|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Hundreds of demonstrators are outside the Zimbabwean High Commission and a delegation has handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street.
Mr Straw and Tony Blair need to become more active in terms of what they are doing to assist Zimbabwe
Albert Weidemann, protest organiser
They are appealing to Mr Blair to exert more pressure on President Mugabe's regime amid fears that the situation in Zimbabwe may be spiralling out of control.
Earlier Labour MP Donald Anderson, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, said he did not believe the government should do more.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the policies would be ineffective.
"Because, one, we are obviously not going to invade Zimbabwe, two, if there were to be any measures by the British Government it would play totally into the hands of President Mugabe, who would say there they go again, the old white colonialists."
He said there was no prospect of monitoring an election, as President Mugabe would not allow foreign observers in.
"Yes one understands the frustration, the question is, what is the most effective way of bringing pressure on this aged despot who is terrorising his own people," he added.
One of the protest organisers, Albert Weidemann, says the prime minister and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw must recognise it is not solely a southern Africa problem.
He said: "I certainly believe that Mr Straw and Tony Blair need to become more active in terms of what they are doing to assist Zimbabwe and the southern African continent as a whole"
Yes one understands the frustration, the question is, what is the most effective way of bringing pressure on this aged despot who is terrorising his own people>
Donald Anderson MP, chairman of Commons foreign affairs select committee
He added that "there are a lot of British subjects within Zimbabwe and there are a lot of persecuted African people that are going to be streaming across the borders should they not deploy monitors now".
"The major problem we are having is that if Mugabe calls a snap election, the monitors are not in place."
Four journalists who were detained by the Zimbabwe authorities on Wednesday have since been released.
The journalists - from Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper, the Daily News - were detained and charged with spreading false news, under legislation inherited from Zimbabwe's former white minority government.
A report in the newspaper had alleged that police were involved in looting of white-owned farms in northwestern Zimbabwe over the past week.
The journalists' detention coincided with continuing violence in the northern town of Chinhoyi, where black squatters and pro-government militants have been attacking white homesteads.
Lawyers for 21 detained white farmers are seeking their release on bail.
The farmers have spent 10 days in prison and the government has indicated that it wants them severely punished.
The farmers were accused of violence and assault against squatters and ruling party militants illegally occupying their land in the Chinhoyi corn and tobacco district, 115 kilometres (70 miles) northwest of Harare.
At least 30 homesteads have been looted, and white families have been evacuated from about 100 farms.
20 August 2001
Losing agriculture’s soul
Farmers in Makonde and farm workers in Hwedza must be wondering what it’s all about. Both groups have been left with nothing but the shirts on their backs - and both groups face a daunting, debilitating future. No one wants to bleat, but the unthinking savagery meted out in Doma and Hwedza was unfair, uncalled for and barbaric.
Someone daft in the state-controlled media has tried to suggest that Doma’s farmers conspired with the British to loot and vandalise their own homes.
The suggestion was callous, the epitome of cruelty. It was also foolish, because it had Zimbabweans from Beit Bridge to Binga laughing at the absurd propagandist who dredged up the implausible theory.
There can be no room for condoning, let alone ignoring, the agony of the last few weeks. Anyone who has stood with the families of farmers and farm workers driven from their homes will know how bereft these people are.
And yet... there are still those out there promising salvation through appeasement, making promises that have no substance and reassuring troubled farmers that the solution lies in capitulation.
Well, it doesn’t - which is why the CFU president condemned the violence, the looting, the vandalism and, most importantly, the unforgivable reluctance of the police to intervene. That was good. Since the beginning of the Zimbabwean Crisis, the police have acquitted themselves disgracefully and when the crisis ends, Zimbabweans will demand they are brought to book.
And the violence isn’t going to end just yet, despite the mauling SADC’s leaders gave President Mugabe in Malawi. It could spring up anywhere, for the anarchic forces of destruction need no provocation to indulge their senseless lust for violence. And when it happens in your area, who’re you gonna call?
Too many people are turning to people with perceived connections to solve their problems. That makes no sense when you consider that these alleged connections are... the very people who are orchestrating the violence. And did these people, with all their infamous connections, stop Doma’s destruction? Did they prevent the torrent of farm workers made homeless in Hwedza when so-called war veterans drove them out like cattle? No, they did not. In fact they have not prevented a single act of destruction since Zimbabwe’s madness started.
