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Zimbabwean farmers flee after murder
Christine Middap in London

THE wife of the first white farmer killed in Zimbabwe's latest land war has vowed to remain in the country with their four children to continue the political struggle.

With tears welling in her eyes as she recalled her husband David's last words: "Don't worry darling, I'll be safe," Maria Stevens said she did not want to be seen as a "weeping widow".

"As far as I'm concerned the political fight has just intensified," she said.

"This is my country now, and it is the place where my husband died. To leave would be to allow his death to be in vain."

While Mrs Stevens was talking tough, at least 50 terrified white farmers pulled out of the troubled Marondera district where her husband was murdered at the weekend.

And a fresh wave of violence swept another region north of Harare on Sunday night as squatters stormed a group of white-owned commercial farms, forcing families to run for their lives.

President Robert Mugabe reacted to the violence and killing by appearing to suggest the whites were to blame.

"We warned the white farmers: We cannot protect you if you provoke the war veterans. You must accept the consequences," he said.

He urged his supporters to continue their campaign to seize land from white farmers: "Don't kill but hit back wildly," he said.

British Foreign Office secretary Peter Hain accused Mr Mugabe of giving a "green light" to the murders and violence.

Mrs Stevens said the immediate future for her and her children was bleak.

"We are completely alone. The police are not maintaining law and order," she said.

"His was a political murder not a land issue. David supported the new opposition party. He paid for it with his life."

Mr Stevens, 49, was executed on Saturday after he tried to negotiate a truce between a group of squatters and his own labour force.

He was known as a fierce supporter of his black workers and provided homes, a school and beer hall for about 100 employees and their families.

His neighbour Helena Rose said he gave 10 percent of his gross earnings as an annual bonus to his workers. But that was not enough to protect him as he was bundled into a vehicle, taken into the bush and shot in the face at point-blank range.

His death was the first murder of a white farmer since landless black squatters began invading hundreds of white-owned farms in February. Two officials of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, were also killed in a firebomb attack on Saturday in Buhera, 240km south of Harare, party officials said.

Five white neighbours who went to Mr Steven's aid were abducted from a local police station and beaten.

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Editorial from THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 17 April 2000
Rhodesian rights and wrongs
It is difficult to recall today, but the future of Rhodesia's whites was once the leading foreign policy issue in Britain. It divided the Tory party in a way not seen again until the Maastricht debates, and was the subject of many heartfelt editorials, not least in this newspaper. Broadly speaking, one set of people argued that majority rule on the terms proposed would lead inevitably to human rights violations and, specifically, to the mass confiscation of property. Others argued that, on the contrary, there was no reason to doubt that an independent Zimbabwe would be a pluralist democracy. They may, of course, have secretly believed that the settlers would be driven out; they may even have felt that, as colonial oppressors, they had it coming. But, if they thought this, they never said so.
How curious, then, that when those who supported Ian Smith's regime are proved right - and proved right in the most horrible way, with the violence against white farmers turning lethal - there should be so little comment. The Jeremiahs of the Sixties and Seventies have been vindicated (as, of course, was Jeremiah). There is now every likelihood that Robert Mugabe will succeed in driving away his country's most efficient producers, dividing their farms into units that are too small to be economically viable and giving the spoils to men who have never grown anything in their lives. And when the ensuing famine occurs, we shall no doubt be told that Britain, as the former colonial power, has a duty to pay for the relief.
Perhaps we do have such a duty. Perhaps we should support the right of Zimbabweans to go to Hell in their own way. Perhaps it is our place simply to sign the bills while Mr.Mugabe crushes his opponents and ruins his country.
After all, Zimbabwe is not the first nation to have chosen self-government over good government. But it would be nice if all those who claimed that none of this would happen were to admit, just this once, that they were wrong.
End of editorial

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White Macheke commercial farmer shot dead

Herald Reporter

A WHITE commercial farmer was shot dead on Saturday, allegedly by war veterans who abducted him following a clash between his workers and ex-combatants occupying his farm in Macheke.

Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wayne Bvudzijena said the victim, Mr David Stevens (50), of Arizona Farm, was shot be-tween the eyes and shoulder blades.

His body was discovered at Dapandare River Bridge, southeast of Murehwa, yester-day morning by a police search team using helicopters.

Chief Sup Bvudzijena said events leading to his death started around 6 am on Saturday when he armed himself with a gun and instructed his workers to arm them-selves as well.

They allegedly attacked and injured 14 of the 35 war veterans, who have been occupying the farm since February, using spears, hoes, sticks and stones, according to war vet-erans at the farm.

Seven of the injured war veterans were taken to Marondera Hospital while five were taken to Murehwa Hospital. Two are missing.

When word of the attack filtered through to other war veterans oc-cupying neigh-bouring farms, they went to the farm to retaliate.

They burnt down the workers’ houses, destroying property and clothes.

Tobacco barns were still smouldering yesterday and there was evidence in the farmhouse that Mrs Stevens had left in haste.

The workers fled to nearby mountains while Mr Stevens was taken to a police station in Murehwa by the war veterans, who later took him hostage and assaulted him, together with five other farmers who had given chase after Mr Stevens was abducted.

The five — Mr Steve Karynauw, Mr Gary Luke, Mr John Osborne, Mr Stuart Gemmill and Mr Ian Hardy — were also assaulted.

Mr Hardy and Mr Gemmill were rescued yesterday after they were found by herd boys in a cave in Murehwa and taken to hospital.

Mr Karynauw, Mr Luke and Mr Osborne managed to escape and are at Borradaile Hospital in Marondera. Mr Karynauw was transferred to a Harare hospital yesterday.

When The Herald visited Arizona Farm yesterday afternoon it was deserted, save for a group of war veterans staying at the farm.

“We are also in the dark as to how he was killed because we are hearing the news from you,” said a spokesman for the war veterans, Cde Herbert Goso.

He said Mr Stevens’ wife and their four children had left the farm after his abduc-tion.

Cde Goso said the attack took the war veterans by surprise as they had been staying peacefully since they occupied the farm in February.

“Stevens actually gave us shelter and we were taken by surprise yesterday (Saturday) morning when his workers at-tacked us,” he said.

Britain yesterday sum-moned Zimbabwe’s High Commissioner in London, Mr Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, demanding an end to farm invasions, Reuters reported.

It quoted a Foreign Office spokesman as saying Mr Mumbengegwi was expected to meet Foreign Office minister Mr Peter Hain yesterday afternoon.

British Foreign Secretary Mr Robin Cook, speaking in India, said his government would insist that the killers be found and charged.

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Farmers to be invited for talks over land but . . . President won't order war vets off the farms

The Zanu (PF) Government controlled - Herald Reporter

PRESIDENT Mu-gabe yesterday said he would not order war veterans off the nearly 600 white-owned commercial farms they have occupied for almost two months. Cde Mugabe said he would, instead, invite commercial farmers and war veterans for talks on the land issue.

More than 6 000 Zanu (PF) supporters thronged the Harare International Airport to give Cde Mugabe a hero's welcome and throw their weight behind his stance on land redistribution.

Cde Mugabe was returning from a week-long trip to Kinshasa and G77 Summit in Cuba.

"Expectation from the British media has been that the President will order the war veterans out of the farms they have occupied. I shall not say that," said Cde Mugabe to wild cheering from the crowd.

"To us as a Government, what the war veterans have done is a clear demonstration that the Government has delayed in redistributing land.

"This is a clear peaceful demonstration and there is no problem with that.

"We warned the farm owners not to resist, fight or take up arms. And should they do that, we shall not be responsible for the consequences.

"Those who have tried to fight, have created problems for themselves. It is difficult for us to protect them should they trigger violence," said Cde Mugabe.

