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Hopes fade in 20 years since independence

Commentary by Robin Renwick

TWENTY years ago today Zimbabwe became independent, in ceremonies witnessed by a host of international dignitaries. Hopes were high.
At Lancaster House we managed to negotiate an agreement that ended a vicious war, established a ceasefire and enabled the first free elections to be held in the presence of international observers. Implementing that agreement was even harder than negotiating it and, as adviser to both of them, I am well placed to testify that Zimbabwe owed a huge debt to both Peter Carrington and Christopher Soames.

We felt proud of our achievement in ending a conflict in which white farmers and black Zimbabweans were being killed every week. But there was one point on which Christopher Soames and I, even at the time, disagreed.

He took a more optimistic view than I did of Robert Mugabe and, for a while, his optimism seemed justified. The new Government did attempt to achieve a degree of reconciliation between black and white. Great efforts were made to improve education and healthcare.

But during the liberation struggle, Mr Mugabe depended critically on terror as a political weapon. Village headmen who failed to co-operate with his Zanu-PF party were butchered in front of the villagers. Once he was installed as Prime Minister, the same weapon, terror, was used to crush Joshua Nkomo's supporters in Matabeleland. Today, the same weapon is being used in a desperate attempt to shore up a regime that has lost all significant public support.

The so-called veterans being incited by the President to occupy farms and attack white farmers in many cases were not even born when the liberation struggle ended. Many of Mr Mugabe's ministers are horrified at what has been happening. The rule of law has been destroyed in Zimbabwe by the President himself. He is as much responsible for the death of David Stevens as the thugs he incited to abduct him from his farm. At present, Mr Mugabe enjoys sovereign immunity. When he ceases to be President, it is to be hoped that he will be judged as worthy to stand trial as others responsible for atrocities have been.

Anyone who cares about Africa has watched in horror at the unfolding of this tragedy. Zimbabwe's economy has been destroyed. The world, meanwhile, administers rhetorical slaps on the wrist to the offender. Mr Mugabe has calculated that no external power, and no one inside the country, is going to be able to prevent him clinging to power by the most brutal means.

What, we may ask, is the reaction of the Commonwealth? If the organisation were worthy of its goals, or even its name, it would be discussing the suspension of Zimbabwe until fair elections are held, with international observers. The IMF and the World Bank until a month or two ago were still flirting with a regime that has reneged on every promise to them.Britain also has yet to take any action to show, other than rhetorically, its condemnation of what is happening. It is little use talking about an ethical foreign policy, unless we intend to apply it in cases such as this. Mr Mugabe will continue on his course until the world is prepared to do more to bring him to his senses. On the last occasion, his party was returned to power in an election in which only 29 per cent voted. The likelihood is that he will "win" the next election with an even lower turnout.

The world's reaction to that eventuality will be a test of whether we care about democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Africa, or whether these are just empty slogans for use in the communiqué after the next ritual meeting of European foreign ministers.

Lord Renwick was head of the Rhodesian Department in the Foreign Office and Ambassador to South Africa from 1987 to 1991

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Second White Zimbabwe Farmer Killed

HARARE, April 18 (Reuters) - A second white farmer was killed by supporters of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's land grab on Tuesday, the 20th anniversary of independence in the former Rhodesia.

Gloria Olds told Reuters by telephone from the farm Silverstreams, near the second city of Bulawayo, that her 42-year-old son, Martin, was murdered early on Tuesday.

"They killed my son. They beat him to a pulp," she said about four hours after Olds had phoned a neighbour saying he had been shot and wounded and needed an ambulance.

Neighbours said police forced a way through to the burning homestead, named Compensation, where Olds was found dead. It was not clear whether he died of the beating or the bullet wound.

Olds said her son had sent his paraplegic wife and his two teenage children to a sanctuary last Friday after he had heard that armed invaders planned to occupy his farm.

At least six people have now been killed - including Olds and another white farmer abducted from his home and shot on Saturday - since veterans of the 1970s war against white settler rule began leading squatters onto more than 600 white-owned farms.

President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party have backed the two-month-old veterans' campaign, launched in the run up to parliamentary elections expected in May.

In the latest violence, a farmer told Reuters he had received two calls from neighbour Olds, the first saying his farm house had been surrounded by 30 to 40 veterans and it "looked pretty serious."

"He phoned later to say he had been shot and could we call an ambulance," the farmer said.

He said an ambulance chartered to fetch Olds had been prevented from reaching the homestead, leaving him trapped and wounded and apparently alone in the house.

Neighbours who tried to approach the house were forced to retreat.

"There are about 100 of them there now. They have lined the road and are preventing anyone from approaching. The ambulance could not get in and nor could we," the farmer said before news came that Olds was dead.