There is a simple reason for that. All these promises are empty ones. All the, "If you do this, we can get you off the list by next week" or, "There’s an important meeting on Wednesday and you’ll see some positive action then" statements are pure fiction. Worse than that, they serve to undermine the good work being done by good people.
So what, then, of the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative? There’s scepticism among farmers, but two things need to be kept in mind. Firstly, Zimbabweans don’t need to be reminded that even in war (and Mr Mugabe says this is a war) opposing sides talk. Fight, by all means, but keep the door open. Secondly, the initiative is as likely to be accepted by the next government of Zimbabwe as the present one. In fact, it is more likely to be accepted by the next government.
This isn’t a ZANU-PF programme - or it needn’t be. Let’s assume that the clean honesty of numbers prevails over venality (just for fun) and that Zimbabwe has a new president next year. Farmers would be very silly people to think that the Movement for Democratic Change won’t want to settle the land issue once and for all. Looked at in that context, the initiative isn’t quite as appalling as so many people think it is now.
And that’s something that needs to be understood clearly, because when things come right for Zimbabwean farmers, and they will, life will be very different to the old status quo that has existed for the last 20 years.
Farmers do not live in liberated zones surrounded by enemy territory and future governments are going to insist on a great deal more integration than previously existed. In that regard, the MDC’s message is clear; "Be Zimbabwean or be off." Fortunately they won’t use the same heinous tactics employed by the present rogue regime, but that aside, they will still want to see an end to a white enclave, whether real or perceived.
So... a degree of realism is called for, both with regard to the present and to the future. It’s unrealistic to expect anyone other than those standing up to the bullies to end the Zimbabwean Crisis. Brave individuals have proved this fact time and time again and examples can be found in almost every farming district in Zimbabwe. The appeasers and dealers, the quislings and deceivers will lose because they always do. And as for the future, understand that Zimbabwe is about to grow up, to come of age. Racism will be derided, from black and white - and by black and white. It may well be that Mr Colin Cloete’s dream of 10 000 commercial farmers becomes a future reality, but only if the existing 4000 stand up to tyranny. If they don’t, ZANU-PF’s dream will prevail. That’s a dream that has all land nationalised while a few hundred large estates and the farms of the party faithful prosper in a sea of slow destruction. In other words, they would willingly repeat Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s disastrous mistake of 1974 than lose power. The difference is that Dr Kaunda’s mistake was just that, well meaning, but a massive error of judgment from which Zambia has yet to recover. In Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF’s "Zambia Strategy" is far from well meaning. It is a cynical ploy designed with one purpose in mind; to entrench corrupt power at literally any cost. Zimbabwe’s big operators might think this acceptable. Afterall, they’ll be allowed to stay - and may even prosper, but organised agriculture will lose its soul in the process, and that would be the ultimate sadness.
Editor- The Farmer
Denying farmers bail is human rights violation’
THE idea that bail is denied for one’s own safety and then the same individual is taken into custody and treated like a prisoner even before being found guilty of the alleged offence is a violation of human rights, the High Court heard this week.
Addressing the court before High Court Judge, Justice Rita Makarau, in support of an urgent application for bail by 21 farmers accused of allegedly attacking newly settled farmers at Linstonshields Farm near Chinhoyi, Advocate Firoz Girach questioned the wisdom of incarcerating the farmers for their own safety when it was the responsibility of the police to protect all citizens.
"Because the police can’t do their job then they must remain in custody. The idea that bail is denied for one’s own safety goes against human rights." he said.
Advocate Girach, instructed by Atherstone and Cook and Stumbles and Rowe appeared for the farmers, while Mr Ben Chadenga, of the Attorney General’s office represented the State.
The urgent application in the High Court followed a decision by Chinhoyi senior magistrate, Mr Godfrey Gwaka to deny the farmers bail on grounds that they could abscond, interfere with State witnesses and for fear that their release could spark more violence.
