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Time for action

Financial Gazette Editorial 14 September 2000

WITH the June general election out of the way, Zimbabwe’s constitution-making process should be re-launched urgently to redraw the parameters and rules that will govern the staging of the presidential polls in 2002.

As in the past, the ruling ZANU PF party will no doubt seek to stall the process with all manner of tricks and excuses, hoping not only to buy time for itself but to rush a new constitution at the last minute.

No, work on the new supreme law and the rules that will be used in the projected election must begin now, with Parliament taking the central role.

Parliament must move swiftly to draw up a broad framework under which the new constitution-making process will take place, making clear that only the voters will be the final arbiters in approving or rejecting the new supreme law.

Because Zimbabweans have largely made their views clear on most key aspects of a new constitution through the government’s own ill-fated effort earlier this year and the National Constitutional Assembly, the work of the new panel should not be hard nor take much time.

The key issues already articulated by most Zimbabweans are:

— that the executive, especially if the presidency is to be retained, sheds most of its dictatorial powers and is made accountable to Parliament;

— that the incumbent head of state is barred from standing for office again and that a limit of two terms is placed on the tenure of any future head of government;

— that all nominated parliamentary seats are scrapped;

— that all general and presidential polls are staged by an independent body that has its own budget and is answerable to Parliament; and

— that there be a clear separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, the latter being the only supreme organ that interprets and enforces all the country’s laws.

Because of Zimbabwe’s bitter experiences of the past, several other issues must now be deliberately enshrined in a truly home-grown constitution to ban permanently any abuse of power by those elected to take charge of the country.

These include limiting the number of Cabinet ministers that a head of government can appoint and stipulating the government’s spending limits.

The government’s own constitution-making panel was told loud and clear last year that no more than 10 ministers should be appointed and that the government’s borrowings and its debt be limited.

What is left now is for Parliament to appoint a truly non-partisan Constitutional Commission and to frame this panel’s mandate and modus operandi so the country can move forward without any further delay.

It is especially imperative that the 2002 polls are organised, staged and supervised by an impartial and independent commission, whose wideranging powers during the election campaign and balloting must be enforceable like a judicial ruling.

Indeed, the new constitution must spell out the powers of such an electoral panel so that law enforcement agents, who in the June poll merely looked aside while mobs ran amok countrywide, never again have any more excuses.

For all their seemingly endless patience, Zimbabweans have long yearned for and must get a better constitution that banishes the oppression of man by man and forever entrenches their hard-won freedoms and human rights.

Either this or nothing.

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Zim farm workers may sue Mugabe

HARARE -- Zimbabwe's farm workers and their employers are threatening to sue President Robert Mugabe over his planned mass land-grab which they say will displace two million farm workers and their families.

A letter delivered to Mugabe late last week by the National Employment Council, which represents the agricultural industry, said if the government confiscates the 2220 white-owned farms, it would either have to keep the farm workers in employment on the farms or pay them retrenchment packages, it was reported yesterday.

Mugabe said the government planned by the end of the year to resettle nearly one million people on seven million hectares of seized farm land, 90 percent of which was owned by white farmers.

However, the "fast track resettlement programme" made no reference to the future of the farm workers.

Welfare agencies pointed out that the resettlement of a million "landless" people would drive another two million out of work.

Economists and western aid agencies have warned that Mugabe's land-grab would throw Zimbabwe's once-robust economy into ruin as commercial agriculture, regarded as the engine of the economy, was replaced by peasant subsistence farming.

Welfare groups said the displacement of two million farm labourers would add a massive social crisis to the economic disaster.

Labour legislation "places the full onus of the farm workers on the new owner of the land: in this case, your government," said the letter to Mugabe, published in yesterday's independent Standard newspaper.

It meant that the government would have to continue employing the workers on the farms it confiscated, said the letter. -- Sapa

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Zimbabwe this Week

I have been away from my desk for 12 days on an extensive trip – it was very interesting in that I saw a lot of people and found that generally they had a reasonable grasp of what was happening here. They were convinced that Mugabe had to go and were concerned about what they could do in the interim. Not a lot I am afraid. More than ever I am convinced we have to do this alone, only South Africa has the punch to help and they are not going to intervene in any significant way. Talking to South African analysts they are equally mystified by the South African governments stance. Mbeki speaks to Cosatu today – I have a feeling that part of the answer lies there.

