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Farm Invasions and Security Report
Monday 1 October 2001

This report does not purport to cover all the incidents that are taking place in the commercial farming areas. Communication problems and the fear of reprisals prevent farmers from reporting all that happens. Farmers names, and in some cases farm names, are omitted to minimise the risk of reprisals.

Retired garage owner badly beaten
Government valuators continue throughout the country
Starting of fires continues
Poaching and snaring of animals continue
On Bita Estates six cattle were found dead
On Merryhill farm the owners’ mother was attacked early on Sunday evening
Four members of Clairemont were held hostage from Friday to Saturday morning
Cattle burnt alive in Wedza
Mashonaland Central
Centenary   The planting of seedbeds on Rhinebuck Farm was prevented but once negotiations had been completed the owner was permitted to continue, however he has now been prevented from planting the seedlings. In anticipation of further problems the owner has begun to dismiss some of his labour force.
Mvurwi  A complete set of 25 irrigation sprinklers was stolen last night on Arda Farm. The Police have been called in and investigations are under way. There has been a marked increase in activity amongst the illegal settlers where building etc is concerned and none of the farmers have been allowed to plant any crops.
Tsatsi  On the 25th of September a Government vehicle with two officials travelled throughout the area issuing Section 5 notices to the farmers whose farms had been listed in the paper on the 7th of September.
On the same day the meeting which had been scheduled between the DA and the illegal settlers on Nangura Farm never took place and the farmer is still being prevented from planting the tobacco. A group of hostile illegal settlers ordered all farming operations to cease on Nyachura Farm . The Police and the DA were called in and after lengthy negotiations the situation was defused and the planting was allowed to continue. The owner of Three Sisters Farm recently had a meeting with the DA,  but no farming operations have been allowed as yet. The illegal settlers on Msorodoni Farm have ordered the owner and labourers to cease all farming operations.  There is widespread tree cutting, snaring, deliberate setting of fires and theft of irrigaion equipment happening on a daily basis.
Mashonaland West North
Tramore Farm the farmer has still not been granted permission by the local settlers to utilise i.e. ridge/contour/plant the 50 Ha of unprepared land for the tobacco crop and the seedlings are beginning to die.  The current work stoppage has prevented any work in the fields since 7th September 2001.The work stoppage has also affected Buckstone and Wynhill.  On Glen Athol Farm settlers have made demands for transport to move grass etc., bricks to build houses, maize meal to be sold to them and for an animal to be slaughtered for them. All demands have been refused.  When an electric fence was to be erected settlers caused a problem and the contractors from Harare left not to return.  The farmer was told to complete grading, reap the wheat and then to get off.  Tobacco moved from Wichens for grading caused a problem and the settlers are getting workers to demand that they be paid twice for  the  work.  On Bickleighvale Farm a work stoppage occurred with all young workers demanding gum boots and overalls. This supposedly had nothing to do with settlers but  the Chairman was called in by the newly elected workers committee, and he did not even come to gate to mediate. Chimwemwe Farm workers were paid off yesterday.  Gapwuz and Nec did not arrive as witnesses so the Chairman of  the settlers  was called  in as a  witness.  The attitude of workers swung towards settlers view point and they feel the farmer is not doing enough to compromise.  The farmer will stop work on his beds today. On Newlands Farm work stoppage still continues, occasional disturbances between settlers and labour.  Wichens Farm owner is off the farm and the resident settler has got youth guarding barns and house at night.  Zesa was turned off which means there is no water.  The settlers tried to get everyone in the compound to pay for it to be switched on again to no avail.  Gwarati Farm still no work. They are awaiting the D.A who has not arrived although several calls have been made to him.   Farmer working a small patch which has not been pegged.  Portelet Estates - On 25th September 2001, two employees who were pulling out weeds in lands which had been ploughed for the irrigated tobacco crop were threatened with assualt and chased away by seven settlers. On 27th September 2001a mob of settlers, led by Mr Innocent Chimanga, arrived at the farm complex wanting to see the farmer to pass on a directive from their Chairman, Mr Phillemon Mataka. As the farmer was away for the morning they left their demands with the farm clerk as follows : to stop all work in the lands prepared for tabacco,  they want to burn their lands including the Game Fence; they claim that an agreement was reached to move all cattle off the farm by Mid September 2001 and this has not been done.  (This was agreed but due to the Cattle Movement Restriction, as a result of Foot and Mouth disease, contact had been made with Mr Mataka who said that this deadline would be postponed);  they claim gates have been securely tightened, they want these opened; they say that the farmer does not own the farm dams nor the fish in them; they claimed that some farm workers are provoking them or using provocative abusive language or behaviour.