Advocate Girach said Mr Gwaka was wrong to deny his clients bail. He argued that some of his clients had been arrested and prosecuted at the instigation of mob rule when they turned up at Chinhoyi police station to inquire about their colleagues who had earlier been picked up. "The interest of justice should be considered and not what the crowd wants," he said.
However, arguing the State case, Mr Chadenga insisted the farmers should remain in custody, as their release would cause further violence. He told the court it was also in the interests of the farmers to remain in custody for their own safety from the crowds as the police might not be able to protect them or contain the violence.
"The magistrate did not misdirect himself in denying the appellants bail. The high court should only interfere with decisions of the lower court if it is proved that the magistrate misdirected himself," said Mr Chadenga. He added that the magistrate had also considered the State’s argument that the accused were likely to abscond if granted bail.
Advocate Girach told the court that the accused were Zimbabweans who owned assets of very high value to the extent that they would want to stay to clear their names. Each of the accused owned assets worth millions of dollars, he said. "To say they would abscond is an argument that cannot be sustained. Murder is probably the most serious offence but the accused persons, even in such cases, can still have the right to be granted bail."
He said while the alleged offences were serious, it must be remembered that these were, for now, just allegations and as such the appellants had the right to be granted bail. It was also pointed out that the farmers’ passports had been taken away by the police making it difficult for them to leave the country even if they wanted to or had contacts outside the country.
The State had argued that the appellants had contacts outside the country and that such contacts could accommodate them if they absconded.
Justice Makarau noted that one of the reasons why the State had argued that they should be denied bail was that some of these farmers’ farms had been designated so they no longer had any financial interests in them.
However, Advocate Girach pointed out that designation and acquisition was a process and the assets were still on the farms. He also said in any case, some of the settlers had been on the farms since 1999 and many things had happened on the farms but the farmers had not left their properties. "They will all be pleading not guilty to clear their names and stay," said advocate Girach.
He said the magistrate had failed to give consideration to individual facts relating to each of the accused. He said it was fully known that at least six of the appellants were arrested at the instigation of the crowd that had gathered outside Chinhoyi police station. The six, argued Advocate Girach, had only come to establish what had happened to their colleagues earlier taken in remand by police.
He argued that bail should be granted because, "these parties were taken in at the instigation of the crowd not the alleged crime. This was an indiscriminate arrest."
Advocate Girach noted that 72-year-old Mr Gert Pretorius, with a heart condition, collapsed during the proceedings. He said Mr Gwaka had known that the man was in hospital and by adjourning the proceedings for a short period, meant that he knew that he had a heart problem. Mr Chadenga said the collapse of Mr Pretorius could have been caused other things, which might include the fear of being in court.
Advocate Girach said the appellants were already being treated as if they were prisoners being made to wear prison clothes and not being permitted to get food from their families and that their heads had been shaved. "Why are they being treated as if they have already been convicted? They were pulled out of the cells to be paraded in front of TV cameras for national viewing."
The State said the investigating officer had indicated that he needed more time to investigate the matter further. Mr Chadenga said the investigating officers had realised that he needed more time and had not anticipated the violence that was occurring around Chinhoyi.
But advocate Girach wondered why the investigating officer had suddenly changed his mind when he initially indicated he would need up to until the 16th of August to complete his investigation.
Mr Girach appealed to Justice Makarau to grant his clients bail even if this meant they would have to report to Chinhoyi police two to three times a day.
The Justice Makarau postponed judgement saying she needed more time to come up with a decision and compile reasons for that decision.
A hand grenade set as a booby trap was found last week on Iain Kay’s Chipesa Farm in Ruzawi River, near Marondera. Driving home on Thursday evening, Kay’s son David noticed self-styled war veterans had laid a makeshift roadblock, made of large rocks, across the road.
But the roadblock was ineffective and David Kay drove around the side, thinking he would clear it the following day.
Seeing the rocks on Friday morning, Iain Kay asked a security guard to clear the road. It was then, lifting a rock, that the guard saw the deadly trap. He was lucky to escape with his life. As he lifted the rock, it pulled a string, half removing the hand grenade’s pin. Had it exploded, he would have been killed.
Kerry Kay, Iain Kay’s wife, said the incident was frightening. "I am very upset because my son’s head could have been blown off," she told The Farmer. She said there had been men in army uniforms on the farm earlier.