Just when my back was turned, the local Mafia (our once respected police force) have broken into our offices in Harare and illegally removed documents and computer records. They arrived with automatic weapons and equipment to break down the doors – I am only surprised we did not see an air strike to soften us up before going in with ground troops and tanks. Rudo and Grace must have felt honored to be regarded as being so dangerous! Their intelligence was so bad they did not even find Morgans office down a passage. The computers there plus his personal papers were not touched. For the rest we do not keep sensitive stuff in the office and all they got was a large pile of scrap paper that related mainly to the outcome of the past elections. Our E mail records and mail lists were also moved away from the office some time ago and our Website is maintained offshore in the USA.

The grenade attack on the office at 127 Fife Avenue was more significant – thrown over the fence it blew out the windows and damaged the drive slightly. Our security people were in the back of the building at the time. It has all the marks of a set up by the security agency here who have a record of fairly crude actions. Some 4 months ago my own personal office was raided and they broke the door and left a total mess behind. Did not remove anything and found nothing political. This was carried out by 4 men in plain clothes and followed a daylight visit by a Minister in a white Mercedes vehicle to the factory.

We are gearing up for the first of many bi-elections – this one in Marondera West, regarded by the Zanu people as heartland Zanu PF territory. Our own intelligence suggests that we could win this seat which was lost by a wide margin in the elections. It was also an area, which was very heavily intimidated, and where the level of violence was especially intense – the Stevens killing and the beating of Ian Kay were in the Marondera environs. To prepare for the election the CIO have moved 180 men into the constituency to work the beat over. How anyone can expect us to operate as a democracy when the instruments of the State are behaving in this way is a mystery. Already the "war vets" are active in the area and farm invasions and beatings are again widespread.

In Harare the main news is that our local Reps theatre is planning a Pantomime called "No Whites and 7 War Vets" this year! The main female lead is Grace Mugabe and the producer is Jonathan Moyo.

Morgan has been campaigning in various centers and this weekend was in the Honde valley where he had a good meeting with no interference. Its ridiculous to think that he has to campaign for 20 months until the 2002 elections. This morning we heard of the declaration by the President of Peru that he is going to call for fresh elections and will not stand again. The situation there is very similar to our own and I wonder how long Mugabe can hold out against the near total international isolation and hostility and the collapsing economy. Certainly the international hostility towards him is intensifying and his position within the country becoming untenable. The pressure is showing physically and if this continues he could easily suffer a physical collapse. He certainly had problems in Libya before going to the UN.

Although the pressure for change is building up inside Zanu PF they cannot afford to go to the polls now in new presidential elections without running the near certainty of defeat and a loss of power. For many of the old guard this would mean humiliation and worse and is simply unthinkable. So it is going to take civil action on a massive scale to bring Mugabe down and force a presidential election before too much permanent damage is done to the economy.

Sitting outside a pavement café in Europe with 4 young people last week – all of whom had links to Africa, I was disturbed by the level of pessimism on Africa. We are losing thousands of skilled and experienced people of all shades to political flight. The same thing is happening all over Africa. They are our young and in most cases are our brightest and best – because they are more mobile. They are fuelling the growth of western economies and filling their gap for young people and skills. Once settled they do not come back except for an occasional visit and watch our decline with sadness and nostalgia.

Those of us who choose to stay (it is a choice) do so because we decided a long time ago that we were African in every way and did not want to leave to find a "safe and secure" future somewhere else. This is always the first decision to take – then to get down to what it takes to ensure that we have a future here as well as those for whom we care. In Zimbabwe today that means you cannot be neutral, we have to get rid of this corrupt, tired, racist regime and replace it with new people, new policies and a new constitution that will give us a genuine democracy. Leaving is not an option if you are an African in the real sense of the word. We cannot walk away from the front line where the fighting is most intense or the other side wins.

Sure there will be casualties, there are in any conflict, but if the cause is just, is this not a good reason to fight back? Are our young people so preoccupied with material security and gain that principle does not matter any more? Abandoning the fight in Africa is to abandon hundreds of millions of people who have no hope if we do not stay and win this fight. The solutions to Africa’s problems will not be solved by outside intervention, no matter how well intended. The UN millenium summit was just another expensive meeting of people who spend their lives talking and wringing their hands. This fight will be won only by the troops on the ground. I am privileged to be one of them.