Gloria Olds said she had been told that the war veterans arrived at her son's homestead around 5:15 a.m. in five cars and a minibus. She said a tractor and trailer brought more people to the farm later.

The farms are in Nyamandhlovu, about 500 km (300 miles) southwest of the capital Harare.

Thousands of veterans of the 1970s independence war have occupied hundreds of white-owned farms in an illegal bid to reclaim land they say was stolen from their forefathers by British settlers.

Violence flared at the weekend when farmer David Stevens was kidnapped, beaten and shot in the Marondera district near Harare.

Five friends who tried to go to his aid were abducted and beaten, but were released or managed to escape the next day.

Two opposition party officials were also killed at the weekend when their vehicle was firebombed, allegedly by ZANU-PF supporters. Earlier in the campaign a policeman and a pregnant woman were killed.

Tuesday's incident was the first reported near Bulawayo, the traditional stronghold of Mugabe's former rival Joshua Nkomo.

Nkomo later merged his ZAPU party with ZANU and served in Mugabe's cabinet until his death last year.

Farmers in the area say police there have been more helpful to white farmers during the two-month land invasion than police in the Harare area, who largely have refused to help them.

Copyright 1999 Reuters.

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White Farmer Killed on Independence Anniversary in Zimbabwe

April 18, 2000
Web posted at: 6:46 a.m. EDT (1046 GMT)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- As Zimbabwe celebrates 20 years of independence from Britain on Tuesday, another white farmer has been killed in the country's deepening crisis.

With the country suffering from its worst economic crisis and the violent occupations of white-owned farms, anniversary celebrations have been canceled. Instead, President Robert Mugabe made a televised address to the nation, a speech many hope will sort out the government's confusing messages on national policy.

In the latest outburst of violence, cattle rancher Martin Olds was shot and killed early Tuesday by men occupying his farm in western Zimbabwe, farmers' leaders said. Police later chased the squatters away from his ranch in Nyamandhlvu.

Chris Jarrett, a neighboring white farmer, said some squatters also were injured, and that they told police they had planned to attack him, Olds and another farmer. Jarrett began packing up his truck to evacuate his farm.

"These gentlemen are out to teach us a lesson," he said. "This thing will escalate until somebody takes a stand to stop it."

The incident comes three days after the killing of farmer David Stevens, a supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party.

The state news agency reported that police were searching for suspects in Stevens' killing and the beatings of five other white farmers abducted Saturday from a police station near the Macheke farming district, 75 miles east of Harare.

On Monday, Mugabe abruptly summoned white farm leaders to his office and promised to personally intervene to "to get things back to normality" on the white-owned farms, said Tim Henwood, head of the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents white farmers.

The official state news agency confirmed Mugabe's first meeting with farm union officials since the occupations began two months ago. But government officials declined to comment on the talks, and it was unclear whether Mugabe's reported promise marked a reversal of his support for the thousands of armed black squatters who have occupied more than 900 white-owned farms.

Until now, Mugabe has backed the occupations as a justified protest against unequal distribution of land in a country where 4,000 white farmers own one-third of the productive farmland.

The violence Saturday, including the killing of two black opposition party officials in a firebomb attack, escalated the crisis. About 80 farmers and their families evacuated from the Macheke district said Monday they would not return until their safety was guaranteed.

Henwood said the president expressed regret over Stevens' death.

"Perhaps the death of David Stevens has been a final catalyst to get some activity to restore law and order in our country," Henwood said. "There's been a major change. I have every assurance from the highest voice in the land."

The land occupations began Feb. 16, the day after the government suffered a crushing electoral defeat in a constitutional referendum. Part of the rejected constitution would have let the government seize white-owned farms without paying compensation, a law ruling party legislators passed anyway on April 6.

Opposition leaders said Mugabe planned the occupations as a political ploy to rally support for his party ahead of parliamentary elections expected to be held in May. David Hasluck, a senior farmers' union official, said the union has evidence that a top Mugabe aide, Provincial Gov. Border Gezi, toured northern Zimbabwe arranging for supporters to move onto white-owned land after the referendum.

Kerry Kay, whose husband, Ian, was one of the farmers bludgeoned by abductors, said his assailants openly boasted of their allegiance to the ruling party. Her husband was targeted as an outspoken opposition supporter, she said.

The government said it canceled the anniversary celebrations to save money that will instead be used to help victims of recent floods in southern and eastern Zimbabwe. However, it is widely believed that Mugabe called off the festivities because of fears of tiny crowds, political protests or violence.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.

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Farm Grabs "Unfinished Business," Zimbabwe Minister

LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean Information Minister Chim Utengwende said on Tuesday that the takeover of white-owned farms was unfinished business from the southern African country's liberation war.