The still lethal grenade was reported to the police and a bomb disposal team was sent for.
The Kay family has endured continual
intimidation and harassment at the hands of militant supporters of ZANU – PF
since Iain Kay was brutally assaulted and left for dead last year. They have
refused to leave their farm and blame their terror tactics on their support for
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
THE Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), representing the country’s mostly urban-based commerce and industry, this week voiced concern over widespread looting on farms in Mashonaland West Province, which saw hundreds of farmers fleeing their homes to the safety of cities.
In a statement, CZI president, Jacob Dube, condemned the disorder he said was becoming the order of the day in the farming areas of Mashonaland West irrespective of who the perpetrators were. "The CZI condemns lawlessness irrespective of who perpetrates it. We appeal to those concerned to exercise restraint in these difficult times that are upon us, and, refrain from engaging in confrontations and instead start working together immediately to come up with a workable solution." said Mr Dube
He stressed that all disputes should be handled in terms of the law and any further deterioration of the crisis will do irreparable damage to the country’s economy and image which some are desperately trying to recreate.
He called upon the government and all law enforcing agents to immediately enforce order saying this is crucial to the survival of the country’s economy.
Property worth hundreds of millions of dollars has been destroyed on many farms in the Doma, Mhangura, and Chinhoyi areas in the western part of the Zimbabwe. Some of the property running into millions of dollars was looted and some of the suspected looters have since been arrested and taken to court. ??
This week The Farmer, senior reporter, Kuda Matare, spoke with the visiting executive director of Agri SA, Mr Hans Van der Merwe to get his organisation’s views on the situation on Southern Africa’s agriculture industry and his opinion on land reform. Agri SA is an organisation of South African farmers.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for the agriculture industry of Southern Africa.
A: The first challenge is that we have to integrate our economies in Sadc with other economies with which we have trading relations like the EU and the rest of the world in such a way that we create more opportunities for developing our own economies. In the process we have to manage structural adjustments in our economies because in the global context you can’t be good in everything. Part of this would be the development of natural resources, infrastructure, human skills and a policy frame work that will create investor confidence. In the case of South Africa the government has identified agriculture as one of the sectors that should contribute towards poverty alleviation and export earnings and as an industry that could be elevated further. Another thing is that we shaded about 500 000 jobs in the agriculture industry over the years and this is a cause for concern because people must have jobs. There is also a perception that agricultural workers don’t have fair deals and we have negotiated with government and the labour movement on this.
Q: Could you please explain what is happening, particularly with regards to the reported murders of South African farmers?
A: Yes farmers are being killed at an average of six per month. We won’t have confidence in farming if that continues but we have the help of the government in that issue. A commission of enquiry has been set up to see whether these killings are purely criminal activities or politically motivated and it is important to see how it will come out.
Q: Subsidies on agricultural products from European countries have severely reduced the competitiveness of Southern Africa’s products on the international trade. How are you tackling this and other issues of international trade?
A: The philosophy of our government is to integrate in the world economy and if the train is running you have to adapt radical strategies. Since 1994 there has been total abolishment of import controls. The only measures that are still there are tariffs, which are mostly, low, about 10%. Subsidies cause uncompetitiveness and the remaining tariffs are to protect distortions of such subsidies.
Subsidies have impacted on wheat industry in the Western Cape and we are in a painful process of adjusting to this. We are exposed to foreign competition but with little protection and as a result 50% of cereal farmers are in severe financial distress.
We have been adjusting and there has been growth in certain industries where we have competitive industries like the wine and horticulture.
Q: What is the situation with regards to land reform in South Africa?
A: Land reform is part of the policy that we have. It should go together with human resources development and should be done in a way that increases production and not scare away present participants. I might mention that we agreed to remove political sensitiveness to the issue. We have actually agreed to build a national vision on land reform and we have engaged war veterans, wife of President Mbeki and others in dialogue. The degree of consensus is astonishing. The President has instructed the Minister of Agriculture to move forward to have a national vision to avoid the situation in Zimbabwe. What is important is not only land distribution but also successful farmer development, training, technology, access to markets, finance you name it.
Q: What’s your comment on the recent land invasions in South Africa and the way it was handled?