A Retired garage owner drove to his gate, opened it, drove his vehicle through and as he was closing the gate he was severely assaulted by a person who had been hiding in the bush.   Jo was forced to the kitchen door, opened it and the assailant struck him on the head several times, or maybe bashed his head against the wall several times until he was unconscious.  The next morning the maid found him on the kitchen floor and notified Police and neighbours.  He was given First Aid by the District nurse, rushed to Chinhoyi and then taken to Avenues Clinic Harare.  He is being operated on today Thursday.   Damage to sinus and numerous head injuries.   Items stolen:  His watch, his wallet and cash, his video, telephone, small clock, mid-band hand-held radio and charger.  A $20,000.00 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the culprit. 
RAFFINGORA  Agritex team pegging at Katawa extension and is continuing to other farms.  The Street, in particular Buwi Farm are having problems with compensation to War Vets and the situation is hostile. District seems pretty quiet. Chimbada Farm and Yomba Farm have been told they will not be farming after the wheat has come off.  On Upper Romsey settlers  have stolen 2 hydrant taps and 2 bends valued at $32000.00 and 2 fan belts .   They are pushing cattle onto Upper Romsey and are  ring barking  big trees .  70 ha of wheat land has been pegged.  Every time the settlers put cattle into  a concentration calves are lost. There are approx 100 people fishing daily at the dam. The valuator has not yet started. Settlers have taken over Dumalan, Maysma and Marnette.  Offers have been made to assist them with ploughing but they would not give their names and IDs for the contract. Landfall Farm is missing cattle and the irrigation pipes have been axed with a loss of 26 kms of drip. The farmer is unable to plant tobacco. Makonde Farm has had 60ha of gums burnt out for the second time, together with grazing leaving no pasture for 200 head of cattle. The farmer has been told not to plant a crop this year.
Mashonaland West South   
NORTON: All the farmers previously effected by not be allowing to plant crops remain in the same position and workers are currently having to be laid off in large numbers as a result.
SELOUS: On Railway Farm 26, which has never been listed and has recently received a Certificate of No Interest signed by Minister Made, pegging is taking place at the D.A's instruction. It appears that they are creating much smaller plots of around an acre each. On Homedale the owner is still unable to plant and his workers have been intimidated to such an extent that they are currently not allowed to report for work. On Carskey, which is not listed but has been illegally pegged by the District Administrator, the people that he placed there were complaining that the roofs of their huts being eaten by cattle. The Police came out to verify this and found that the roofs have not been eaten. The illegal occupiers drove over five hundred cattle off the farm anyway to Mount Carmel Farm where they were put in the citrus nursery and the owner's garden, doing several hundred thousand dollars worth of damage. Police came out again, but no arrests were made and fires were lit all over Carskey farm the next day, one of which came close to burning the owner's house down. When the Regional Executive Officer spoke to Dispol and the District Administrator he was told that if any arrests were made it would make matters worse!
CHEGUTU / SURI SURI: On San Fernando Don Carlos of Norton infamy has moved into the manager's house after having moved the manager out.
KADOMA / BATTLEFIELDS: On Umsweswe River Block 10A where the owner has been forced off the farm, the barns have been broken into.
GENERAL: The veterinary authorities tend to be giving movement permits to illegal occupiers to move cattle onto people's farms if they produce the receipt from Rural District Council for their Development Levy. Rural District Council appear to be in the business of collecting their levies from the same property twice. The Abuja Agreement does not appear to have effected any change in the way that local Government Officials deal with the illegal activity continuing to face farmers.
Mashonaland East
Bromley/Ruwa/Enterprise Government evaluators have been visiting more farms over the weekend with a view to the model A2 commercial resettlement programme.