Cde Mugabe said some white commercial farmers had decided to co-operate in the land redistribution programme.

He maintained that no one would be chased away from this country and farmers with only one farm would be allocated another should their current one be designated for resettlement.

The President said the amendment on land was being scrutinised by legal experts to ensure that it conforms to other laws before he signed it. Then it would be implemented.

"Only after this signing will the farms be governed by this law and redistribution of land would begin. It does not help anyone to make the police fight the war veterans. This is a political problem, which should be left to the politicians. We should talk to them (war veterans and farmers).

"Yes, the law says the whites are the owners of the land. Those who go to the farms without the permission of the owners are defined as trespassers.

"What this must be seen as is as a revolution: a struggle that cannot be corrected by the trespass law, but by equitable and just land redistribution.

"While we respect the role of the courts as interpreters of our law, we as the Government regard the political problem as overriding the 'little' law of trespass. It is a problem that must be corrected by the Government. We will correct it and correct it in the interest of the people of Zimbabwe," said Cde Mugabe.


He said what the courts viewed as correcting the trespass grievance of the white commercial farmers by ordering the war veterans out of the farms was an injustice to the former combatants and millions of land-hungry Zimbabweans.

Trying to forcibly evict the war veterans from the farms by unleashing the police on them was likely to breed more violence or serve only as a temporary measure as the war veterans could move out temporarily and return later.

Cde Mugabe lashed out at the British for trying to force the Zimbabwean Govern-ment to use force to evict the war veterans, who view their occupation of commercial farms as the second phase of the liberation struggle.

"When Ian Smith declared Unilateral Declaration of Independence, the British ruled out the use of force to take him out of power. Yet the same people would want us to use force on war veterans on a peaceful demonstration," Cde Mugabe said.

He said Zimbabwe had very little to learn from the British in terms of democracy, human rights, freedom and good governance.

"They forget that yesterday, they were the oppressors. Where was their democracy, human rights and the rule of law when we were being oppressed, dying and being tortured in detention camps and being killed for pursuing the liberation struggle?

"It is through us, after waging a protracted liberation struggle against colonialism, that true freedom became a reality in Zimbabwe. This was when democracy was born. It is us who brought it.

"We should not agree to the fact that the British who were ruling us through colonialism and its white children should today be our teachers of democracy.

"We are our own teachers of democracy and freedom and have nothing to learn from the British in those regards," said Cde Mugabe.

He said the British thought that they were still the rulers of this country and believed they could further their interests by aligning themselves with sellouts such as those behind the Movement for Democratic Change.

"We did not go to the struggle so that we continue being oppressed. There are some that still think they can rule us by telephone.

"If any white man believes that we (black majority) are still under them (whites), then he should wake up to reality and accept that we are the rulers of this country, " Cde Mugabe said.

He slammed developed countries for dictating the way affairs should be conducted from determining prices of both imports and exports and the way democracy and governments in Third World countries should operate.

"They reduce prices of our (developing countries) exports and increase prices of our imports from them so that they get the advantage. They are the judges of democracy and act as policemen of the world," said Cde Mugabe.

Cde Mugabe said a delegation would be going to Britain for further negotiations on assistance by the former colonial master on land reform.

"If the British now want to assist, let them do so. But it shall be on our terms.

"The British must assist us as a sovereign nation and unconditionally," said Cde Mugabe.

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Petrol bomb attack kills two MMD Members

TWO Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members, including a chauffeur of MDC leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, have been killed in a petrol bomb attack, party officials said yesterday.

Two party spokesmen said separately that the two were burnt to death on Saturday evening when a bomb was hurled into their car as they left a meeting at Murambinda, near Buhera.

"Two people, including the driver of the MDC president, were killed yesterday (Saturday)," Mr Learnmore Jongwe said.

Two others remain in hospital, while a further five have been discharged. MDC officials named the dead as a man, Mr Tichaona Chiminya, and a woman, Ms Talent Mabika.