A: There is a demand for housing that is affecting more people than the demand for land for agriculture. Government has, in accordance to the constitution, acted swiftly and decisively by removing those who had invaded land and this teaches people to act within the law. Land invasions would not be in the interest of investment and growth and the under privileged. However that incident highlighted the absolute necessity to speed up the process as well.
Q: Having said that, what lessons have you drawn from Zimbabwe’s land problem?
A: We have learnt that you should not allow events to overtake you and that you should develop a national consensus to avoid all elements of conflict?
Q: And your last comment?
A: Farming is not getting any easier for those involved but even more difficult especially for the emerging small scale farmers who need more help in the form of finances and infrastructure. ????
GOVERNMENT sponsored war veterans are illegally evicting thousands of farm workers from their houses in Wedza, forcing them to live in the bush without food while farmers look on hopelessly.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is understood to have approached the government to seek authorisation to help the farm workers but the government is said to have refused. "I can make no comment as the matter is confidential," said Mr Carlo von Flue, head of delegation. He said he was "obviously very concerned."
After spending more than eight years working on a farm in Wedza, Mrs Lucia Gwatidzo has found herself in the bush, living rough with her children. They have no food and no clothes other than those they are wearing. So-called war veterans have forced her, and thousands of others, out of their homes they have lived in for years.
She said they have been told to go back "where they came from." "The war vets just came and ordered everyone to pack up and leave and that anyone found in any of the houses will be in trouble. We are in the middle of the month and I don’t have any money to transport my goods. I don’t know where my children will go to school," she wept.
Scores of farm workers had lined up along the road with their household goods ranging from beds to kitchen utensils and clothes trying to figure out what to do next. The war veterans told them to move off the roadsides as this would look like they are protesting. Some had not had any food for days.
A local farmer who refused to be named said, "There is total chaos. People are living on the roads. They are being kicked out of their houses and we don’t know why. It is frightening."
Farmers said the police have not responded to pleas for help by both farmers and their workers. Following the refusal by the police to act, some farm workers are reported to have gone and camped at Hwedza police station, only to be chased away. It is said they then went and camped at the District Administrators’ office but were again evicted. They have now become squatters at Hwedza growth point.
One of the leaders spearheading the eviction of farm workers is Mr Fanuel Chigwedere, brother to education minister. "He (Chigwedere) is our own Chinotimba here. Everybody is dead scared of him," said a farmer.
Business in Hwedza had been halted, as there were no workers. Farmers could only look helplessly as their workers were being illegally evicted from farms.
One of the farmers said, "From this whole area alone the country is going to loose 160 000kg of tobacco and 20 000 tonnes of paprika. Tobacco seedbeds are not being taken care of and no one is feeding the cattle, and my workers are so unhappy."
Most workers were scared to be seen talking to journalists as they have been warned by the war veterans from doing so.
Workers who talked to The Farmer said a 7-tonne lorry full of war veterans and Zanu-PF youth came at the farm.
"They called us for a meeting and the told us there was no more work, go home or to the base. We carried our things out of the houses. Where we are now sleeping there are no toilets and we don’t have food and we are hungry," said one worker.
By Wednesday afternoon workers from more than 16 farms had been evicted and more were said to be on target. Most of the workers were now living in the bush. Others who have gone to the war veterans’ "bases" were sleeping in plastic shacks. They have been instructed to leave the "bases" and go to their homes.
The CIO was reported to be in the area trying to establish exactly what was happening. Intelligence sources said it was the view of some top government officials that the move by the war veterans to illegally evict farm workers from their houses would result in the ruling Zanu-PF losing votes in the coming presidential elections. ??????????
AS the orgy of arson, looting and destruction of property raged on like a veld fire threatening to engulf much of the commercial farming areas, Zimbabwe’s embattled Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) was this week clearly at a loss on what the next step should be in the face of apparent government failure or unwillingness to restore law and order in the affected areas.
Hundreds of farmers and their families have been evacuated from Chinhoyi, Doma, Mhangura and Lion’s Den farming areas where marauding gangs of so called war veterans backed by Zanu-PF supporters have looted, and caused damage to property estimated at well over 500 million dollars.
