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Lions tame proud guerrillas

The reputed ability of Zimbabwean guerrilla war veterans to strike terror into the hearts of all before them took a blow this week when they encountered, from afar, a pride of lions (Jan Raath writes).

About 100 veterans marched on to the Malilangwe wildlife park, in the country's inhospitable southeastern Lowveld, in the latest conquest in their campaign purportedly to reclaim their birthright from white farmers, the independent Daily News reported yesterday.

"We heard the lions roaring from a distance," said Lloyd Muchineripi, one of the squatters. "We had to run for our lives."

He said that several of the squatters were injured in the ensuing stampede as they fled the area. "I am not going back to that farm," he said.

From I D Smith

PARIS, April 22 (AFP) 05:30 BST - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe would be "forced to yield to international injunctions" over the attacks on white farmers, former Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith told the French daily Le Figaro.

"Between those in charge of the United Nations and those of the Organisation of African Unity, the pressure is such that (Mugabe) will have to abandon his madness" he said in an interview published Saturday.

Smith unilaterally declared Rhodesia's independence from Britain before the country achieved internationally recognised independence as Zimbabwe in 1980.

He said he had not been surprised by the violence against the white farmers headed by veterans of the war for independence under black majority rule.

"It's the beginning of anarchy, planned and voluntary anarchy," said Smith. "But this situation has nothing to do with farming reform, the government has two million hectares of land. It doesn't even know what to do with it. President Mugabe's aim is to intimidate the voters before the coming election."

However he said he did not believe the violence would spill over into South Africa.

"The two countries are not really comparable," he said. "South Africa is much more powerful than Zimbabwe. The whites are also more numerous. Right from the start they have been able to play an important political role.

"And then, there are also differences between the men who govern us. Nelson Mandela talked of reconciliation. His successor Thabo Mbeki is a firm, pragmatic president who would never authorize what we are seeing today in Zimbabwe."

Smith said there had never been a "real policy of reconciliation" in Zimbabwe.

"Mugabe has always been anti-white," the former premier said. "He regularly repeats it. He has always tried to turf the Rhodesians out of their country. Today, some are leaving. He can only be satisfied. The proof is that he does absolutely nothing when farmers are killed and their wives are raped. The guilty parties are not even punished."

But Smith said he was not worried about his own safety.
"My family is worried, but Mugabe can't do anything against me," he said.

BBC: Saturday, 22 April, 2000, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Slain Zimbabwe farmer buried

Cathy Olds joined hundreds of mourners at her husband's funeral
Hundreds of mourners in Zimbabwe's second city Bulawayo have attended the funeral service of a white farmer who was shot dead on Tuesday by squatters.

Martin Olds was the most recent victim of the political violence which has broken out around the country, since supporters of President Robert Mugabe began occupying white-owned farm land last month.

Southern African leaders expressed support for Mr Mugabe during a regional summit meeting on Friday.

Further attacks on white farmers and their black employees were reported on Friday and Saturday.

Mr Olds was killed on Tuesday after more than 100 attackers, some armed with automatic weapons, overran his farm.

Mugabe 'criminal'

The priest conducting the service condemned President Mugabe as a criminal who stood for violence and anarchy.

Many of the 300 mourners were dressed casually having fled their farms with only the clothes they were wearing following the attack on Mr Olds.

One mourner expressed dismay at the outcome of the regional summit at Victoria Falls, saying the failure to condemn violence gave the green light to lawlessness throughout the region.

At the summit - which was convened to discuss the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo - South African President Thabo Mbeki called on foreign donors to fund Zimbabwe's land reform programme.

The other leaders attending the summit - Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique - supported Mr Mbeki's views, and there was no condemnation of Mr Mugabe's support for the illegal occupation of farm land.

'Historic unfairness'

The United Kingdom has said it is ready to discuss land reform in Zimbabwe, but land invasions and violence against white farmers must stop first.

Over the past two months, Zimbabwean Government supporters have illegally occupied more than 1,000 white-owned farms.

In an interview with the BBC, Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said the UK had recognised there was a historic unfairness about how land had been distributed in Zimbabwe since the end of colonialism.

He said international donors were ready to pick up discussions on land reform from where they had been left two years ago, once the occupations were over and attacks on the opposition ended.

"We can't engage in a proper discussion about land reform when that kind of murder and mayhem is going on," Mr Hain said.

Activist's funeral

On Friday, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, attended the funeral of opposition activist Tiochaona Chiminya in the southern town of Masvingo.

Mr Chiminya, who worked as a driver for Mr Tsvangirai, was killed in a petrol bomb attack which the MDC blames on government supporters.

"There is already a clear message that they [Mugabe's supporters] are going to kill to achieve their objective of crushing the MDC opposition, but it is a strategy that is not going to succeed," Mr Tsvangirai told the gathering.

At the same time several hundred people marched through the capital, Harare, calling for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Update 2-Police Make First Move onto Zimbabwe Farms

HARARE, April 22 (Reuters) - Police moved onto occupied farms in Zimbabwe on Saturday to free two abducted white farmers, in the first sign of a possible turnaround in the country's escalating land and political crisis.