Macheke/Virginia A number of strange tractors have been spotted driving around Murrayfield farm. The situation on Flint farm is still unresolved.  On Howgate farm illegal occupiers demanded that all labour working outside of the yard fence were to be moved back into the fence and that only grading would be allowed to continue.  The labour had been moving a centre pivot.  Owner reported the problem to CIO in Marondera as well as the Macheke police.  The situation for the rest of the day was calm but the problem was unresolved. The owner of Barrymore farm was away on Friday night when an altercation between occupiers and labour developed and half the farm village was burnt down.  Police were informed on Friday night and reacted swiftly that night and arrested three people. Occupiers on Castledene Pines demanded that the owner go down to the barns to meet them, but the owner was advised not to comply.  Later they came to the gate and they wanted all the labour out of the farm village.  All the labour were paid off and threatened to burn the farm village.  The owner negotiated that he would visit Gapwuz and NEC offices on Wednesday, along with one of the occupiers, and that once the labour return from their leave they would be paid off according to NEC & Gapwuz regulations if there is no change. 15 labour would be allowed to remain behind as guards.  The situation has temporarily been resolved.  The owner is waiting for the DA and lands committee to visit the farm as the farm is theoretically delisted so should be continuing with farming operations.
Wedza There was widespread snaring on Rapako farm this weekend and 40 impala and 3 sable were snared.3 snares were taken off brahman calves. All the cattle were pushed into very small home paddocks and one cow was slashed. A cow and her calf are still missing. Thirty illegal occupiers have been topping paprika seedlings for their own use. The owner of the farm was chased out of his greenhouse by illegal occupiers with sticks. On Fels farm a plastic covering of seedbeds were slashed and twenty-five gunshots were heard around the farm houses. Nothing was found but it is believed Zimunya is intimidating. On Bita Estates six cattle were found dead and one was found stuck in the mud, but no meat was taken. Local illegal occupier Chirinda has instructed that all cattle on Nelson and Sutton farms be moved off the farm by 30/09/2001. On Leads farm a water pump was stolen and ten communal cattle were moved onto the farm. Workers on Corby farm were beaten up by squatters and the workshop was broken into with a number of tools being stolen. Scorror farm had Agritex coming to peg on Monday and wanting squatters to move off on Wednesday. Six poachers killed a warthog on Saturday and on Sunday shot and killed a kudu on Lilifontein farm.  The police were informed and reacted six hours later. On Merryhill farm the owners’ mother was attacked early on Sunday evening, beaten unconscious and her house stripped electrically. She was taken to Borradaile Hospital and is recovering. Thirty irrigation pipes were stolen on Boisserain farm on Saturday night. An ambush was put in place and two arrests were made. On Skoonveld farm there was a large meeting with illegal occupiers and they are wanting all labour to be moved off Bickley farm immediately.  They have apparently stopped beating up the labour.  Agritex were pegging on Nurenzi farm, on completion it is understood they will be moving to Imire and then to Msasa.  At Dean farm five fires were deliberately lit simultaneously in separate paddocks. As farmers and workers battled the flames, two more fires were lit at ponts furthest from the firefighters. A thousand hectares of grazing was lost. On the following morning a fire broke out early and as peole fought the flaes more fires were lit ahead and behind them. By the afternoon all fires had been extinguished, but by five o'clock a new fire was burning.  Cattle that were unable to escapae this orgy of fire were burnt alive. At least six cows and three calves were burnt to death. A stack of 500 bales of hay were burnt, trailers in the shed security fence had tyres burnt, farm village kitchens and chicken coops were also destroyed.
Chipinge - On the 28/09/01 a British director and wife of Watershed Estate together with an English clergyman and a visiting US citizen were illegally detained and intimidated inside the security fence of Watershed Estate homestead following a dispute over photographs being taken. A seventeen strong delegation consisting of Agritex, CIO, ZRP, Army, illegal squatters, 'war veterans' and DA Office personnel arrived at 1400hrs to demand that felled tree trunks be removed from illegal squatters land.  During the discussion the director's wife took photographs of the delegation and was subsequently ordered to hand over the camera or have it destroyed.  The delegation departed four hours later after the arrival of the DA, Asst DA, Chief Inspector of Chipinge ZRP and CID personnel.  The film was stripped from the camera and handed to the police.  Despite Watershed Estate being a Zimbabwe Investment Centre development project, two farms have been gazetted for compulsory acquisition, and the third extensively pegged by Agritex.  The British High Commission and US Embassy were notified.  