Eddie Cross

18th September 2000

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Hey Folks, ZIM'S Not so Bad after All! - Harare (Zimbabwe Standard, September 17, 2000)
Farm Workers Threaten to Sue Mugabe - Harare (Zimbabwe Standard, September 17, 2000)
Joint Delegation to Seek Audience with President - Harare (Zimbabwe Standard, September 17, 2000)
Zimbabwe Police Release Opposition Documents, Computer Data after 24 Hours- HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP)

Hey Folks, ZIM'S Not so Bad after All!

Harare (Zimbabwe Standard, September 17, 2000) - When I told my family I was leaving the United States to live in Zimbabwe, they had mixed feelings.

Americans, when we think of Africa, entertain visions of basket-weavers and ancient hieroglyphics, bare-breasted women in the throes of tribal dance, and idyllic safari trips where elephants actually live outside the zoo. But we also associate Africa with unparalleled danger, a place where Aids spreads uncontrollably, malnourished children showcase protruding ribs, and rebel warriors amputate the limbs of anyone in their way.

From what we hear in the West, you would think the whole continent was going up in flames. So as news of Zimbabwe's pre-election violence hit the US just before I left, my family had a virtual meltdown.

Why put myself in danger? Why risk getting sick? What's wrong with going to Canada? they asked. My mother fretted, my father pleaded, my grandmother cried.

As I prepared to leave, I was warned not to eat the food, not to drink the water, and if I could help it, not to breathe the air. Well, I have been here two weeks now and the worst thing I have experienced so far is jet lag.

Even that was tempered by the remarkable hospitality Zimbabweans have shown since I arrived. A steady stream of people have welcomed me, offering me sadza and rape, ordering my preferred beer, and making sure I had a supply of soap and toothpaste.

As a visiting reporter for The Standard, I have spent my time so far talking to many residents and canvassing the shops and clubs of Harare. The people I have met have been friendly and curious, ready to discuss everything from Mugabe to Monica Lewinsky-with some more knowledgeable about American politics than myself.

They are quick to point out their country's treasures, but also how heartbroken they are over their leader. In Harare, daily routines are dictated by a crumbling economy.

Queues are rampant, electricity is scarce, air waves come at a premium, fuel is precious, and infants beg in the street. At home, we know life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Here, the constitution is rife with draconian law. Holding an opposing political view is dicey, and launching a campaign could mean danger.

It is in stark contrast to the US, where politicians might be insulted-they might even get their feelings hurt-but they are not subjected to the whims of a ruling party. Despite the hardships though, people here do not come to a halt, wither up and fade away.

They take their blows, fight back, and move on. So no, I have not been kidnapped by tribesmen.

I am not in a hospital with leprosy, and my parents will be happy to know there's no bone piercing my nose. Instead, I am surrounded by women who balance boxes on their heads and babies on their backs, journalists who take great risks to report the truth, people who brave adversity without batting an eye.

This, I see, is Africa too.

* Julie Goodman is an American journalist attached to The Standard .

She can be reached at jrgoodman44@hotmail.com.

By Julie Goodman

Copyright 2000 Zimbabwe Standard. Distributed via Africa News Online.

Farm Workers Threaten to Sue Mugabe

Harare (Zimbabwe Standard, September 17, 2000) - The National Employment Council (NEC) for the agricultural industry has written to President Mugabe threatening him with court action if government does not follow set procedures in the retrenchment of farm workers. The organisation, which incorporates the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union (GAPWUZ), expressed concern over the fate of workers on farms to be acquired under the fast track resettlement programme.

In the letter, submitted on Thursday, the organisation threatened action if the procedures were not followed. Citing part IV, section 26 of the Labour Relations Act, they said the new farm owners were required to take on the employees of that farm under the same conditions they had enjoyed under previous owners.

In this case, said the NEC, government was the new owners of the farms and consequently had to ensure that the workers remained in employment. Alternatively, they said, if the government was not willing to offer the workers employment, it was obliged to offer them retrenchment packages provided for in the Labour Relations (Retrenchment) Regulations.