Farmers in the Bindura area, 100 km northeast of Harare, told Reuters by telephone two farmers, whom they named as Ian Miller and Chris McGraw, had been abducted by self-styled liberation war veterans early on Saturday.

But shortly afterwards, they said police had moved in to release them in what was seen as the first successful police action since the state-sanctioned land-grab began nine weeks ago.

The moves came hours after three African presidents rallied behind Zimbabwe's beleaguered President Robert Mugabe on Friday and demanded that Western donors, including Britain and the United States, should fund a land redistribution scheme.

No specific plans were announced after the mini-summit at the Victoria Falls resort but a South African diplomatic source at the meeting said it was a successful first step towards defusing the crisis.

"Actually, the summit was a great success. We can understand that the West might have wanted the Southern African Development Community to condemn President Mugabe, but we can't do that.

"The Presidents were not there to support President Mugabe. We support Zimbabwe getting out of a difficult situation. This must not be personalised," the source told Reuters.

The source said the next step would be a visit to London by a senior Zimbabwe government delegation on April 27, when foreign funding for land distribution would be finalised.

While farmers manning communications centres reported the first signs of police intervention, violence continued against farm workers and one source said abandoned farms had been set alight near Harare.

Police in Harare confirmed that some additional policemen were being sent to white-owned farms being occupied by war veterans and supporters of Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.

A police spokesman said he had no details of how many police were involved or where they were going.

An official of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) said farmers who had evacuated family members to safety after two white farmers were killed by squatters would not move their families back without a guarantee of police protection.

"In some areas, police have moved in to look after farms and make sure that there are no further problems. They are just there to protect property and to stop looting," the CFU official, who did not wish to be identified, told Reuters.

"But we are not moving our families back onto the farms yet," the official said.

A black farm foreman and a policeman have also been killed since the land invasions began in February. Three others have died in political violence ahead of elections due by August.


In London, Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said Britain was ready to help fund land redistribution in its former colony, but only once the "murder and mayhem" perpetrated against the white farmers had stopped.

Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique said after the talks with Mugabe on Friday that Western governments should make good their promise at a 1998 donor conference to finance land reform.

"We think the donors, including Great Britain, have to deliver. They have to fulfil their commitments," Chissano told a news conference.

The chaos caused by the land invasions and the killings has plunged the southern African country, already reeling from economic hardship and a fuel shortage, into political turmoil.

Zimbabwe farmer Peter Rosenfels said he was shocked at the position adopted by the southern African leaders.

"We are shocked at Mbeki's reaction. He gave his full support to the criminal Mugabe," Rosenfels told Reuters at the funeral in Bulawayo of white farmer Martin Olds, who was killed on Tuesday.

"The president we had been looking forward to for support has deserted us," Rosenfels said.

Presbyterian minister Paul Andrianatos, who conducted the service attended by about 700 people, urged farmers to oppose Mugabe's party in the coming parliamnetary elections.

"I believe this government and the president are to blame. He (Mugabe) is a criminal. He is the enemy of the state. A vote for that party (ZANU-PF) is a vote for the devil," he said.

Zimbabwe says the country's one-percent white minority controls about 75 percent of the best farmland and a third of all the country's arable land. Farm organisations say the figure is closer to 40 percent.

Copyright 1999 Reuters.
Analysis-Zimbabwe Seen Close to Turning Point

HARARE, April 22 (Reuters) - A southern African mini-summit on regional problems failed to deliver an immediate end to Zimbabwe's crisis over the occupation of white-owned farms, but analysts believe it laid the foundation for its resolution.

Government sources in Harare and Pretoria said the presidents of South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique revealed little in their post-summit briefings of the agreement being put in place to pull Zimbabwe back from the brink of anarchy.

But political analysts said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was likely to heed pleas for an end to the violence of his supporters against white farmers in return for the promise of international funding for his land reform programme.

Police moved onto some occupied farms for the first time on Saturday to protect farmers or the homes left behind by those who have abandoned their properties.

While there was no sign of an end to the occupation of hundreds of white-owned farms by self-styled veterans of the former Rhodesia's 1970s war for independence from Britain, farm sources said there had been little new violence overnight.

Mugabe met South African President Thabo Mbeki, Namibia's Sam Nujoma and Mozambique's Joaquim Chissano on Friday to brief them on the crisis, which has seen two white farmers, a black foreman and a black policeman murdered by the invaders.

Mbeki, Nujoma and Chissano publicly praised Mugabe's handling of the crisis, but sources at the meeting in the Victoria Falls resort said they made it very clear in private that the violence had to end.

"On this account, out of respect for colleagues, the government is likely to move to limit the number of violent incidents on the farms," one government source told Reuters.

In South Africa, a government source said the visitors outlined plans to Mugabe for international funding for the redistribution of some land from whites to black farmers.

Calling the summit a major success, the source said: "The most important thing was to get the land issue out of the way. The resources are there. They have been committed."