Following this incident the governor has called for a meeting with the Chipinge farmers for the morning of the 01-10-01.  On Glenree Estate three cattle were stolen and slaughtered, this was reported to ZRP.  The thieves have so much meat now that they give it out on credit. An 80yr old former resident of Chipinge, with his sister, was on his way to visit a neighbour and had an accident and knocked over a woman.  He took her to hospital and reported it to ZRP and took them out to the scene of the accident, he has been advised that he will be prosecuted. On Lettiesville whose farm is not listed but is pegged, the squatters are starting to build.  A knapsack sprayer was stolen from a worker while he was spraying and 20ha of two year old coffee has been uprooted. 
Nyanga - Four members of Clairemont were held hostage from Friday to Saturday morning when they were released, everything is now back to normal.
Masvingo East and Central Area
On Dromore Farm the owner was driving along Chidza farm road when two illegal occupiers who reside in a makeshift hut along the road threw a rock at his vehicle. The back window was shattered. Reported to Police who saw evidence of rock in the back of the vehicle. No arrests yet made. Beauly Farm Impala and warthogs are being poached. Owner has seen evidence of bags and trays of meat drying. National Parks have been informed and poachers have since run away. 9 lengths of two inch piping, a foot valve, three-inch cylinder head and a base plate has been stolen from the windmill.
Chiredzi At Eureka Ranch 200 head of communal cattle have been moved onto this property.On Buffalo Range the owner is working with owner from Eaglemont Ranch to try and curb the poaching operations. Fire has been reported over the weekend and more new invasions reported. All fencing along the communal boundaries and along up to the main tar road is being cut for accessibility. As a result cattle will be wandering onto the main roads and further theft of fencing will take place. On Kwaingwe Ranch a Government vehicle was spotted driving all over the property avoiding any form of contact with the owner. Finally the owner confronted him and was given the “silent” treatment. Within the vehicle were members from the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture who said that they were checking on Phase Two of the resettlement programme.  On Faversham Ranch  the assistant DA from Zaka has pegged plots in the owners cane, banana and citrus plantations. Local war veterans and local businessmen visited to examine the plots that had been pegged and to give their approval. Sebanani Ranch had one steer reported to have been killed by illegal squatters.  Rakatchya Ranch reported a fire over the weekend.
General  Ex local MP Maleleke has been caught poaching game and selling it in Chiredzi and moving it to Bikita. He is said to have a hunter shooting the game for him and then avoids the veterinary roadblocks by storing it in Bikita.
Save Conservancy Area
Situation remains the same, poaching continues unabated.
Mwenezi Area
General Comments.  There is yet further escalation in poaching, wire theft, cutting, burning and building. A disturbing trend may be emerging with respect to theft and / or slaughter of cattle. Oerwoud, Merrivale, Rutenga and a tenant on Nuanetsi Ranch have all reported cattle, from claves to bulls slaughtered or missing without trace. The Mwenezi Police have rolled their last remaining Landrover Defender. Due to the deficiencies in manpower, transport, tents and water containers the good intentions of the DVO Mwenezi are not translating into the requisite controls on illegal cattle movements, which continue unabated. He needs and deserves support from his superiors. The Beit Bridge illegal movements are still being driven by that DA and PVO Mat. South.
 Swanscoe Ranch  -  Many of those “allocated” land on this property are Policemen stationed in Beitbridge. The other night there was an attempt to steal equipment from the borehole head, the attempt was interrupted and those perpetrating the crime absconded in a Police Land Rover. The incident was reported to the Beit Bridge Police and was attended to the next day by the Policeman involved, now in uniform, in the same Land Rover. The Chief Valuator from Gwanda, escorted by Beit Bridge Police, occupying area near commercial brickyard and helping themselves to bricks. Lot 21A  Pegging and “evaluation” by the DDF commenced on the 27th September. Illegal movement of cattle from Chikombedzi (Red Zone) through MARIKANGO, ASVELDT, LOT 21A, and NUANETSI to FLORA has been witnessed. Umfula Ranch had corrugated iron roof sheets stolen for use by illegal occupiers on the property. 2 farm worker houses occupied by illegal squatters – one is being used as a trading store. Quagga Pan B had corrugated iron roof sheeting stolen by squatters, and gate diagonals stolen for badza handles.
Gutu / Chatsworth Area
Ripley Farm's owner has been told that the DDF will be ploughing for commercial farming on this property.
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Two years of opposing Mugabe

