Back to Index

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Zimbabwe close to civil war
ZIMBABWE came a step closer to civil war yesterday after an entire white farming community of 50 families was driven in fear from its land and President Mugabe refused to rein in his vigilantes.

Britain stepped up pressure on the regime in Harare to halt the spiralling violence which left at least three dead at the weekend, including the first white farmer who was shot dead in a roadside execution. There were growing signs that attacks on whites and members of the opposition were being orchestrated by supporters of President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF, possibly as a pretext for declaring a state of emergency and cancelling scheduled elections.

The main focus of the unrest was the district of Virginia-Macheke, east of Harare, where David Stevens, a tobacco farmer and father of four, was seized along with four of his neighbours who went to his aid. The men took refuge at a police station, but were led away and savagely beaten by armed vigilantes.

"They took Dave Stevens round the back," said John Osborne, who witnessed the murder and was himself nearly killed. "They beat him up very badly then they shot him. It was not about land, it was about politics."  

The killing and burning of the Stevens farmhouse triggered the mass evacuation of 50 farmers, along with their distraught wives and children. After being advised over their radios to evacuate their homes immediately, the terrified families jumped into their vehicles and fled, carrying only a handful of personal possessions, what little cash they had with them and any documents needed for identification.

Any hope that the authorities might act against the state of lawlessness were dashed by the return from Cuba of Mr Mugabe, who urged his supporters on and warned the whites not to resist.

In a chilling address, punctuated by the chants of "hondo, hondo" (war, war) from his followers, the Zimbabwean leader dismissed the ruling of the High Court in Harare last week against illegal squatters and instead turned on the besieged white farmers. "We cannot protect you if you provoke the veterans. You must accept the consequences," he said.

Britain took the lead yesterday in challenging Mr Mugabe. Peter Hain, the Foreign Office Minister responsible for Africa, summoned Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, the Zimbabwean High Commissioner, and demanded that his country reimpose the rule of law. Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary who is travelling in Asia, urged African nations to intervene and stop what he called Mr Mugabe's "destruction of his own country".

"The situation is very grave," said Mr Cook. "I'm worried it will get worse unless there is a return to respect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe."

However, there seemed little hope among the homeless white families that their plight would end soon and last night there were fresh reports of invasions of white farms at Bindura, north of Harare.

Having spent a sleepless night with friends and relatives, they congregated at the Marondera Country Club yesterday morning for an emergency meeting called by Tim Henwood, the president of Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers' Union, to hammer out a strategy to deal with the lawlessness.

Mr Henwood said: "It is a bloody disgrace. Before this, the general feeling in the country was that the Government and the War Veterans' Association were obeying the High Court order to end the occupations. Everything now depends on his excellency (President Mugabe)."

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Farmer died as he tried to calm veterans
THE body of David Stevens, the 49-year-old farmer shot in the face and chest by a rampaging mob of Zimbabwean "war veterans", was still lying in the back of a pickup truck somewhere in the bush near the town of Mutare yesterday.

John Osborne, a farmer who was beaten to within an inch of his life for attempting to rescue his neighbour, witnessed the death of Mr Stevens.

With his hands tied behind his back, Mr Stevens received the full force of two blasts from a shotgun wielded by frenzied assailants.

The owner of the Arizona farm, a 3,000-acre spread in the Virginia-Macheke district, about 80 miles east of the capital, Harare, Mr Stevens made the mistake of trying to negotiate a truce between a group of war veterans and his own labour force after a furious row erupted on Friday.

"He was not afraid of anything," Helena Rose, a long-time family friend and neighbour, said. "That was his downfall." Mrs Rose, who was on radio duty throughout Saturday, the day of the murder, said: "I was in contact with him to the last. He kept on trying to negotiate with them. He had done it so many times before, but this time there were just too many of them."

Married with four young children, Mr Stevens was widely respected in the local farming community, among whom he was held up as a model employer.

He constantly fretted about the welfare of his 100 or so employees and their families, for whom he provided homes, school and beer hall. "He was a very generous man," Mrs Rose said.

A Zimbabwean passport holder, whose parents live in South Africa, Mr Stevens regarded himself as a citizen of Zimbabwe, and would never have contemplated abandoning his country or the farm on which he grew tobacco, maize, and raised a few head of cattle.