A second white Zimbabwean farmer was killed on Tuesday as the crisis-struck nation prepared to celebrate 20 years of independence and black rule.

"What is going on in the country is a result of hundreds of years of racist oppression by the British settlers. What is happening now is the unfinished business of the liberation struggle," Utengwende told BBC radio from Zimbabwe.

Pressed by the interviewer, the minister made it clear that the "unfinished business" comment referred just to the farm takeovers, not the growing violence against white farmers.

"We don't support the attacks but we support the acquisition of land for redistribution and we support the peaceful demonstrations by the war veterans, not the attacks."

A white farmer and two members of Zimbabwe's fledgling Movement for Democratic Change were killed at the weekend amid a growing political crisis. Hundreds of white-owned farms have been invaded by war veterans and other supporters of President Robert Mugabe's land distribution plans.

Utengwende said: "Britain is very concerned about us. Somehow Britain still thinks we are a British colony."

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has sent his foreign minister to Zimbabwe to mediate in the country's diplomatic row with Britain.

Britain is pushing for what it calls the restoration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has said the Organisation of African Unity has promised to join the international pressure on Mugabe to resolve the issue.

Mugabe, in power for 20 years, says the farm occupations are the response to a historic injustice which left a few thousand white farmers owning the country's best land.

He has stopped short of ordering the squatters to quit the more than 500 farms they have occupied.

Zambia's founding father Kenneth Kaunda argued that Harare's problems stemmed from an unresolved issue.

He said the Lancaster agreement -- which delivered Zimbabwe's independence -- provided for a 10-year period after 1980 for the new government and Britain to deal with the problem.

Kaunda, interviewed by BBC radio on Tuesday, said: "We can see where this problem is coming from."

"Zimbabwe is now in a very difficult internal situation. What is required is an immediate forward movement on the part of all those involved, including the British government, to come together and find an answer before this thing deteriorates."

Asked what advice he would offer to Mugabe, Kaunda said: "Continue with what he started yesterday, meet the farmers, find an answer, speak to the British government, come together and the answer will be there."

Copyright 1999 Reuters.

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All Odds Against Zanu-Pf

Harare (The Insider, April 17, 2000) - Over the past two decades most Zimbabweans have been sitting on the sidelines, dejected, resigned because they believed that they could not change things.

The ruling ZANU-PF thrived on this. But the result of the referendum in February has changed all that.

The party is in complete disarray. Rules are being broken. The law is openly being flouted. And while it has always been a foregone conclusion that elections are a mere formality, this time, the "people's party", is not even sure it will win.

And if it wins, this is likely to raise suspicions.

According to a survey by the Helen Suzman Foundations 68 percent of the people in its poll said their lives had gotten worse in the past five years. Those worst affected were above 55 years with 76 percent of them saying their lives has gotten worse over the past five years.

This is the age group that is generally regarded as being loyal to the ruling party because they grew up in Rhodesia and know what hardships they faced under the Ian Smith regime. They did not foresee a better future over the next five years either with 64 percent saying so, one percent above the overall perception.

According to the foundation, the political anomaly of such figures is that ZANU-PF could have any hope of retaining power at all.

"In most democracies a 51 percent majority of all voters believing that life had got worse over the previous five years and an almost equally large group believing that this would continue, would sink any ruling party," the foundation says. "The potential drama of these figures is that if the electorate glimpses a serious alternative to ZANU-PF rule, it might simply bolt towards it.

This has begun to happen among younger, more urbanised and better educated voters. What is holding back such a process is not just ingrained loyalty to ZANU-PF and the fact that ZANU-PF support is strongest among the older and less educated rural dwellers, but that the emergence of such alternatives is so recent that their credibility and visibility are still in some doubt."

By Staff Writer

Copyright 2000 The Insider.

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Government Sponsoring Violence, Says NGO

Harare (Zimbabwe Standard, April 17, 2000) - The government is reluctant to control violence because the state itself is involved in sponsoring some of the violence, a local human rights group, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, has charged.

In a report entitled, Organised Violence and Torture in Zimbabwe, the group also raised concern about the use of violence and torture on members of the public by the police. It chronicled a number of reported cases of police brutality on the public from last year.

"When government itself shows no will to investigate or control state-sponsored violence and torture it is a signal to all state agencies that a degree of impunity exists.

"In Zimbabwe, impunity for genocide and gross human rights violations has been the norm rather than the exception," read part of the report.

The forum is a grouping of various non-governmental organisations who came together at the height of the 1998 food riots. The group wanted to provide legal assistance to people who were put in detention by the police due to the riots.