Thousands of people have gathered in a stadium in Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo, to mark the second anniversary of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change.

The leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, told the cheering crowds that 300,000 people have lost their jobs over the past two years and accused President Robert Mugabe of plunging the country into economic and social chaos.

Mr Tsvangirai also accused the government of plotting to split his party.

He said such plots would not succeed and that he would easily win the forthcoming presidential elections next year.

Correspondents say Mr Tsvangirai , a former union leader, has emerged as the most viable challenger to Mr Mugabe, who has run Zimbabw since independence more than 20 years ago.

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Britain Sabotaging Trade: Mugabe

BANGKOK Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe said on Tuesday while on a visit to Thailand that former colonial ruler Britain was trying to sabotage his country's foreign trade relations.

"We have a conflict situation at the moment because of our former colonial power Britain," Mugabe told representatives of Thailand's Board of Trade.

He said Britain was using the issue of land reform to put pressure on Zimbabwe's trade partners.

"If they (Britain) come to you they will...induce you not to go into any relations with us," he said.

"They (Britain) have even gone to the extent of going to Arab countries...where we import oil, to persuade them not to sell to Zimbabwe."

Mugabe was speaking during an impromptu visit to Thailand after the cancellation of a commonwealth meeting of heads of states in Australia, where he had been expected to come under pressure to clamp down on illegal farm occupations.

The country, already facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, has been isolated by the international community over Mugabe's endorsement of the invasion of more than 1,000 white owned farms since February 2000.

At the beginning of last month, Mugabe supported a Nigerian-brokered agreement to end the land seizures in exchange for funds from Britain to implement a fair land reform program, Reuters reported.

But recent media reports have said pro-government militants were still trying to seize property illegally.

Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African country for 21 years, said the agreement reached in the Nigerian capital Abuja, which would see Britain give 250 million pounds to Zimbabwe, could pave the way for a more stable economy.

"We have agreed in Abuja on Britain not opposing the land question," he said.

"We are working on that and it will improve the situation and will improve our government's ability to meet our import demands and therefore to lessen the pressure," he said. "Now, we have an artificial situation."

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Court backs Mugabe's seizure of white land
ZIMBABWE’s new Supreme Court made its first significant judgment yesterday when it backed the Government’s seizures of white-owned land.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said that the court, which is dominated by recent appointees of President Mugabe, had overturned a ruling by the court of his predecessor, the former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay. That court had ordered that all steps to seize land be suspended until the Government had restored the rule of law on the country’s embattled farms.

For the first time since the takeover of white-owned farms began in February last year, the Government has secured a measure of legality for its violent campaign.

Diplomats said that Mr Mugabe would present the judgment to the international community as proof of its adherence to the rule of law and to the agreement drawn up by Commonwealth foreign ministers in Abuja, Nigeria, last month to end the state-driven violence.

The ruling follows Mr Chidyausiku’s appointment to replace Mr Gubbay, who reluctantly resigned in March after being threatened with violence by supporters of Mr Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party. Mr Mugabe added three new judges, prompting accusations that he was “packing the court” to ensure that its decisions would be favourable to his regime.

“It’s a fair inference that this court doesn’t acknowledge that there is a breakdown in the rule of law,” Adrian de Bourbon, the advocate who represented the Commercial Farmers’ Union, said. “The repercussions go beyond this case. I don’t believe we have an independent judiciary any longer.”