The MDC members were in Buhera preparing for rallies to be held next weekend by Mr Tsvangirai. Buhera is Mr Tsvangirai's home area and is where he is planning to stand as a candidate in forthcoming elections.

Police in Murambinda said there were incidents in the area on Saturday but could not give further details. - AFP

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President sticks to his veterans' guns

Tuesday 18 April 2000

The inevitable has happened. When gangs of armed squatters began invading Zimbabwe's white-owned farms in February, it was only a matter of time before they would murder a farmer if left unchecked.

Yet President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly backed them. He reiterated his support on Sunday, contradicting Vice-President Joseph Msika's announcement on Thursday that it was "no longer necessary" for the squatters to remain on the land.

Throughout the crisis Mr Mugabe's policy has been clear and consistent. He will not order the invaders, many of whom are veterans of the war against white rule, to leave the land; nor will he allow the police to evict them. On the contrary, Mr Mugabe has been the guiding hand behind the occupations from the beginning.

His Zanu-PF party gave the war veterans 330,000 ($A868,000) to organise the operation and squatters are paid about $A2 a day. Government vehicles transport them to mount new occupations, despite the shortage of fuel, and supply them with food.

Mr Mugabe has stuck to this approach despite a series of violent incidents and two High Court rulings that found the invasions to be illegal and ordered the police to act. A black policeman was shot dead this month and at least five farmers and scores of their black employees have been injured.

Clearly alarmed by the danger of anarchy as the number of farms affected has climbed above 1000, the Home Affairs Minister and the Vice-President have tried to call off the mobs. Mr Mugabe has quickly slapped them down.

Will the death of Dave Stevens force the president into a U-turn? Mr Mugabe is fighting a bitter battle to hold power and he will sacrifice anything to this end.

The farm invasions began within a week of his defeat in February's referendum on a new constitution. Ministers were quick to blame white farmers for the result and accused them of forcing their black workers to vote against the government. A leading farmer described the occupations that followed as "payback for the referendum result".

This vendetta has escalated into a broader political campaign to destroy the opposition Movement for Democratic Change before the parliamentary elections next month. White farmers employ more than 330,000 black workers and Mr Mugabe fears they could mobilise these votes to turn his rural heartland against him.

The farm invasions give him a stick and a carrot. Gangs of squatters provide the stick. They harass farm laborers and beat up any one seen with an MDC T-shirt or leaflet.The squatters have become Mr Mugabe's shock troops, the brown shirts of Zanu-PF.

Meanwhile, the land occupied by the squatters is Mr Mugabe's carrot. Many Zimbabweans harbour a deep grievance over the fact that 4000 white farmers own 70 per cent of the arable land, while seven million blacks scratch a living from barren communal areas.

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Land grabs will go on, says Mugabe

Tuesday 18 April 2000

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has refused to condemn supporters who abducted and murdered a white farmer at the weekend, saying that they were "provoked".

Speaking on his return from a week-long trip to Cuba, Mr Mugabe told supporters that despite mounting levels of violence he had no intention of ordering an end to illegal invasions of white farms by gangs claiming to be veterans of the 1965-1980 liberation struggle.

"We warned the white farmers: we cannot protect you if you provoke the war veterans. You must accept the consequences," Mr 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."

Saturday's murder of farmer Mr David Stevens at Marondera, south east of Harare, came on the same day that two activists from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were murdered by government supporters at Buhera, south of the capital.

Mr Tichaona Chimenya, who was the driver for MDC leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, was one of two people who were incinerated in a car when pro-government youths hurled a petrol bomb through an open window.

With political violence by government supporters on the increase there are now fears that an opposition backlash could spark civil conflict in Zimbabwe, until recently one of the most stable - and pleasant - countries in Africa.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has said London will be contacting the leaders of Nigeria, South Africa and the Organisation of African Unity in a bid to put pressure on Mr Mugabe to restrain his supporters and to end the government-sponsored invasion of about 1000 white-owned farms. Britain is the former colonial power in Zimbabwe and up to 20,000 of the country's 70,000 whites are believed to be British subjects.

