 29, Paradzai Nyarambi, 30, Edward Maponga, 36, Elvis Dube, 38, Onias Katiyo and Peter Chari, both 43, and John Makuvatsine, 44. The 19 are all from Murehwa. The 20th person is Wellington Mxotshwa, 20, of Bulawayo.
They are accused of freeing Obey Magaya from the custody of two uniformed policemen, Constables Garai and Mukuvisi. The policemen were escorting Magaya to Murehwa police station. Magaya is still on the run.
He is alleged to have murdered Nhamo Gwase at a war veterans' "base"in Musami, by mutilating his private parts. Gwase died on admission to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.
Public prosecutor, Alex Chikozho, said the 20 were part of a mob of about 30 Zanu PF supporters that intercepted the policemen and Magaya, and frog-marched Garai and Mukuvisi into the Zexcom offices at the growth point on 2 August.
Farm workers challenge war vets
track resettlement: farm workers left in coldZIMBABWE's largely indigent farm workers seem destined for destitution in the wake of the government's so called 'fast track' resettlement programme which has made no provision for them despite repeated assurances that they too would benefit from the land reform process.
Workers at Myembi Farm in Marondera were last week involved in a heated argument with the invading 'war veterans' soon after the launch of the fast track resettlement programme at the farm. The workers were irked by the decision to resettle people from nearby communal area. No farm worker at the farm was considered.
One of the farm workers, Mr Silas Simon said dejectedly: 'We won't be working anymore. We don't know where we will be going and we don't know what we will survive on.'
He said the farmer would be leaving as soon as he finishes his tobacco grading and winding up all his operations. Mr Simon said he had been working at the farm for the past 13 years and the farm had become his home. 'I have been a tractor driver here for 13 years. I 've no idea how I am going to feed my children or send them to school,' lamented Mr Simon.
He has six children in primary and secondary school. Mr Simon is among over 30 workers and their families who are likely to be stranded when the farmer moves off the farm before the start of the next season. Some of the workers are now trying to find jobs elsewhere but this will be difficult with the current economic situation in the country which has been exacerbated by farm invasions by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters.
Unemployment is rising as more and more people are loosing their jobs not only on farms but in other sectors of the economy as well.
According to Mr Simon, the Mashonaland West governor, Mr David Karimanzira came to the farm to launch the resettlement programme and people from other areas are said to have been allocated land. The trouble, he said, started soon after the governor left.
'We said what about us, we don't have anything. They (war vets) said we can't get anything because we are MDC but this is not about politics but it is about our livelihood and survival,' he said.
The workers said they had been to the district administrator's office with their problem but the DA told them to stay where they are until somewhere suitable is found for them. At the moment these workers are staying in well-built brick houses with clean water and proper sanitation.
'We also want land but there is no land for us. How can they start resettling people who already have somewhere to live in their communal areas leaving us with nothing,' said Simon.
The supposed resettlement seems to lack clear planning. Although there were some communal people already at the farm who said they were selected for resettlement there was no sign of any planning. The Farmer was informed that even Agritex officers never demarcated the land.
The newly resettled occupants of the farm refused to talk to The Farmer saying the 'war vets' had instructed them not to talk to the press. They claimed the 'war vets' had told them that journalists distorted information.
It is understood that when the governor arrived to launch the programme, he had no idea how many hectares the farm was. The governor decided that 19 families would be resettled but backtracked on this after being told by the farmer that the farm was smaller than he thought. It was suddenly decided that 10 families would be resettled.
According to Mrs Bolas whose husband was leasing Myembi Farm, the governor arrived with 150 people saying he had come to resettle them. She said the governor told the 'war vets' that they could go to the rest of the farm but warned them against coming anywhere near the farmer's house.
She said, 'Like everybody, we agree on the need to land reform but it has to be done in the right way. Its not about just being given land, its about being productive; its about the economy. We hoped everything will turn around and the country would prosper but it's going to take some time and the most basic thing would be the return to the rule of law.'
At Myembi Farm no evaluation of farm developments has been made although the farmer has already started packing his belongings.
LusakaZAMBIAN farmers are said to have shunned an animal disease control fund launched by the government.