The next step will be a meeting in London on April 27 between a Zimbabwe cabinet delegation and the British government to finalise terms for a resumption of international funding for land reform in Zimbabwe, the source added.

A Zimbabwe government source said: "I think something's going to happen very soon, and it will solve this problem."

But John Makumbe, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe, cautioned that regional pressure on its own would not force Mugabe to end the farm invasions and the violence.

"It has to be international and strenuous," he said, adding that Mugabe could be losing control of his militant supporters.

Mugabe has amended Zimbabwe's constitution to absolve his government from paying compensation for land seized from white farmers for black resettlement, saying London has a moral responsibility to correct land ownership imbalances created by British colonialism.

The 76-year-old former guerrilla leader, who has been in power since independence in 1980, argues that it is wrong for 4,500 white farmers to occupy 70 percent of Zimbabwe's best farmland while millions of blacks are crowded in unproductive districts.

Farming sources put the figure at closer to 40 percent.

Critics, including Britain and the United States which both funded Mugabe's first land programme in the 1980s after an informal agreement with Zimbabwe's black liberation movement, say Mugabe has grabbed most of the white farms for his cronies and government supporters.


Many Western donors have pledged to support a land reform programme that respects the rule of law and benefits the poor.

"I think Mugabe really believes the regional leaders are going to help him squeeze the money he has been looking for from Britain and the United States," said political analyst Alfred Nhema in Harare.

"But he will not order those occupying the farms off until he has the money in his pocket and can tell his supporters their land invasion programme has paid back handsomely," he told Reuters.

"It's his form of guarantee...and he needs the war veterans on the farms for elections," he added.

Political analysts believe Mugabe sponsored the invasion of white farms partly to intimidate and undermine the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which they say could topple his government in parliamentary elections expected in May.

The invasions have also helped to divert attention from the severe economic crisis blamed on government mismanagement which has provided the basis for MDC support.

Copyright 1999 Reuters.

UK to Fund Zimbabwe Reform if "Mayhem" Ends - Hain

LONDON, April 22 (Reuters) - Britain is ready to help fund land redistribution in Zimbabwe, but only once the "murder and mayhem" perpetrated against the country's white farmers has stopped, the Foreign Office said on Saturday.

"A genuine land reform what we have always been prepared to help fund, provided it is within the rule of law," Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said in a statement.

"We can't engage in a proper discussion about land reform when that kind of murder and mayhem is going on," he added.

Hain's comments came after South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique rallied behind Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, calling for international funding for a land redistribution programme to end the country's escalating crisis.

President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique told reporters after talks with Mugabe on Friday that Western governments should make good on their promise at a 1998 donor conference to fund the redistribution of farm lands mainly owned by whites.

Squatters and veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s war of liberation have occupied dozens of white-owned farms in a drive for land they say was stolen under British colonial rule.

"We think the donors, including Great Britain, have to deliver. They have to fulfil their commitments," Chissano said.

Hain said Britain, which ruled Zimbabwe until independence in 1980, had been ready to help fund the land redistribution programme since 1998, but that Mugabe had not taken up the offer.

"This has been on the table since 1998," Hain said. "We have been waiting since then for President Mugabe to pick it up. The violence should never have got in the way of progress of the 1998 programme."

The farm invasions and political violence ahead of elections expected in May have left seven people dead and many more have been hurt at the hands of the invaders and pro-government supporters.

Copyright 1999 Reuters.

MSIKA'S Wisdom Earns Him Boos in Byo

Harare (Zimbabwe Independent, April 21, 2000) - Abel Siwela's funeral in Bulawayo last weekend provided politicians with a handy platform. But consumer-resistance to this sort of opportunism is at an advanced stage it would seem.

Joseph Msika was booed when he hijacked the occasion to attack the MDC.

He had to cut short his address when he realised the Bulawayo congregation had no time for his cheap politics.

Zanu PF politicians, and in particular the president, have a long history of abusing funerals to treat their captive audiences to partisan and often downright unchristian viewpoints. As one member of the congregation at Siwela's funeral pointed out, Msika should call his own rally if he wanted to have one.

Matabeleland South governor Stephen Nkomo was evidently prepared to talk until the cows came home but the master of ceremonies had to tell him "time up".

John Nkomo made an intriguing remark. He said he had never had a problem with the city of Bulawayo except that it "tended to run too fast".

What could this mean, the congregation wondered?

Then he produced a gem: "We come here and speak good about Siwela when we have done nothing. This negative attitude must end."

Has Zanu PF got the message at last? That people are no longer amenable to their silly propaganda about the MDC seeking to restore colonialism? They should be careful on this score. If they continue to associate themselves and all the poverty and destitution they have caused with anti-colonialism, people will very quickly assume colonialism is a good thing! Do we really want that?

One of Msika's complaints at Siwela's funeral was that the government-owned Chronicle declined to publish the idiotic story about a plot involving the MDC and the country's alleged enemies.

"We gave copies to the Herald and the Chronicle but the Chronicle did not publish it," Msika complained.