Political analysts and the Zimbabwean opposition agree that Mr Mugabe is deliberately stoking political violence in the hope that anti-white sentiment will boost his flagging support in parliamentary elections due next month.

He has publicly accused whites of bankrolling Mr Tsvangirai's fledgling opposition party, warning them that if they do not support the ruling Zimbabwean African National Union he will provide them with an armed escort "to the nearest border post".

Survivors of Saturday's attack in Marondera said that Mr Stevens appeared to have been deliberately targeted because he was a known supporter of the MDC. When another group of farmers tried to help him they were fired on and chased to a nearby police station, where they attempted to find refuge.

The police refused to help them, however, and supplied handcuffs which were used to manacle three of the men, who were then badly beaten.

Speaking from his hospital bed in Marondera one badly beaten survivor, Steve Krynauw, said that after they were robbed, stripped and assaulted he and neighborwere thrown onto the back of a truck and forced to lie under the corpse of their friend.

"They told us they'd kill us if we moved him," he said.

Since the murder, up to 80 white families are believed to have abandoned their farms in the Marondera area.

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Bloodied farmers tell of escape from a killer mob

Tuesday 18 April 2000

Steve Krynauw's right eye was bruised and half closed. His lips were swollen and encrusted with dried blood. His shirt was torn. He had walked barefoot through the bush for more than 16 kilometres, but he was alive.

Mr Krynauw and a fellow farmer, Gary Luke, had been kidnapped by "war veterans" from under the noses of Zimbabwean police.

With their arms and legs tightly bound, they were driven through the night. They were repeatedly beaten and threatened with death.

At one point they were made to lie blindfolded on the floor of a pickup and a corpse was thrown over them. It was the body of Dave Stevens, the man they had been trying to save when they were kidnapped. "He was ice cold," Mr Luke said.

Recovering at Hospital in Marondera, 65kilometres south-east of Harare, Mr Krynauw said: "I have a need to burst into tears now and again. We thought we were going to die."

The violence that led to the death of a white farmer - a moment many Zimbabweans have been expecting since the start of the land invasions two months ago - began on Friday night on the Stevens farm near the town of Macheke.

Mr Stevens was a known supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and his farm was invaded by squatters led by veterans of the war against white rule. Friends said his farm laborers had been "roughed up" by the squatters, but had attacked them and thrown them off the property the following day.

In other cases, the squatters have moved on, but this time they returned with reinforcements and firearms, apparently because some of them had been badly hurt in clashes with the farm laborers.

The squatters kidnapped Mr Stevens at gunpoint and drove him away in his own four-wheel-drive car. Mr Krynauw and Mr Luke were among five neighbors who answered an emergency radio call and arrived as the squatters were driving out.

They followed the kidnappers for 50 kilometres to the town of Murewa, but as they approached the war veterans' office, where Mr Stevens' car was parked, they were pursued by squatters. "We were shot at twice," Mr Krynauw said. "We went to the police station. About 15 or 20 war vets came into the police station. They had a rifle and a handgun. They took us out of the police building with constant assurances that we were going to be killed. The police just left us ... They were worried about what would happen to them if they did anything."

The farmers were separated. One of them, John Osborne, was thrown into a back room of the war veterans' office, where David Stevens was being held in handcuffs. "We were knocked about a bit," he said. "Then they put David and myself in a sedan car and drove through Murewa. We went down a dirt road for about two kilometres.

"Then they dragged us out of the car. They abused us. They beat us around. A woman nearby said she recognised me and said I should not be hurt because we helped out our communal neighbors quite a bit. A young guy said the same.