The five farmers who attempted to follow Mr Stevens when he was bundled into his Land Rover and driven into the night have now all been accounted for. They were badly beaten.

Last night a fresh wave of violence erupted in the Bindura district north of Harare, after a group of war veterans, led by Border Gezi, the Governor of Mashonaland Central, and a close ally of President Mugabe, stormed a group of white-owned commercial farms.

Cecil and Lucia Grimmer, the owners of Glencairn Farm, and their 13-year-old daughter, Tamaryn, were forced to run for their lives after a mob of war veterans began bombarding their small farmhouse with bricks, stones and spears.

"They attacked our neighbours' farms first," Mr Grimmer said. "They injured about 20 of the workers. About six of the farm workers were very badly beaten up and had to be hospitalised.

"Then they came for us, and we had to run to the farm workshops for cover. I had to fire a warning shot over their heads.

"That bought us some time. Now I'm worried that the police are going to come and take me away."

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Mugabe Defends Farm Takeovers

The Associated Press, Sun 16 Apr 2000

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — President Robert Mugabe on Sunday urged thousands of people who have occupied white-owned farms to defend the takeovers as the two-month crisis turned deadly with the killings of a farmer and two opposition members.

The plea came after about 80 farmers and their families on Sunday evacuated the Macheke district as squatters went on a rampage after the killing of farmer David Stevens. The Commercial Farmers Union advised farmers to take refuge in the capital Harare or Marondera, the provincial center.

Mugabe, returning from an economic summit in Cuba, declared he won't order squatters led by war veterans to leave white-owned farms, and vowed to ignore a High Court ruling ordering police to evict them. More than 900 white-owned farms have been occupied since February.

Armed squatters in Macheke district, 75 miles east of Harare, abducted Stevens late Saturday after he sought protection at a police station in Murewa, a nearby provincial center. Police reportedly stood by and did nothing to help the farmers.

Stevens, in his late 40s, was driven into the bush, where he was shot dead, said Commercial Farmers Union officials. Two other men who had gone to Stevens' assistance were abducted by squatters and were missing on Sunday. Other farmers were searching for them.

Mugabe's stance and the death of Stevens — the first farmer killed since the farm takeovers began in February — marks a sharp escalation of the crisis that has driven this former British colony in southern Africa to the brink of anarchy.

The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, said two of its officials died in a firebomb attack Saturday in Buhera, 150 miles south of Harare.

Opponents hurled a blazing bottle of gasoline into a car being driven by Tichaona Chimenya, party leader Morgan Tsvangirai's official driver, said Nomore Sibanda, Tsvangirai's spokesman.

Chimenya died, as did the only other occupant of the car, whose name was not immediately released.

Mugabe said Tsvangirai, who is visiting Britain to raise money and support for his party, ``is running around like a real traitor'' and told his own supporters to defend themselves against violence he said was perpetrated by the opposition party.

``Don't kill, but hit back wildly,'' Mugabe said, adding that the country's white farmers were on their own now.

``We warned the white farmers: we cannot protect you if you provoke the war veterans. You must accept the consequences,'' Mugabe said. ``There is an expectation I will say to the war veterans they must get off the land. I will not do that until we start redistributing the land.''

On Sunday, the British government said it will complain to Zimbabwe's ambassador over the farmer's death.

Speaking in India, where he is on an official visit, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the violence ``is exactly what we feared would be the result of the breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.''

Cook said Britain would demand ``that the government stops the occupation of the farms before there are any more deaths. We will also be demanding that those responsible for this murder are found and are charged.''

Tim Henwood, head of the farmers union, said army troops were deployed to maintain order in Murewa, the town where Stevens had been abducted.

Farmers from Macheke district met with union leaders in Marondera, 43 miles east of Harare, on Sunday to discuss Stevens' death.

``It seems police were unwilling or unable to do anything about it,'' Henwood said.

Stevens' neighbors said squatters torched buildings and dwellings of his farm workers in apparent revenge for the workers' driving them from Stevens' land. Squatters returned with reinforcements Saturday and abducted Stevens when he approached a standoff between workers and squatters.

He contacted five neighbors who accompanied him to Murewa police station. Three escaped from squatters trying to capture them too.