The new court’s decision was announced two working days after the final papers were submitted. “It leaves one with the suspicion that the argument wasn’t considered,” Mr de Bourbon said. Mr Chidyausiku dismissed an application by Mr de Bourbon yesterday for a week’s delay for him to draw up a challenge. He said that the court would rule later on a Government application for a declaration that it had established law and order on commercial farms and that its so-called fast-track land acquisition programme was legal.

The court also directed the Administrative Court, which hears objections from farmers against acquisition of their farms, to start hearing cases, following a nine-month suspension ordered by Mr Gubbay’s court.

David Coltart, legal director of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said: “We now have to assume that this is a politically biased judiciary and we cannot rely on the Constitution any more. However, the rest of the world is not going to believe that the land-reform programme is being done lawfully simply because a patently biased judiciary has ruled in favour of its master.”

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'Bring Laws in Line With Our Charter'

The Sowetan (Johannesburg)

October 2, 2001
Posted to the web October 2, 2001

Saint Molakeng

SOUTH Africa has been urged to have laws in line with the African Charter adopted by many African states two decades ago.

This is the view of Mr Andrew Chigovera, a commissioner of the African Commission on the African Charter for Human and People's Rights, who concluded his five-day tour of SA at the weekend.

Chigovera, who is from Zimbabwe, was in the country to find out whether the African Charter was observed, the African courts ghave become ratified, xenophobia was eradicated and minority inequalities were redressed.

He specially discovered that there was xenophobia, overcrowded prisons and a communication breakdown between the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and some non-government organisations.

"I engaged the Government offices on xenophobia, overcrowding in prisons and the ratification of protocol of African courts, among other issues. It is the obligation of the state to bring its laws in line with the African charter," the commissioner said.

All members of the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union), to which South Africa belongs, have committed themselves to upholding the charter by making legislation that would be in concert with the charter of 29 articles.

In essence the charter echoes the legal principles laid down in, say, the South African constitution. These include personal freedoms, political participation, medical care and equality before the law for all.

But Chigovera said that there was not enough incorporation of positive aspects of law into the established legal system. "Yet there are customary aspects that would be unthinkable to apply in modern societies."

He added that the interpretation of jurisprudence did not apply the charter in courts. "I am fully satisfied with my mission. It was fruitful because I had frank discussions with several Government departments."

The commissioner met Dr Barney Pityana, chairman of the South African Human Rights Commission, and later senior officials of the South African Police Service, Correctional Services, Justice Ministry and judges of the Constitutional Court.

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Zimbabwe court allows seizures of white farmland

By Angus Shaw in Harare

03 October 2001

Four judges recently appointed to Zimbabwe's highest court issued an order yesterday allowing the government to proceed with the seizure of white-owned farms.

The interim order came two working days after the conclusion of the court hearing, a record in a country where Supreme Court rulings routinely take at least six weeks.

Adrian de Bourbon, a lawyer for the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents white farmers, said: "I believe we no longer have an independent judiciary.''

Mr de Bourbon said he submitted his last written argument to the court on Friday and was told on Monday that an order would be issued. "It leaves one with the suspicion that argument was not even considered," he said.

At a brief hearing yesterday, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said four of the five judges that heard the case agreed to an interim ruling permitting the government to call hearings of the administrative court to confirm farm confiscations under its "fast-track'' land seizure laws.

Last December, five other Supreme Court judges put those hearings on hold after ruling that the land seizures breached the government's own land acquisition laws. That ruling also ordered the government to restore law and order in farming districts and to submit a lawful land reform programme to the court by 1 July.

Ruling-party militants have occupied more than 1,700 white-owned farms across the country since March last year. The government has earmarked 4,500 white-owned farms to be seized and redistributed to blacks.

Last month, the government asked the Supreme Court under Mr Justice Chidyausiku – who was sworn in as Chief Justice on 20 August – to strike down the December ruling. The interim order means the government can legally confirm land confiscations at the administrative court and then give landowners a 90-day deadline to leave their properties.

About 800 confirmation hearings were put on hold by the Supreme Court's December order. The former chief justice, Anthony Gubbay, was forced to take early retirement after the December land ruling, and the government expanded the Supreme Court bench from five to eight judges in an apparent attempt to pack the court in the state's favour.