Media reports this week indicated that police, in a belated reaction to the crisis, had arrested more than 160 alleged looters, many of who were said to be farm workers and resettled farmers. Property worth millions of dollars, and ranging from tractors and other expensive farm equipment to household goods such as electrical appliances and clothes were recovered. Some of the arrested suspects have since appeared in court.
In a bizarre attempt to find a scapegoat for the mayhem on the farms, the official Herald newspaper reported this week that the British High Commission and commercial farmers had allegedly connived to stage-manage the looting using their workers in order to tarnish the image of the government and justify international intervention in the country’s affairs, a charge a British envoy and CFU dismissed as "baseless and nonsensical".
Some of the looters claimed they had been authorized to do so by so called war veterans leading the invasions of white-owned farms who told them this had been permitted by the government. One suspect interviewed by the State controlled Zimbabwe Television confessed to driving away 70 herd of cattle saying this was to "fix" the white farmers for causing the death of one of their colleagues.
In its second strongly worded statement is as many weeks, the CFU said it had become apparent the state of lawlessness had reached a height that could only be contained by swift action at the highest level. "I make a heartfelt plea to the ministers and police chiefs who took an oath of allegiance to protect all people of Zimbabwe, to swiftly and decisively avoid further destruction and loss of property," said CFU President, Colin Cloete in the statement.
"I visited Chinhoyi and the surrounding areas of Doma and Mhangura a I am deeply disturbed at the events on the ground. I call upon all Zimbabweans to refrain from taking the law into their own hands and totally condemn violence in all its forms and cannot accept that our law enforcement agents can not bring the situation under immediate control in a fair and just manner," Cloete said.
"As I speak more of the farms in Doma are being pillaged and looted openly and blatantly by lawless elements in marauding bands of up to 300. Little action has yet been taken to recover stolen property. Records indicate these bands arrive on a farm, steal farm vehicles and other hard-earned property, which they then transport to their own homes."
Of the 107 farms in the Doma area where some of the worst cases of violence and looting have been reported, more than 60 of these were completely evacuated by last week. The CFU denied however, that farmers were fleeing the country en masse saying those leaving their farms were moving to safe places within the country.
"The Chinhoyi farming community has been torn asunder by these events and confidence in authoritative channels of protection is completely non-existent. Farmers and their families are vulnerable and unprotected as police turn a blind eye to assaults that have taken place on their doorstep," Mr Cloete said citing an incident in which a member of the public was told by the police that the issues were political and therefore police could not become involved.
In related incidents elsewhere in the country, the CFU president commended Penalonga police for "swift reaction" at Mutare’s Premier Estates, owned by Mr Ivan Truscott, where two houses were looted of property valued at $2 million. The police reacted within 45 minutes arresting 7 suspects at the scene..
"In Inyathi , 45 to 60 strong band of war veterans were ferried into Braemer Estates. They went into the game scouts compound and attacked those present with stones, sticks and knives. The melee worsened and the game scouts fired into the air and then at the feet of the intruders. The war veterans then razed the compound to the ground and stole goods and cash – a loss of over $300 000," Cloete said.
The following day, added, a group comprising the member in charge of the local police station, war veterans and Central Intelligence Organisation officers arrived to interrogate farm owner, Mr Joubert. " The interview led to Mr Joubert being assaulted by war veterans and support unit officers with sticks. He was also clubbed with a hammer and hit over the head several times while simultaneously being kicked and punched by the mob. He was then ordered to the police station until a higher ranking officer, superintendent Mitira, arrived to advise him that he was being charged with attempted murder, arising from the incident at the game scouts camp." he said.
Joubert was then escorted to Inyathi Hospital where he spent the night, suffering from concussion, loss of sight and high blood pressure. A court hearing was subsequently conducted from his hospital bed and he was granted $1000 bail and ordered to surrender his travel documents. He was remanded to 10 September.
By Mike CarltonRidicule is an excellent weapon against tyrants, as Charlie Chaplin showed in The Great Dictator, his spoof on Hitler. We should consider the same treatment for the President of Zimbabwe, the odious Robert Mugabe, should he dare to set foot in Brisbane for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in October.