A neighbor identified as John Osborne witnessed the shooting of Stevens, who was hit in the head and back by shotgun blasts, the union said. Osborne was beaten by Stevens' assailants and was being treated in a hospital in Marondera, union officials said. It was unclear how Osborne escaped.

Since the end of February, thousands of squatters armed with clubs, axes and guns have invaded white-owned farms and demanded the farmers sign away their land.

On Saturday, a group of former guerrillas in the bush war that led to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980 vowed to continue the takeovers.

Mugabe has described the occupations as a justified protest against the ownership of one third of the nation's productive land by the descendants of British settlers. His comments on Sunday flew in the face of an appeal by his government on Friday for an end to the stalemate and for the squatters to peacefully abandon the properties.

Some squatters have admitted being paid by ruling party activists.

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Carry on squatting, Mugabe says after murder

Unmoved by the execution-style death of a white farmer in Zimbabwe's land wars, President Robert Mugabe encouraged invaders yesterday to continue their campaign.

"We warned the white farmers: we cannot protect you ifyou provoke the war veterans. You must accept the consequences," President Mugabe said on returning to Zimbabwe from Cuba, after a stopoverin Paris.

In London, reports of the death of the farmer David Stevens, and the severe beatings of five others at the weekend, prompted the Foreign Office to summon Zimbabwe's high commissioner. During a frosty 20-minute mid-afternoon meeting, Peter Hain, the minister responsible for Africa, told Simbarashe Mumbengegwi of his "grave concern" at the growing anarchy in the country.

Mr Stevens' death, as well as a petrol-bomb attack on the car of an opposition leader, in which two people were killed, are the latest casualties in clashes in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections. Ten days ago, a black policeman was shot dead by land invaders when he cycled through an occupied farm in the same area as Mr Stevens' farm.

A Foreign Office statement after the meeting in London said Mr Hain had delivered a "strong appeal" for immediate action by the Harare authorities. For order and stability to return it was essential, the minister declared, that the rule of law was upheld. It was "imperative" too that intimidation of political opponents of the Mugabe regime be halted, so that free and fair elections could be held.

But the Government insisted that planned talks would go ahead in the next 10 days between Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Stan Mudenge. The talks will cover a call from Zimbabwe for further British financial backing for land redistribution.

The petrol-bomb attack on Saturday in Buhare, south of the capital, Harare, killed Tichaona Chimenya, the official driver for Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and another unnamed occupant of the car.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Mugabe gave the green light to killers, says Hain
By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent

THE Foreign Office yesterday accused President Robert Mugabe of giving "a green light" to the murder of a white farmer and two opposition politicians.

Peter Hain, the minister for Africa, spoke out shortly before a meeting in London with the Zimbabwean High Commissioner at which he demanded the restoration of law and order. Mr Hain said: "Unfortunately, when you have a situation where the leadership of the country is not urging restraint and obedience to the law, then people start taking the law into their own hands. It is as if they have been given a green light to do so."

His 20-minute meeting with the High Commissioner, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, was described as "civil but frank", diplomatic language for a dressing-down. During it, Mr Hain said that it was "important for leadership to be given from the very top of government to prevent further lawlessness and violence".

He said it was "particularly disturbing" that David Stevens had been killed after being abducted in front of police by a gang of armed squatters. "It is imperative that calmness is restored to the farms and that the opposition is able to conduct itself free from violence and intimidation."

Mr Mumbengegwi, who has now been summoned to the Foreign Office three times this year to hear complaints about what is happening in Zimbabwe, said afterwards: "There are over a thousand farms where there are sit-ins and demonstrations at present where the two sides are co-existing peacefully without any violence. It is unfortunate that in this particular instance this has occurred, and this is something that everybody does regret."

During a visit to India, Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, said he wanted to see an end to the illegal occupations and he called for efforts by the Zimbabwean authorities to ensure the people who carried out the killings were brought to justice. He said: "I will be ringing a number of leaders of Africa urging them to give the same message to President Mugabe before he does any more destruction to his country or any more damage to Africa."

Meanwhile, Ian Smith, former leader of renegade Rhodesia, said the British Government must be stronger in standing up to Mr Mugabe. "I think Britain should be more vocal, lay open the truth about Zimbabwe . . . lobby other African leaders to put the pressure on Mugabe, turn the screws on him."

