GOODHOPE, Zimbabwe, April 19
GOODHOPE, Zimbabwe, April 19 (AFP) - White women and children
Zimbabwe's ranchlands are carrying guns again, 20 years after
end of a bloody race war, but this time they have been declared the
enemy by their own government.
At the Goodhope
Country Club, carved out of the acacia and
mopane trees covering
the flat, dry, west of the country, the
ranchers are working out
evacuation plans the day after a neighbour
was killed by a gang seen as
storm-troopers for President Robert
women at the meeting object to plans to move them and the
children off the farms and into town, saying they don't want to
their husbands to face danger alone.
"I can shoot a gun as
well as anyone," says a farmers' wife in a
"You are putting us all at risk, because we will have to come
and rescue you," says Dean Roberts, local Farmers' Association
"I won't call," she says.
"What if you get raped, how will your husband live with
asks Gay Wilde, who says she will reluctantly move to town
greater safety of the community.
wouldn't expect my husband to be alive to have to live with
says the lady in red.
The men insist that women and
children leave, saying they will
band together in small groups
and sleep at different farms each
them uses the word laager -- a traditional encircling of
trains moving through hostile territory in the days of white
colonisation of southern Africa.
But it has connotations
that do not fit the situation. These are
people who have lived
and farmed under a black government for 20
"I'm sick and tired of apologising for being white. We are
Zimbabweans," says Cedric Wilde, 57, whose family arrived in
in 1870, 20 years before formal colonisation of the
He owns 10,000 hectares of land, most
of it bought since
independence after the stipulated expression
of "no interest" from
Mugabe's government, which came to power after a
His wife, Gay, leads an
AFP reporter and photographer from the
Bulawayo to their Paddy's Valley farm, some 40
kilometres away, mostly
on dirt tracks enclosed on both sides by
"Don't worry about her," says her husband, flicking back his
safari jacket to show a revolver in a shoulder-holster as she climbs
alone into her pick-up truck. "She's got an equaliser."
But for all the tough talk, Zimbabwe's whites are confused.
"I'm very nervous," says Gay Wilde. "I lived through the
never felt this afraid. There is nobody you can call on
The farmers say the police waved a convoy of
the killers of their neighbour, Martin Olds,
through a roadblock.
Mugabe has said white farmers are
"We want to fight back, of course, I want
to save my family's
life," says Wilde, "But then what? You'd get
charged with murder."
The farmers at the Goodhope Country
Club, where antelope heads,
leopard skins and cricket bats vie
for space in the bar, believe
that they face further attacks.
"It's going to happen now," says Farmers' Association
Roberts. "Get away from your homesteads tonight."
As the pick-up trucks pull out of the Goodhope Country
parking lot, children as young as 10 are seen clutching
Mugabe says the squatters are simply reclaiming
land stolen by
colonialists, but critics charge that the war
veterans are being
used as storm troopers to intimidate the opposition
elections due next month.
accuses the farmers of supporting the Movement for
Change, a labour-backed party which is tipped to possibly
ZANU-PF party in parliamentary elections due next