"This legislation places the full onus of the farm workers on the new owner of the land, which is, in this case, your government. We have no doubt that you will ensure that the farm workers are treated according to the legislation.

We will bring action against any breach of the terms of these regulations. "We are concerned that some workers have already lost their jobs," wrote the organisation.

The president's chief press secretary, George Charamba, has, however, dismissed the organisation's threats saying the president was prepared to meet them in court. Said Charamba: "The litigation is uncalled for because the president is prepared to meet them in court.

"The same statutory environment where they get these laws is the same environment that government is getting the power to take land on behalf of the public. While they are dealing mainly with sectarian concerns, government is acting in the public interest and this overrides their concerns.

The whole letter is premised on the fact that the farm labourers are not part of the resettlement programme, yet government policy includes them."

The NEC also expressed concern that government had not provided adequate infrastructure for the people being resettled. It said it was unsure how the 2000/01 crop would be financed since farmers could no longer access the requisite collateral to secure loans.

Joint Delegation to Seek Audience with President

Harare (Zimbabwe Standard, September 17, 2000) - President Robert Mugabe should step down to save the country from further economic decline, some senior Zanu PF MPs have told The Standard. The Zanu PF members said they are in agreement with the opposition MDC legislators that a delegation from parliament comprising members of both parties be sent to meet with President Robert Mugabe in order to urge him to resign.

The Zanu PF legislators who spoke to The Standard said they supported the maiden speeches made by MDC MPs that President Mugabe should leave office. In her maiden speech on Tuesday last week, the MDC MP for Glen Norah, Priscilla Misihai-rabwi-Mushonga, said that the living conditions of the people had been badly affected by the slump in the economy characterised by rising inflation, galloping interest rates and massive retrenchments.

She blamed all these problems on Mugabe. "The problem is that he is the source of the problems we have in the country," she said.

"I would want to put to this house that perhaps we should send a team to meet with the President, to have a heart-to-heart talk with him to hear what it is that he has to say."

According to a senior Zanu PF member, the majority of his colleagues saw nothing wrong in having a team meet with the President and discuss with him the future of the country and the way forward. "The MDC has made valid points in reference to the president, and we support them.

But what needs to be done is for us to first remove the suspicion among ourselves and start trusting each other so that we can understand each other," said one senior official from Zanu PF. "We first need to break the barriers of suspicion between the two parties and then, in the near future, we will be able to accept it," he added.

The MDC has long been calling for the resignation of President Mugabe. Said the MDC chief whip, Innocent Gonese: "We want to bring this matter to the attention of our fellow MPs in the House and knock some sense into them that we must try to persuade the president to resign-he no longer has the stamina to carry on as our national leader."

Zanu PF members, on the other hand, are afraid to come out into the open on the issue of Mugabe's resignation and are keeping their cards close to their chests for fear of being disciplined by the ruling party's politburo.

The only time when some of the members talked openly about it was in 1998 when two former Zanu PF legislators, the former Masvingo Central MP, Dzikamai Mavhaire and Michael Mataure of Chimanimani asked for Mugabe's resignation. As a result, the two were suspended from the party for a year.

President Mugabe has kept it a closely guarded secret whether or not he will run for the presidential elections of 2002.

Zimbabwe Police Release Opposition Documents, Computer Data after 24 Hours

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- After defying a court order for almost 24 hours, police on Saturday allowed attorneys for the main opposition party to begin retrieving illegally seized membership lists, check books, financial records and computer data, a party spokesman said.

For two days, police searched the offices of the Movement for Democratic Change -- searches that a judge on Friday said were illegal when he ruled that the property must be returned. When officials tried to pick up the property, however, they were forced to leave empty-handed, said Welshman Ncube, the party secretary general.

Police refused to release the materials until Saturday afternoon.

"It's not surprising. I think overnight they copied everything they wanted," Ncube said.

On Friday, police forced their way into party offices and removed almost all documentation, including membership lists, address books and details of party organizers and fund-raisers across the country. The court's ruling came just hours after the last search had concluded.

Police have refused to comment on the searches that began early Thursday with a warrant stating they suspected the party was in possession of "arms of war."