It also sought to assist victims of police brutality get damages from the state, as well as provide rehabilitation to some of the victiMs.

Last year the forum compiled a report on the food riots and sent a copy to the president advising him to order an inquiry into the riots and other cases of violence. In the face of the most exciting elections, Zimbabwe is embroiled in political violence, mainly involving the country's two major political parties-the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The labour-backed MDC is billed to hand Zanu PF its biggest election challenge in the country's history.

The country has also been hit by a breakdown of law, with some war veterans invading about 1 000 white owned farms. Although the High Court has ruled that the invasions are illegal and ordered Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri to evict the veterans from the farms, the veterans, inspired by the police's refusal to carry out the court order, are in fact invading more farms.

High Court judge, Justice Chinhengo, on Thursday dismissed, with costs, an application by the attorney general, Patrick Chinamasa, to amend the original order given by Justice Paddington Garwe. Justice Chinhengo said the police should evict the veterans as ordered by Garwe.

However, the forum claimed that the president was reluctant to open an inquiry into violence and deal with the problem.

By Farai Mutsaka

Copyright 2000 Zimbabwe Standard.

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White Farmer Shot in Zimbabwe Again

The Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Hours after a second white landowner was killed, President
Robert Mugabe told the nation today he was trying to broker a compromise to
end the occupation by black squatters of about 1,000 white-owned farms.

But Mugabe, in a televised address marking the 20th anniversary of Zimbabwe's
independence from Britain, presented no concrete solutions to the
increasingly bloody crisis and gave different speeches in different
languages, apparently trying to appease both sides of the conflict.

Squatters shot and killed cattle rancher Martin Olds today in Nyamandhlovu,
50 miles north of the western provincial capital Bulawayo. Olds, 42, had
initially survived being shot and beaten and called for help on a radio, but
his attackers kept medical workers away until it was too late, said David
Hasluck, director of the Commercial Farmers' Union which represents white

Another group of squatters today abducted Kevin Tinker, a white farmer and
opposition supporter, from his farm in Christon Bank, 10 miles north of
Harare, said Hendrik O'Neill, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic

Squatters also set David Stobart's farm ablaze in Enterprise Valley, 25 miles
north of Harare after getting into a fight with his workers.

The farmers' union was advising farmers to leave the area.

The attacks came three days after squatters shot to death David Stevens, a
white farmer and supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main
opposition party. Five other farmers who tried to help him were severely

In Mugabe's first version of his speech, delivered in English, he expressed
regret for the deaths and said farmer resistance to land reform has ``created
frustrations leading to the current spate of farm occupations.''

But in a second version of his speech, delivered in the native Shona
language, Mugabe thanked the occupiers, reportedly led by veterans of
Zimbabwe's independence war, for moving onto the farms.

Opposition leaders say Mugabe planned the farm occupations as a political
ploy to rally support for his party ahead of parliamentary elections expected
to be held in May.

Hasluck said his union has evidence that a top Mugabe aide, Border Gezi,
arranged for supporters to move onto white-owned land after voters on Feb. 16
rejected a referendum that would have let the government seize white-owned
farms without paying compensation. Ruling party legislators passed the law
anyway on April 6.

``This thing will escalate until somebody takes a stand to stop it,'' said
Chris Jarrett, a white farmer who lived near Olds.

Mugabe said land reform remains ``emotive and vexed'' and said he was talking
to the farmers and the war veterans to try to find a solution to the crisis.

About 4,000 white farmers own one-third of Zimbabwe's productive agricultural
land. Government plans to resettle landless blacks on some of that land have
foundered from corruption and government mismanagement.

``We can understand the frustration of the war veterans, just as we
understand the pressures faced by the commercial farmers,'' Mugabe said.

Mugabe also criticized Great Britain and the United States for failing to
help pay for land reform, which he called ``the last colonial question.''

Mugabe's televised speech came in place of the military parades, tribal
dances, sports displays and other anniversary celebrations that the
government said it canceled to save money. However, it is widely believed
that Mugabe called off the festivities because of fears of political protests
or violence.

Zimbabwe is suffering from its worst economic crisis with more than 50
percent unemployment and 70 percent inflation.

On Monday, Mugabe abruptly summoned white farm leaders to his office for
their first meeting since the occupations began two months ago and promised
to personally intervene to ``to get things back to normality'' on the
white-owned farms, said Tim Henwood, a farm union official.

An account of the meeting in the state-controlled Herald newspaper today made
no mention of Mugabe's reported promise to the farmers. The report said the
farmers reaffirmed their support for land reform in Zimbabwe and pledged to
keep their organizations out of politics.

The renewed violence includes the killing Saturday of two black opposition
party figures in a firebomb attack.

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