"They put me in the car, but they beat Dave very badly. Then they shot him with a shotgun. I was taken to the home of one of the respected families in Murewa. They looked after me until we could get transport to Marondera."

Mr Krynauw and Mr Luke had been taken from the war veterans' building in another car. "They found I was armed. That's where a lot of my beatings came from," Mr Krynauw said. "They said we were stupid for having followed them and for carrying a gun. Every time they stopped we got a beating ... I kept telling them that we were supporters of Zanu-PF (the ruling party) and `What do you want to kill us for?' In the last hour or two, they put us in a pickup. They put hats over our heads and tied them. They threw a body over us.

"Then the car broke down. They went away and said they would be back ... When we woke up at first light they were gone. The cords on our arms were very tight and it took a long time to get them off. We ... decided to head south through the bush. They had taken our shoes."

Sixteen kilometres later, the two exhausted men reached an abandoned farmhouse. They took a car and drove to a nearby farm, whose owner drove them to hospital.

The other kidnapped farmers, Stuart Gemmill and Ian Hardie, were also brought there after being tied up, beaten and left in a cave, from which they escaped.

Mr Krynauw, 52, who came to Zimbabwe from South Africa 46 years ago, said although he sometimes thought of leaving the country, "when all this is through, we should be OK again".


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Zimbabwe president tells white farmers he'll regain control in land crisis - cnn

April 17, 2000
Web posted at: 1:58 p.m. EDT (1758 GMT)

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe met Monday with leaders of the African nation's Commercial Farmers' Union, expressing regret over the death of a white farmer in weekend violence and promising to bring the chaotic situation under control.

"The president has given an undertaking to get things back to normality," CFU president Tim Henwood told reporters just hours after the talks.

Mugabe did not, however, say that he would order thousands of veterans of the former Rhodesia's war for independence -- which ended 20 years ago -- to leave the white-owned farms they have taken over in recent weeks.

Henwood said the president "indicated that something like that would happen" without expressly saying he would order police to comply with a High Court ruling that they must evict the squatters.

Mugabe supports the land grab, saying it is unfair that 4,000 whites own one-third of Zimbabwe's productive land, while most blacks have little land and live in poverty.

"We warned the white farmers, 'We cannot protect you if you provoke the war veterans,' " Mugabe said on Sunday after returning from a conference in Havana for developing nations.

Mugabe defended the takeovers, portraying the armed squatters as heroes fighting inequality of land ownership.

White farmers flee violence

But the standoff turned deadly over the weekend, when supporters of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party abducted David Stevens, 50, from his farm near Macheke, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital, Harare. The attackers drove the farmer into the bush, where they beat him and then shot him to death.

Five other farmers who came to Stevens' aid were also wounded, taking refuge in a police station until the attackers swarmed the station and abducted them as well.

"None of (the police officers) were prepared to assist us so that we wouldn't come to any harm," said Gary Luke, one of the farmers. "They beat us with iron bars, fan belts and rocks."

Two members of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Change were also killed in a firebomb attack over the weekend. The MDC has accused Mugabe of orchestrating the farm invasions to bolster the sagging support of his party ahead of national elections.

Mugabe has yet to schedule the new elections, despite the dissolution of the country's 150-seat parliament last Wednesday, when the legislators' five-year terms ended. The 76-year-old president has indicated he will call for elections in May.

The weekend violence prompted dozens of white farmers to abandon their farms, and many rushed to the British Embassy, where they registered to have their British citizenship restored to them. The farmers gave up their citizenship to remain in Zimbabwe when the government abolished dual nationality in 1985.

Battle for control 'an absolute tragedy'

Don McKinnon, head of the 54-nation Commonwealth -- a group of former British colonies -- said Monday the group was not considering a suspension of Zimbabwe over land grabs and violence. But McKinnon did say the battle for control of the impoverished country's farms was "an absolute tragedy."

McKinnon acknowledged that Zimbabwe needs land reform but said "that issue could be dealt with in a much more appropriate and legal way."