What does this tell us about the Herald? Here was a story that was so patently false that even Zanu PF's most loyal supporters could see it. It had all the tell-tale signs of being a crude forgery put together by either very junior intelligence officers or war veterans.

As the MDC pointed out at their news conference (which the Herald declined to report), they would have at least produced a literate document!

It contained statements that were actually quite funny. For instance, one of the MDC's allies is alleged to be something called the "Democratic Party of South Africa (specific (sic) the Tony Leon/Terry Blanch (sic) Group on the Preservation of Civilisation in Southern Africa States)".

Is "Terry Blanch" any relation of Eugene Terreblanche we wonder? And as there is no known link in South Africa between these somewhat divergent politicians, or indeed any "preservation" organisation going under that name, the authors of the document must be congratulated on their inventiveness!

The document's "proposals" relating to the immediate repeal of the War Veterans Act, the abolition of the Social Dimensions Fund because it was "a reward for lazy workers", and the appointment of equal numbers of blacks and whites in the security forces high command gave the game away. So did the silly "plan" to create shortages and social unrest.

Isn't that exactly what Zanu PF is doing - creating shortages and unrest? And hasn't the Social Dimensions Fund already been looted? The whole document is written in the crass language of Zanu PF and reflects the party's current claims about the opposition. It is unlikely to be believed by anybody with even a modicum of intelligence - which of course rules out Chen Chimutengwende who communicated this blatant forgery to the press!

We are glad those who have been defamed by it are taking appropriate action.

The US embassy called it "a crude fabrication". We are also glad the Ministry of Information has exposed its role as an agency for propagating Zanu PF lies.

Is it now prepared to face up to the consequences? Instead of lecturing the press on what they may or may not say about the president, as he was doing last weekend, Willard Chiwewe should be concerning himself with the zero credibility of his department.

At least the Chronicle could see what was going on.

But did the Herald, having fallen for this ministerial deception, not have a professional duty to publish the MDC's statement the following day denying the existence of such a plot, or seek statements from the other organisations cited in the document?

However "bought" the state media may be, surely it recognises that when it publishes defamatory allegations about a person or party, it has some sort of obligation to seek comment from those affected? Meanwhile, expect a deluge of letters from CIOs masquerading as readers saying how "shocked" they are to learn of this alliance between the MDC and the country's enemies. Some "reverends" who have remained deafeningly silent on state-sponsored farm murders can be expected to join in.

Jonathan Moyo showed us just how counter-productive Zanu PF propaganda can be when he appeared on the SABCTV news last Sunday night. He was speaking from Harare in reply to points made by Tony Leon in the Johannesburg studio.

The matter of land invasions was political, he said in the language of his masters, and could not be compared to the "mere technicalities" of a judicial order. Leon replied that governments which broke their own laws risked regional isolation.

Both he and the interviewer asked if Moyo was a member of Zanu PF when he was posing as a political analyst.

Moyo dodged this question the first time but was obliged to confess when the interviewer insisted that he do so. The interviewer also had to bring order to the proceedings when Moyo, thinking he was writing an article for the Sunday Mail, started to insult Leon.

"It's people like you." he started ranting before the interviewer firmly shut him up.

Moyo concluded by stating that Zimbabwe had been a sovereign state for 20 years and needed no advice from others about the rule of law. It was what the majority wanted that mattered, he insisted. But Leon pointed out that Zimbabwe was in breach of solemn treaties it had concluded with Sadc and the Commonwealth.

"It is your own agreements we are asking you to adhere to," he maintained. Moyo looked livid!

The Herald this week was explaining that the MDC was unacceptable because "the majority feel its survival threatened".

Like Moyo, the Herald is unable to appreciate that the majority spoke in a referendum recently. The government's claim to be wielding a majority was disproved and discredited in a democratic test of opinion.

But it still uses its spurious majoritarian stick to beat minorities. Why doesn't the Herald comment on state-funded militias murdering farmers and MDC supporters and terrorising their families? What about the history of the man behind it?

It is not the majority that feel its survival is threatened but a bankrupt political elite for which Moyo and the Herald are the spokesmen! And it's a bit rich for the Herald to be attacking MDC leaders for "trotting the globe" just a day after Mugabe returned from another of his globe-trotting trips.

Why, by the way, is it alright for Mugabe to beg for money from the Chinese and Kuwaitis but not for Tsvangirai to seek funds in the UK? The refusal of the regime's spokesmen to recognise certain glaring contradictions is reflected in a Foreign ministry statement reported on December 30 but now conveniently forgotten.

"It is a total negation of Africa's aspirations for peace, security, good governance and stability in the new millennium as clearly spelt out by the OAU summit in Algiers. The Government of Zimbabwe condemns this illegal action and calls for the early restoration of constitutional order and legality in the Ivory Coast."

Why should legality be confined to the Ivory Coast?

Similarly, when told that squatters were carving up land and selling plots at a prime property development near Harare airport last week, Hitler Hunzvi replied: "That's illegal."

He was obviously following the example of Patrick Chinamasa who believes it is okay for the government to pick and choose which laws it wants to obey.

Oppressive colonial laws can be ignored, Chinamasa suggested.