No weapons were found, Ncube said. Police then were granted a second search warrant, which stated that documents and other data were needed to continue investigations.

High Court Judge Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled the warrants invalid because they did not sufficiently specify alleged offenses or identify suspects or documents being sought, Ncube said.

Court and police officials were not available for comment on Saturday.

Personal files of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was out of town, were also taken, Ncube said. Tsvangirai was scheduled to return to Harare on Saturday.

Ncube said the opposition viewed the police action as an effort to gather information "with a view to unleashing terror on people assisting MDC materially or financially."

In June, the MDC won 57 of 120 elected seats in parliamentary elections. The results posed the biggest challenge to President Robert Mugabe's hold on power since he led the nation to independence in 1980. In the outgoing parliament, Mugabe's party controlled all but three seats.

At least 31 people died and thousands were left homeless in political violence ahead of the elections. Most of the victims were opposition supporters.

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  • Art Exhibition
  • MDC members on arms charges? - CNN
  • Govt dismisses ciriticism - Star
  • Farm workers due compensation - Star
Invade the High Commission!
Zimbabwean Art Exhibition

The 2nd annual London exhibition of Zimbabwean artwork is to be held at the Zimbabwe High Commission in The Strand in London, from Thursday September 28th until Sunday October 1st.  You do not need a formal invitation to attend.  Last year's event proved to be a great get-together for Africa lovers.  You are more than welcome to bring family and friends.  There is an on-going updated preview of the work at:
In these troubling times the exhibitors hope to show the outside world an alternative, positive image of Zimbabwe. The show will feature many well-established painters, as well as a few promising newcomers.  In conjunction with Matombo Gallery, The Gallery Innerspace will also show a fine selection of the artform commonly known as Shona Sculpture.
Please pass this open invitation on to anyone within reach of London.  Ignore the venue - enjoy the art.

From CNN, 18 September

Zimbabwe opposition members to appear in court for alleged weapons possession, paper reports

HARARE - Police who raided the main opposition party's offices said they found evidence to implicate several suspects in allegations of weapons possession, state-controlled media reported Sunday. Some were expected to appear in court this week, The Sunday Mail reported, but the opposition MDC dismissed the claims as typical state media propaganda and "absolute rubbish." No weapons were found in two days of police searches at three main opposition offices in which membership lists, check books, financial records and computer data were illegally seized, opposition spokesman Learnmore Jongwe said.

The Sunday Mail, citing unidentified senior police officers, reported police had found "hot and revealing" documents implicating the MDC in the gathering of "arms of war." "It is a ploy by (the ruling party) to discredit the MDC," Jongwe said. The police investigation started Monday after a grenade explosion at the MDC headquarters in Harare, and it was concluded Friday, the paper said. The opposition accused state agents of mounting the grenade attack as a pretext to launch the searches of the Harare offices.

A High Court judge late Friday declared Thursday's and Friday's searches illegal and ordered police to return seized materials. But party attorneys and officials who went to police to pick up the documents Friday were forced to leave empty-handed, said party secretary general Welshman Ncube. After defying the court order for almost 24 hours, police on Saturday afternoon allowed attorneys for the opposition party to retrieve documents and computer data. The party believed police created the delay to enable them to copy documents revealing details of its financial backers and organizers across the country, Ncube said. "We have reached a stage where people have to say enough is enough to this harassment," he said.

High Court Judge Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled the two search warrants invalid because they did not sufficiently specify alleged offenses or identify suspects or documents being sought. Court officials have refused to comment on the searches that began early Thursday with a search warrant, stating they suspected the party was hiding weapons listed as grenades, rifles, pistols and tear gas canisters. Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo, in charge of police, is scheduled to make a statement on the police operation in the Harare parliament on Tuesday, the newspaper reported. Jonathan Moyo, chief government spokesman, denied the raids were politically motivated and that police defied the law, the newspaper reported. "This is not a political matter, but a serious criminal matter ... a serious matter of bombs and grenades," he was quoted as saying. He said the court order was issued after the police raids were finished and that the terms of the order were honored.