Mr Justice Chidyausiku chose the three newly appointed judges – seen as favourable to the government – to hear the case alongside him and Ahmed Ebrahim, one of the five other judges who ruled against the government in December.

The Chief Justice normally picks a bench of three to five justices to hear any one case.

Yesterday's ruling said the interim order did not "prejudge" other issues raised in the case and a main ruling would be issued later.

Mr de Bourbon said he tried to seek an adjournment to consider challenging the interim order but was overruled without being allowed to argue any points. "In our view, you cannot give an interim order of this nature without forming a view on the main issues including the rule of law'' in farming districts, he said. "All the white farmers want is for matters to be done in terms of the law.

"Today's ruling infers the court does not acknowledge there is a breakdown in the rule of law,'' as the previous bench had, Mr de Bourbon said. (AP)

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MDC calls for fair poll in Zimbabwe

BRISBANE Zimbabwe's opposition urged the Commonwealth yesterday to ensure presidential elections in the strife-torn country are fair and free of violence.

Two members of the Movement for Democratic Change, international affairs secretary Sekai Holland and parliamentarian Roy Bennet, were in Brisbane to lobby for support at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, which was scheduled to start this week.

Bennet said the visit to Australia had to go ahead despite last week's decision to postpone the meeting. "The crisis in Zimbabwe is too critical to wait for it to be rescheduled next year."

He warned that the situation had not changed despite Mugabe agreeing at talks in Nigeria last month to end the occupation of white farms and restore the rule of law to land reform. He said it was crucial to gain Commonwealth support for a team to monitor Zimbabwe's presidential poll, due early next year. Sapa-AFP.

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Harare court reverses farms ruling
By Nicol Degli Innocenti in Johannesburg
Published: October 2 2001 17:48 | Last Updated: October 2 2001 17:52

Zimbabwe's Supreme Court reversed all previous rulings on Tuesday to allow the government to proceed with its fast-track land reform programme. The decision is seen as a victory for Robert Mugabe, the president, in his attempt to consolidate his grip on power before next year's presidential election.

In an interim order, the court said the administrative courts could resume processing the government's requests to redistribute white-owned farms to landless blacks. In November and December last year the Supreme Court had declared the government's land programme unconstitutional and had ordered police to evict so-called war veterans and squatters from white-owned farms.

Tuesday's ruling was made after the government asked the Supreme Court to declare the land reform programme legal.

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents most of the country's 4,500 white farmers, had argued that the previous rulings should not be subject to revision.

"I believe we no longer have an independent judiciary," Adrian de Bourbon, attorney for the CFU said on Tuesday. It is "a fair inference that the court does not recognise that there is a breakdown of law and order." He said he would meet with the Law Society of Zimbabwe to express his disquiet.

Anthony Gubbay, the well-respected chief justice, was forced to take early retirement after being threatened by pro-government militants. Mr Mugabe replaced him with Godfrey Chidyausiku, a government supporter who had criticised Mr Gubbay's rulings against land invasions.

The new chief justice then proceeded to expand the court from five to eight judges and named two other Mugabe supporters to the five-member panel that was hearing the land case. On Tuesday four out of five judges ruled in the government's favour.

The government can now proceed with its "legal" land policies while insisting it is complying with the terms of the Abuja agreement. Last month in Nigeria Britain, the former colonial power, agreed to fund land reform while Zimbabwe committed itself to implementing a lawful programme of land reform.

The CFU maintains that, despite the Abuja agreement, farm invasions, theft and violence have continued unpunished. It says that since the deal was drawn up 20 new farms have been occupied and hundreds of farm workers evicted or beaten.

Meanwhile, Mr Mugabe on Tuesday accused Britain of attempting to sabotage Zimbabwe's foreign trade relations. "We have a conflict situation at the moment because of our former colonial power Britain," he said in Bangkok.

"If they (the British) come to you they will induce you not to go into any relations with us," he told representatives of Thailand's Board of trade. "They have even gone to the extent of going to Arab countries where we import oil, to persuade them not to sell to Zimbabwe."

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