So where does that leave the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act then? Can we safely assume any prosecutions currently underway will be dropped?

The former Zipra commanders who placed their views on record this week must be congratulated.

They dissociated themselves from the "acts of wanton destruction of property, abuse of human rights, and the breakdown of law and order across the country".

The police had a duty to uphold the law without fear or favour, they said.

"The credibility of the current farm invasions is further compromised by those people who purport to be the leaders of the war veterans," the Zipra commanders said.

"There is no evidence that they played roles they claim to have in the liberation struggle."

"Perhaps this explains their manifest lack of discipline," they said.

That and money from the public purse! It is good to see a distinction between genuine war veterans and Mugabe's blood-soaked mercenaries.

Muckraker was amused by the flying visit to Zimbabwe of Professor Austin Chakaodza who heads a one-man-and-his-dog party called the Front for Popular Democracy.

During his visit he was given inordinate state-media coverage because he attacked the MDC as too closely connected to Britain.

Chakaodza should know about close attachments to Britain. He lives there! Needless to say, this fact wasn't disclosed during any of his briefings.

Muckraker is delighted that Dr Callistus Ndlovu is getting a good boot up the backside from the voters of Bulawayo.

His 1985 remarks about Zapu being a dead donkey have now come back to haunt him.

Zanu PF turncoats may have been able to kick dirt in the face of the people of Matabeleland when they had powerful sponsors in the 1980s. Now the jongwes are coming home to roost.

The people of Bulawayo don't want MPs who run with the hares and hunt with the hounds.

Congratulations by the way to Edward Simela on his adoption as a candidate. He is the sort of new blood that is needed by Zanu PF, a grassroots activist concerned with civic issues who has built bonds across the social divide.

Elsewhere, the party is advertising its young blood when in some cases all it has got are young thugs as evidenced by Tyson Kasukuwere's involvement in the Mt Darwin political disturbances! It has also got itself some young thieves to complement the old ones. One of them was shown on TV this week accusing white farmers of being corrupt.

Viewers will have felt this was an obvious case of the pot calling the kettle black!

Meanwhile, readers have been alerting Muckraker to the number of senior Zanu PF luminaries who do not match the president's pure-blooded membership policy.

They are incensed at his remarks dismissing the people of Mbare and other high-density suburbs as totem-less spirits. A little research apparently would reveal a number of high-level Malawians and Zambians posing as Zimbabweans.

Mugabe should be warned about this pogrom, our informants say.

When Adolf Hitler insisted on an Aryans-only policy in 1930s Germany a number of prominent Nazis had to quickly cover their Jewish antecedents!

Simon Muzenda has meanwhile found an excuse for clinging to office and the good life - meaning bank loans which don't have to be repaid. He will stay to see land redistributed, he said last weekend in a bout of crude demagoguery.

You have to admit that was uncharacteristically quick thinking. But it won't impress any except the captive peasant audience shown on ZTV on Monday looking as if they had heard it all before.

Maud might be "beautiful and strong". But the old goat should be put out to graze.

We are often told to emulate Malaysia and its premier Mahathir Mohamad's policy of "we can do it" and national record-breaking.

But things turned sour for Mahathir recently when a team of Malaysian skydivers returned from Antarctica to be greeted as the first Asians to parachute over the South Pole.

There were red faces when it was revealed they had in fact landed 1 000 miles away in western Antarctica. Sounds like another record in the "wide of the mark" category!

By Muckraker

Copyright 2000 Zimbabwe Independent.

Inflation Rate Surges to 50,8%

Harare (Zimbabwe Independent, April 21, 2000) - Inflationary pressures burst the bubble to spark a 9,2% month-on- month surge in the rate of inflation which gained 1,9 percentage points to reach 50,8% year-on-year for the month of March from 48,9% in February, the Central Statistical Office has said.

This is the first increase in year-on-year inflation this year after a downward trend that followed an all-time peak of 70,4% in October 1999.

The increase was despite the fact that the rate was calculated from a large base of inflation at 52,8% in March 1999. The year-on-year rate of inflation is given by the percentage change in the all-items index over a period of 12 months.

Some economists said the economy should now watch a tightening of interest rates, which, instead of softening after last year's upward spiral, was likely to move up in sympathy with rising inflation rates.

Others said the relationship between inflation and interest rates was no longer that perfect, and therefore the latest surge may not weigh in on interest rate movements in a significant manner.

"If you watch closely you will realise that interest rates were determined more by government borrowing than by inflation. The relationship between interest rates and inflation is no longer as perfect as it used to be - we would have seen the rates coming down when inflation rates started moving downwards," said Newton Madzika, an economic consultant with Eco- fin, an independent economic and financial think- tank.

The 9,2% increase in the rate of inflation month-on-month in March was a 4,7 percentage points increase on the February rate of 4,5% and this reflected a significant increase in the rate of change in prices, the CSO said.

"This is just too high when compared with some of our trading partner countries which are registering increases as low as 2% for the whole year. This will add pressure on our currency," said a local bank economist.