The Commonwealth supports democratic elections in the country ruled by Mugabe for 20 years, as do many of the farmers whose farms are now under squatter control.

Widow vows to work for election

"I feel very strongly that I have lost a husband for something we were fighting for," said Maria Stevens, widow of the farmer killed on Saturday. "David fought for a change, but he wasn't going to be a hero. I will continue doing everything I can so that we can get a democratic election."

Stevens said she had no intentions of returning with her four children to the Stevens farm, however, until she could be guaranteed safety.

"I don't know what will happen to the farm because I am not a farmer," she said. "But I have certainly not got any intention to leave Zimbabwe at the moment."

Maria Stevens, a Swedish citizen who met her husband while working for a Scandinavian aid agency in South Africa, said she held Mugabe's government responsible for her husband's death.

"It is not the people who did this that I blame," she said. "It is the government. The government brought it on."

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Analysis-Mugabe Election Strategy Splits Party, Country

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's embattled President Robert Mugabe risks a revolt in his government over a high risk election ploy combining seizure of white-owned farms and intimidation of the opposition, officials and analysts say.

They say the strategy is sponsored by a small number of cabinet ministers close to Mugabe and an equally tiny but powerful group in the security services.

"A majority of the people in the government don't support what is going on, and if things continue at this pace, we are going to see a confrontation in the government ranks over this problem," one senior government official said.

"Many of them are ashamed of what is going on and these people have been expressing their dissent by keeping quiet. But there are signs this is changing," he added.

Government sources said there was a heated cabinet debate last week over the continuing invasion of white farms by supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party, led by former guerrillas in Zimbabwe's 1970s independence war.


That meeting, which was held while Mugabe was in Cuba at a developing world economic summit, led Vice President Joseph Msika to order an end to the invasions and to urge ZANU-PF leaders to restrain supporters from intimidating the opposition.

ZANU-PF supporters have occupied at least 500 farms in the past two months and waged a campaign of violence which has claimed several lives, including a white farmer killed on Saturday. Dozens of farmers have been forced off their land, threatening a key sector of the country's economy.

Ahead of parliamentary elections expected in May, ZANU-PF youths and supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been clashing around the country in what Mugabe has described as an evil strategy by the MDC.

Many others blame the violence on government supporters.

When Mugabe returned home from Cuba Sunday, he said he would not order the veterans off the land, and said his supporters should hit their opponents so hard they would never forget who was the political boss.

"They have provoked a lion with a slap, and they will be devoured," he said to wild cheering from his supporters.

Analysts say the 76-year-old former guerrilla leader's militant supporters hope intimidation will help ZANU-PF ward off a strong challenge by the MDC, especially in urban areas, in parliamentary elections set for May but likely to be held later.


Analysts believe Mugabe is driving the land seizure program to draw attention away from economic collapse, rampant corruption, unemployment and acute fuel shortages.

"His calculation is that he will not have it easy if all these issues are allowed to dominate the election, so he has chosen his own campaign platform," said political analyst Masipula Sithole.

"But it is a high risk strategy because it does not have popular support in the party or the country," he added.

"It is divisive and open to challenge because some in his own party believe ultimately it will backfire," Sithole said.

Some of Mugabe's lieutenants turned on him in February when he suffered a crushing defeat in a referendum on a draft constitution which critics said was designed to entrench his rule.

They told him he was the party's greatest political liability, and urged him to retire. But a party source said he had declined, saying ZANU-PF's chances of surviving the elections would be worse without his leadership.

"He is behaving like an uncrowned absolute monarch. He is not even taking wise counsel from some of his own senior officials, and those are the seeds of self-destruction," said political analyst Emmanuel Magade.

Magade, a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said Mugabe was desperate but had painted himself into a corner.

"He has always played to the gallery of the gullible but that gallery is getting empty," he said.

Copyright 1999 Reuters.


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