Conservative MP Gerald Howarth called for "more draconian concerted action" against Zimbabwe as the crisis escalated. He said: "What is going on is utterly intolerable. If a white government had behaved in that fashion, the United Nations would have been in permanent session and a task force would have been assembled to read them the riot act. Mugabe now says he has no intention of calling off these thugs. He is not just a despot but is effectively condoning what could start a process of genocide."

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Mugabe stokes up anti-white campaign


PRESIDENT MUGABE returned to Zimbabwe yesterday and further inflamed an already volatile situation by warning whites that they would have to suffer for "provoking" war veterans.

He disavowed his own Government's orders, issued last week to the mobs of purported veterans, to quit the 600 farms they occupy. He also showed scorn for the orders of a High Court judge to the veterans to leave the farms, and to police to evict them by force if they refused to go.

Within hours of a white farmer being shot dead by veterans, President Mugabe told farmers: "We cannot protect you if you provoke the veterans. Don't take up weapons. If you do, you must accept the consequences."

Mr Mugabe is now seen as having severed himself from his Government and to be running Zimbabwe in an alliance with a few thousand veterans, while the Government, including the forces of law and order, is largely sidelined.

He was welcomed back to Harare with a frightening display of mob rule. For the first time since he came to power, the veterans were elevated to a position of control within what is usually rigid party protocol.

Also unprecedented was his sharing of the platform with Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, the notorious leader of the veterans. Women in clothes bearing Mr Mugabe's image shrieked chants of "Hondo, hondo" (War, war). Columns of youths performed the warlike toi-toi shuffle with placards, some of them reading: "What is good for the white man is bad for the black man."

As a measure of Mr Mugabe's hate for the British Government, he arrived aboard the Air Zimbabwe flight from Gatwick airport two hours late because he refuses to stop in London. The aircraft had to be diverted to collect him in Paris.

Zimbabweans were swiftly disabused of any idea that Mr Mugabe would endorse his Government's attempt last week to observe the rule of law and order the squatters to leave. "The newspapers in Britain expect me to order the war veterans to leave the land," he said. "I will not do that, until we start to redistribute the land. We are going to talk to the war veterans and those farmers who want to talk about the way forward.

"Let the question of the land on which the war veterans now are be solved by us, and not by the courts," he said, to cheers of "Let's go" from the crowd.

Mr Mugabe repeated his assertion that the veterans were involved in "peaceful demonstrations". He reserved his most direct threats for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. "You must defend yourselves against MDC violence," he said, speaking in Shona, adding, to laughs and cheers from the crowd: "Don't kill, but hit back savagely."

He amended his remarks when he spoke in English soon after for the benefit of the foreign press: "We want the war veterans not to use any violence, no violence on any side."

He accused the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, of being "guilty of treason" because he was pressing for sanctions against the Government. His words are seen as a possible warning of Mr Tsvangirai's arrest before elections. Mr Mugabe said that Mr Tsvangirai, who is visiting Britain to raise money and support for his party, "is running around like a real traitor".

His remarks were peppered with abuse against Britain. "We are telling the British Government the puppets you are sponsoring will never triumph over the forces of the people."

He accused Britain of promoting sanctions against his administration, which marks 20 years in power tomorrow. "If they want to help us, they will have to help us on our terms. With or without sanctions, we will redistribute our land. We will assert our sovereignty, we will never go down on our knees."

Mr Hunzvi delivered a frenzied performance as he urged the veterans to "expedite the land reform programme". "If the whites don't want that, they should go," he said.

Mr Mugabe said he remained committed to the parliamentary election that must be held by August, but did not confirm the May date given to Britain recently. He does not face a presidential election until 2002.Earlier, at a Third World summit in Cuba, Mr Mugabe had said: "It is not a fight against the whites as such, it is a fight against a very particular section of the whites who hold land. We are not being anti-white."

The President said that if Britain supplied the funds, the white farmers could be compensated. If not, many would be paid only for improvements such as irrigation systems and structures added to the land.

He said the land invasions would not have a negative economic impact. "Investors should not be inhibited by the fact that the people of Zimbabwe are getting their land back. How should that stand in the way of investment?"

Back to the Top
Back to Index