Mugabe is a vicious, racist thug, as nasty as they come in Africa, which is saying something. He is usually portrayed as a persecutor of white farmers, which is true, but in fact he has murdered far more blacks from tribes opposed to his ZANU-PF governing party. Claiming a divine right to rule, he has plundered the economy and sent inflation rocketing to 70 per cent per annum.
A few brave souls dare to oppose him and his gangs of torturers, most notably the editors of the Harare Daily News, the only independent newspaper in Zimbabwe. They are regularly arrested and bashed and their premises have been fire-bombed twice, but they have not buckled.
Brilliantly, they hit back recently by serialising George Orwell's Animal Farm, that satire on totalitarianism in which Napoleon, a brutal pig, turns on Snowball, his fellow revolutionary. The parallels with the Mugabe regime are irresistible.
It was predictable that calls in Australia to ban Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe from attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting should be dismissed by his representative as racist.
The Zimbabwean High Commissioner to Australia, Florence Chitauro, said Conservative member of Parliament Peter Slipper had ignored Zimbabwe's efforts to help its struggling black population.
In a letter to him she added: "I actually found your comments to be racist."
But the race card is the sole dependable political card the ageing Zimbabwean leader has to play.
He made his name, both at home and abroad, in the 1970s as a revolutionary hero fighting minority rule. Africa has moved on but Mugabe still presents himself as the fighter of the evils of colonialism and capitalism. His unrepentant support of the violent occupation of white-owned farms is portrayed as part of that continuing fight.
But the resort to force is not the almost random destruction of other African dictators like Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko or Bokassa. It is a calculated political ploy.
Africa watcher Robert Rotberg, director of the Programme on Intrastate Conflict at Harvard says: "His anti-white venom is totally political."
He vowed to take white land during a drought in the early 1990s and did the same again during parlous economic times in 1997.
The present campaign is not part of a structured movement of land ownership to Africans but a weapon to protect his political survival in the forthcoming elections. The victims may be white farmers and their black labourers but the target is the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Mugabe has no interest in democratic change. Even at 77 he has an all-consuming interest in survival. And, indeed, he is a great survivor - last of the African liberators.
But for most Zimbabweans, as for other Africans, freedom has been a disappointment. The economy is in crisis with huge unemployment and runaway inflation passing 60 per cent. There is a shortage of hard currency to pay for vital energy supplies. Life expectancy has dropped from 59 to 42.
The land issue is genuine. Whites, who make up less than one per cent of the Zimbabwe population, own around 50 per cent of the best arable land. But Mugabe and his Government have had plenty of time to move towards a peaceful solution.
Increasingly, Mugabe has been distracted from the real problems. His bizarre military adventures have added to the drain on the economy. When the Congo war flared in 1998, Mugabe sent troops to back Laurent Kabila against forces from Uganda and Rwanda. More than 10,000 Zimbabwean troops are still there.
He became fixated on homosexuality. He made unnatural sex acts illegal with a penalty of up to 10 years' jail and when a British gay activist staged a protest, Mugabe delivered speeches about Tony Blair's "gay gangster regime."
When the former trade and industry minister Nkosana Moyo quit the Government in May, Mugabe said that he would keep only "real men" in his Government. "Our revolution ... was not fought by cowards. If some of you are getting weak-kneed, tell us and we will continue with the struggle."
He declares himself a staunch Catholic although his own private life has been a public relations disaster. While his popular first wife Sally, a Ghanaian, was dying, he embarked on an affair with his young secretary Grace by whom he had two children. After Sally's death he married Grace and she gave birth to their third child in 1997.
He still has enormous stamina and travels around the world ceaselessly. Grace says he wakes at 4 am every day to do exercises.
His capacity for work has always been remarkable. He has several university degrees and has always driven himself to achieve but the line between his personal standing and the pursuit of his people's needs has become increasingly blurred.
His rise to power was typical of his generation of black leaders. He was born in 1924 at the Jesuit mission of Kutama in north-west Mashonaland, 60km west of Harare. The surrounding area had some of the best farms in the country and he was from a childhood exposed to the unequal distribution of land.