Of the 9,2% month-on-month increase in March, food prices accounted for 3,7% and non-food items 5,5%.

Food inflation, prone to transitory shocks, stood at 46,4%, gaining 5,8 percentage points on the February rate of 40,6%% while non-food inflation stood at 54,2%, shedding 1,7 percentage points on the February rate of 55,9%.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) uses non-food inflation in its determination of monetary policy.

Some analysts were convinced that the latest inflationary round was going to push inflation up despite the softening of non-inflation rate.

"We could see interest rates rising - it's a possibility. The central bank's desire to see rates softening will be limited by the recent surge and this is the beginning of an upward trend in inflation rate movement," said a local bank analyst.

Copyright 2000 Zimbabwe Independent.

Last rites for a white tribe? - The Age: Australia
By ED O'LOUGHLIN HARARE - Sunday 23 April 2000
In South Africa, they call them "whenwees", from their alleged habit of beginning far too many conversations with the phrase "when we were in Rhodesia ..."

The 1979 Lancaster House agreement that ended minority rule in Rhodesia also prompted a massive exodus of the country's privileged whites, most of them reluctant to even think about putting up with the imminent barbarism of government by blacks. Most went to South Africa or Britain - where many were born - while others headed east to Australia and New Zealand.

The demise of Ian Smith's independent Rhodesia, 15 years after it declared independence from Britain to fend off pressure to end minority rule, led an estimated 200,000 whites to believe they had no future in the country. Twenty years later, as President Robert Mugabe allows his party's thugs to murder, rob and rape white people with impunity, many of the 70,000 who stayed on are beginning to feel the same way.

This past week, hundreds of white Zimbabweans queued up in the British High Commission in Harare to apply for British passports and register for possible evacuation should things get worse. In outlying areas, families abandoned their farms and sought refuge in towns, convinced by the murders of two of their colleagues last week that when Mugabe's gangs of "war veterans" came for them they could expect no help from the police.

On Tuesday, hours after the murder of Matabeleland cattle rancher Martin Olds, an unrepentant President Mugabe used his independence day television broadcast to denounce white farmers as the "enemies of Zimbabwe".

The leader of his party's liberation war veterans' association, Dr Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, continued to issue apocalyptic threats against the lives of anybody who stood in the way of "veterans" seeking to grab white land.

"The whites here in this country, they are not changed," he said in an interview last week. "They are not transformed. They are racists. They don't want to share with other people the benefits or the gains of independence ... When we said they should share the gains of independence they started grouping themselves behind this MDC (the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe's burgeoning opposition party) ... That is not a black man's party, it is a white man's party that is trying to protect the white man's land. If a white man thinks his home is in Britain then he should not have a home in Zimbabwe."

Under the circumstances, the lost army of the whenwees, looking back from London or Perth or Durban, might easily be forgiven for muttering "we told you so".

For a very long time, however, the position of whites in Zimbabwe looked nothing like so bleak. Wynand Breytenbach, a white farmer from the Virginia region east of Harare, remembers meeting President Mugabe in a country club near Marondera shortly after he came to power in 1980. "He told me that President Sonora Machel (of Mozambique) had once said to him that they must not make the same mistake that they made in Mozambique and chase the white farmers away," said Mr Breytenbach. "Mugabe actually turned to me and said, `We need you in this country.' In those days, of course, he was very conciliatory in his speech."

In 1989, Martin Olds of Nyamandhlovu farm near Bulawayo was decorated by President Mugabe for his bravery in rescuing a man from a crocodile on Lake Kariba. On Tuesday, his farm was surrounded by a gang of government supporters - armed with AK47 rifles that farmers allege came from government stores - and the erstwhile national hero was burned out, beaten and shot dead. The police say they have found no leads.

Many commercial farmers complain that lands now being occupied by pro-government veterans with Mr Mugabe's encouragement were bought after independence in 1980, when the Zimbabwean African National Union leader went around the country appealing to white farmers to stay and put their skills and capital at the disposal of the state. Today, the same farmers are being told that, because of their skin color, they stole the land from its rightful black owners, and it is time to hand it back.

"We are not wanted here," says Mr Breytenbach. "We love this country dearly, but if you are not wanted in a place why waste your time and energy? Whenever something goes wrong the whites get blamed, just to distract attention from the government's own mess-ups."

Yet for all the gloom and occasional panic, few observers expect the kind of mass exodus of whites that occurred towards the end of the liberation war - for the present, at least.

For one thing, those who have remained in Zimbabwe already represent the tenacious hard core of the old Rhodesia's white population. And for all Mr Mugabe's desperate attempts to use racial scapegoating as a vote-winner in forthcoming elections, the signs are clear that most black Zimbabweans do not want them to go. Two months ago, opinion polls suggested that two thirds of Zimbabweans wanted a change of government, and Mr Mugabe's popularity is widely believed to have plunged still further since then.

The main factor in his decline is public anger at his government's corrupt and incompetent handling of the national finances, and the public seems to be well aware that the country's 4000 white commercial farmers are the backbone of what is left of the economy. Farmworkers, however poor and badly paid, have learned from past experience that they will get no share of any land seized or acquired by the government from their white bosses.