From The Star (SA), 18 September

Zimbabwe dismisses MDC-raid criticism

Harare - Zimbabwe's government denied that police raids on offices of the main opposition party earlier this week violated court orders, and condemned British criticism of the raids, in a statement received on Sunday. The raids on three offices of the MDC came after unknown assailants on Monday threw a hand grenade, which exploded at MDC's headquarters. No one was injured. Police on Thursday and Friday raided the offices and seized all the documents they found in spite of the party's efforts to seek a court order stopping the searches, according to MDC spokesperson Learnmore Jongwe.

Britain, the former colonial power, on Friday issued strong condemnation of the raids, with Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain saying Britain "deplores any action by the Zimbabwean authorities which intimidates the legitimate parliamentary opposition". But Zimbabwe presidential spokesperson George Charamba said: "Government dismisses with absolute contempt and no regard suggestions and claims by some self-interested political quarters, including the British government, that police acted unlawfully and in defiance of a High Court order in their pursuit of available leads on this crime."

A temporary court order stopping the police searches came at 4pm on Friday, and Charamba said police had already finished their searches by that time. "The issue of police acting unlawfully, let alone in defiance of a High Court order, thus does not arise," he said in the statement. By late Saturday, police had returned the seized documents to MDC officials, though the party was still trying to determine if anything was missing, the privately owned Standard newspaper reported on Sunday.

"The police were reluctant to give us our documents and were trying to buy time so that they could photocopy them," MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube told the paper. "Either they simply wanted to get information on the party's strategies and devise counter-strategies for Zanu-PF. But the more likely scenario is that they want to forge documents and claim to have found harmful documents from our offices," Ncube said. "It is sad when a police force is turned into an arm of a crumbling political party and is used to terrorise popular parties. We now have a lawless police force," he said.

The state-run Sunday Mail cited unnamed police sources as saying several suspects would probably be arraigned next week in connection with the grenade attack, based on "revealing" documents seized from the MDC. Four MDC officials were arrested and briefly detained in connection with the blast, in the government's first post-election clampdown on the opposition. The MDC took nearly half of all contested seats in the June parliamentary elections, after months of violence and intimidation directed mainly at opposition supporters.

From The Star (SA), 18 September

'Zim's labour lost will cost Mugabe dearly'

Harare - Zimbabwe's farm workers and their employers are threatening to sue President Robert Mugabe over his planned mass land-grab, which they say will displace two million farm workers and their families. A letter, delivered to Mugabe late last week by the National Employment Council (NEC) representing the agricultural industry, said that if the government carries out the confiscation of 2 220 white-owned farms, it would either have to keep the farm workers in employment on the farms, or pay them retrenchment packages, it was reported on Sunday.

Mugabe says the government plans to resettle nearly one million people on seven million hectares of seized farm land - 90 percent of the land owned by white farmers - by the end of the year. However, the "fast-track resettlement programme" made no reference to the farm workers. Welfare agencies pointed out that the resettlement of a million "landless" people would drive another two million out of work. Economists and Western aid agencies have warned that Mugabe's land-grab would throw Zimbabwe's once-robust economy into ruin as commercial agriculture, regarded as the engine of the economy, closes down and is replaced by peasant subsistence farming. Welfare groups said the displacement of two million farm labourers would add a massive social crisis to the economic disaster.

Labour legislation "places the full onus of the farm workers on the new owner of the land, which is, in this case, your government", said the letter to Mugabe, published in Sunday's independent Standard newspaper. This means that the government will have to continue employing the workers on the farms it confiscates, said the letter. If it did not, labour laws demand that the workers be paid retrenchment packages. "We have no doubt that you will ensure that the farm workers are treated according to the legislation. We will bring action against any breach of the terms of these regulations," it said. George Charamba, Mugabe's spokesperson, dismissed the agriculture NEC's warning as "dealing mainly with sectarian concerns". "The government is acting in the public interest (by seizing white-owned land) and this overrides their (the workers') concerns," he said.

A farm workers' union, the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers' Union of Zimbabwe, said that 30 000 labourers have been forced to leave farms this year and have drifted into squatter camps. There have been repeated clashes between workers and war veterans and their followers, who had invaded more than 1 700 farms and told the workers they would have to leave and look after themselves. Last week, four veterans were seriously injured in a battle on a farm just south of Harare when the squatters tried to attack the workers. Twenty-six labourers, who were trying to defend their jobs, were arrested by police.

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