The son of a carpenter, he showed great promise and after attending mission schools he went to Fort Hare university in South Africa and became a teacher. He was a teacher for 20 years and one of his unchallenged achievements in Zimbabwe is the expansion of education, with the country boasting the highest literacy rate on the continent.
It was while he was teaching in Ghana that he became interested in Marxism and African nationalism. He returned to then southern Rhodesia in 1960 and became involved in politics working with Joshua Nkomo in Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu).
He broke with Zapu in 1963 and helped form the more radical Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu). The following year he was arrested and detained for a period that extended to 10 years.
During his time in prison he studied law by correspondence and obtained degrees from South Africa and the University of London.
The guerrilla war began in the early 1970s and when Mugabe was freed in 1974 he became active in developing Zanu politically as a Marxist-Leninist party and as a guerrilla force. In 1976 Zanu and Zapu joined military forces as the Patriotic Front and prosecuted an escalating war.
By 1980 the white Government had been forced to concede free elections which Zanu-PF won and Mugabe became Prime Minister. Two years after taking power he purged Nkomo and with brutal political reality sent his North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade against the Ndebele who provided Nkomo's power base. The death toll was at least 10,000 and some estimates put it at 60,000.
The slaughter ended the only serious political opposition to Mugabe. He established a de facto one-party state along routine Marxist lines, although when he tried to formalise this in 1990 his own Zanu-PF party rejected the idea. But like so many of Africa's first generation of post-colonial leaders he demonstrated that the skills to run an independence struggle are not necessarily those required to successfully manage a national economy.
Despite the Marxist rhetoric the economy was not turned over to an East European model but nor did it receive priority attention.
Critics of Mugabe point to the transfer of many white farms directly into the hands of Mugabe's friends and old comrades. According to Professor Tony Hawkins of the University of Zimbabwe: "Whenever economics gets in the way of politics, politics wins every time."
By borrowing heavily Mugabe sent interest rates soaring along with inflation. The industrial sector, healthy by African standards, suffered. The Zimbabwe dollar, once one of the strongest currencies on the continent, went into a spin.
Mugabe blames the West. He talks about economic sabotage and targets the International Monetary Fund. But after more than 20 years of his rule many Zimbabweans are blaming Mugabe, government corruption and mismanagement for the country's economic woes..
The Movement for Democratic Change is a substantial political challenge. Mugabe is meeting that challenge in the way he knows best and using weapons on which he has always been able to rely - land, colonialism and the race card.
While commercial farmers face the onslaught of State sponsored terror, it’s alleged that there are farming operations financing violent invasions in Mashonaland East Province.
The support is allegedly offered to prevent large farming operations from disruption from self-styled war veterans.
Meanwhile, sources have told The Farmer that since last year’s constitutional referendum, workers from a farm near Marondera have allegedly been active participants in farm invasions in the province.
The farm, which exports horticultural produce to UK supermarket chain Tesco’s, is allegedly used as a base for militants from the ruling ZANU-PF party. Documents in the possession of The Farmer show that ruling party vehicles are frequent visitors to the farm.
Sworn affidavits in the magazine’s possession say that support for the so-called war veterans ranges from vehicles to diesel and cell phones and that workers are given annual leave to attend farm invasions in surrounding districts.
Zimbabwe church leaders criticise President Mugabe
Church leaders in Zimbabwe have
strongly criticised President Robert Mugabe, saying he has allowed political
violence in the African nation to escalate. Senior members of the Council of Churches say the Government has failed to
maintain law and order. The Council has released a statement which describes the
current situation in Zimbabwe as chaotic and disorderly. The church leaders say
political violence has become a monster. They say many Zimbabweans have now
witnessed murders, beatings and abductions. The warning comes after a similar
statement issued in May by Catholic Bishops. The Government is yet to respond to
the latest attack.
Africa correspondent Sally Sara reports.
Newspaper cuttings from "The Australian"
(You can view a larger version of the first two articles by clicking on them)
Senior members of the Council of Churches say the Government has failed to maintain law and order. The Council has released a statement which describes the current situation in Zimbabwe as chaotic and disorderly. The church leaders say political violence has become a monster. They say many Zimbabweans have now witnessed murders, beatings and abductions. The warning comes after a similar statement issued in May by Catholic Bishops. The Government is yet to respond to the latest attack.