"If the veterans come the whites will go and we will lose our jobs," said John Mushore (name changed for his security), a farm worker from the Virginia valley, abandoned by whites after farmer David Stevens was murdered there last weekend.

"They say we must join with them if we want to get land, and they must write our names down. But they are charging $100 for this registration. This money is for them."

The up and coming leader of the MDC, former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai, has repeatedly pledged his party to fight racism and defend the human rights of all Zimbabweans, black and white, and several of the party's senior organisers are white.

At a recent rally in the Norton district, a crowd of 2500 black Shonas cheered loudly when Mr Tsvangirai said that whites should not only stay in Zimbabwe, but that more should be encouraged to come to the country and invest there.

Many observers believe it is the white community's decision to abandon its old political fence-sitting and back the MDC that has spurred Mugabe into launching the current wave of violence against it.

Ian Kay, the first farmer to be badly assaulted by war veterans, and Mr Stevens, the first to be killed, both appear to have been singled out because they were known supporters of the MDC. Sources within the Commercial Farmers Union now say they have identified members of the state's Central Intelligence Organisation who were involved in the attacks on both men.

Five Virginia farmers who war veterans abducted from a police station and tortured reported later that their assailants made no mention of land reform during their prolonged ordeal but instead abused them for supporting the MDC. And two young white women who were gang-raped on Tuesday night said their attackers - apparently squatters from a nearby farm - made no mention of the land issue but repeatedly taunted them for allegedly supporting Mr Tsvangirai's party.

According to John Makumbe, a political scientist from the University of Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe's strategy - at least in part - seems to be to try to intimidate whites into withdrawing their financial backing from the opposition so he can hold on to Parliament in elections scheduled for next month.

Certainly, the land violence seems to be at its worst in areas where government support is thought to be marginal. Reports from the Marondera area suggest that after the war veterans drive farmers off the land, activists from ZANU-PF are moving in to try to bully and cajole their workers into renouncing the MDC - a reprise of the tactics Mr Mugabe's commissars used successfully in the chimurenga, or liberation war.

Professor Makumbe believes that if Mr Mugabe can win the election - in any case he expects massive rigging of the polls - the pressure on the white community will be sharply and immediately reduced.

"It's not really correct to say there's no future for whites in Zimbabwe," he says. "The present crisis is only here because Mugabe wants the land because he wants the vote of the rural folk. Nobody is attacking the businesses which whites own in urban areas, or on the mines."

Despite Zimbabwe's origins in a brutal 19th century colonial land grab and a ruthless Cold War guerrilla struggle, Professor Makumbe believes that race relations in the country have never been better. Antipathy towards whites is limited largely to those in government who still find it convenient to project themselves as ethnic freedom fighters.

"Race relations in Zimbabwe are much better than they are in South Africa, for example," he says. "Things are much more cordial, with far more mixing and socialising between races than you would find in South Africa, and much more business being done together. In South Africa it's still rare to see a white person boarding a public bus full of blacks, whereas here in Zimbabwe nobody would look twice."

In Zimbabwe, the attacks by veterans with presidentially guaranteed impunity have claimed only two lives. In South Africa, where farmers have a reputation for being more likely to abuse workers physically and economically, dozens of farmers are killed every year in attacks that often seem to mix robbery with racial revenge. Last week, employees on Martin Olds' farm wept as his body was carried away.

According to Professor Makumbe, whites who stayed loyal to Zimbabwe after independence have until now been well-rewarded. " "They are some of the most comfortable people in the world really. Where in Australia can you afford a gardener who lives on your property and a housemaid and a cook? Even in urban areas a lot of people have that level of luxury ... I think a very foolish white will leave Zimbabwe at the moment. If they go to South Africa they will find a very different ball game."

Pro-Mugabe mobs attack opposition supporters

Mobs of pro-government activists launched an Easter campaign of violence in Zimbabwe yesterday, broadening theirattacks on white farmers toassaults on grassroots opposition supporters and even non-partisan families in townships and rural settlements.

Farm workers in areas near the capital, Harare, which whites fled earlier in the week, were selected for attacks ranging from intimidation to the deployment of troops to physical violence, said sources. The incidents, which included the burning of huts, were centred on Marondera, Arcturus and Wedza, north and east of Harare.

The campaign coincided with the launch by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of a leaflet drive called Let's Go Home, in which workers returning to their villages were encouraged to spread information about the opposition party. People in many remote rural areas, who have access only to state radio and cannot read or afford to buy newspapers, have not heard of the MDC.

In Nyamapanda, in the north-east of Zimbabwe, some 200 civil servants were reportedly rounded up and chased from their homes by people wearing T-shirts of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF). They were accused of supporting the MDC.

The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, made a defiant speech at the funeral yesterday of Tichaona Chiminya, his driver, who died with another person in a firebomb attack on his car last Saturday.

Mr Tsvangirai, who was in London at the time of the attack, said: "There is a clear message – they are going to kill to achieve their objective of crushing the MDC. But they will not succeed.'' The growing violence, which has claimed at least six lives in 1,000 farm occupations and firebomb attacks, comes as President Robert Mugabe was being placed under international pressure to set a date for delayed parliamentary elections.

The President met other southern African leaders yesterday at the Zimbabwean resort of Victoria Falls, where they intended to press him to defuse the crisis, which they fear will damage investment in the region. Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, telephoned Joaquim Chissano, the Mozambican President, to enlist him as a mediator in the crisis.

Mr Chissano discussed the unrest with Mr Mugabe. He also talked with the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, and the Namibian leader, Sam Nujoma. Mr Cook said he and Mr Chissano agreed that the farm invasions must end before the issue of land reform could beaddressed.

Mr Cook said: "If President Mugabe is really concerned about the future of his country and the future of his people, it's time he started to assess the enormous economic damage he is doing to his people as a result of the current breakdown of the rule of law."

Yesterday there were a number of reports that the mobattacks and roadblocks, ostensibly led by veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war, were being carried out with the support of soldiers in the presidential guard of the Zimbabwe Defence Force. The guard incorporates the Fifth Brigade, which in the 1980s was responsible for mass killings of civilians and opposition activists in the south-western Matabeleland province.


'I listen to Mugabe now and it breaks my heart'

What makes me bitterly sad now," Lady Soames says, "is that on the eve of Mugabe's great victory, we heard that all over Salisbury [as it was] there were hundreds of families ready to leave. They felt so insecure at this, to them, horrific election result - their cars with tanks full of petrol, belongings packed up."

But when Mr Mugabe addressed the people, he spoke in such measured tones - about reconciliation, and unity, about past wrongs being forgiven, and a future multiracial community - that many who were planning to leave decided to stay.

"When I listen to what he says now and when I see what is happening, it nearly breaks my heart. And if I am heartbroken, I can't think how deeply Christopher would feel about all this."

It was never a disadvantage for Christopher Soames to be accompanied by the vibrant daughter of Winston Churchill, who could always win people over and smooth ruffled feathers, and at 77 still can.

The Soames went out to Rhodesia at a dangerous moment, before the ceasefire. Margaret Thatcher later declared: "I knew when I saw Mary was going that it would be all right". ("How tiresome," says Lady Soames now. "Kind, but tiresome.")

At Government House, a rambling, Dutch-gabled, colonial bungalow surrounded by gardens, the Soames lived over the shop, with the Foreign Office delegation based on the same site. Her meticulously kept scrapbooks for that year show the Governor's gregarious wife travelling all over the country. "Here I am looking at the ruins of a hospital, destroyed in the senseless destruction, and here at a refugee camp on the border of Botswana. There we are swimming in Lake Kariba which I later heard contains crocodiles."

The four-month helter-skelter of events, from December 13 to April 18, 1980, seemed much longer "because the film was running so fast. It was a period of intense anxiety and I don't think I've ever seen Christopher so tense and wrought, and unable to sleep."

Luckily, the British and Commonwealth soldiers accompanying them were young veterans of Cyprus and Northern Ireland. "I think that paid off in trumps in the assembly areas, when they were sometimes outnumbered 4,000 to one by armed guerrillas. One false move, one over-excited shot and the whole thing might have gone up. But God was with us, and the cool calm of those soldiers."

Shortly before the election, Soames invited Mr Mugabe, then the Marxist guerrilla leader, to come alone to Government House.

"There was a long trestle table in the Governor's office, but instead of facing each other across the table, as usual, they sat as we're sitting now, on either side of the fireplace. That meeting was crucial. Christopher was very plainspoken. He made it clear to Mugabe that he must control his people, that stories of intimidation were rife. And that it would be very bad for the election if my husband was forced to proscribe constituencies because of intimidation."

The intimidation has always been a source of criticism. "The election result was not a close run thing, but a tidal wave, and there's no doubt that in a rough and ready way the will of the people was accomplished. The election was monitored by Commonwealth observers and passed off without violence," Lady Soames says. "But I remember Christopher saying to a journalist who brought up the question of intimidation, 'Yes, but you know this isn't Little Puddleton-in-the-Marsh'."

The moderate Bishop Muzorewa, who succeeded Ian Smith as Prime Minister, was regarded in the election by most blacks as the white man's poodle. "It was no good predicating a perfect plan, you had to work with the people you had, in the conditions you had, and with the passions that had been aroused. I think largely because of Mugabe's victory speech, and indeed his actions thereafter, confidence was largely restored."

Many people did leave, but there was no stampede. Mr Mugabe had been in Mozambique, so he knew how awful it was on the morrow of Mozambique's independence, when the Portuguese just fled, and the whole infrastructure collapsed.

"It's so sad to recall, now, the flood of goodwill for the newborn Zimbabwe. Everybody wanted it to succeed. My husband esteemed Mugabe as a clever, able man, and when we left he never stopped trying to rustle up support and investment for Zimbabwe."

They returned home to a grateful Mrs Thatcher on the Heathrow Tarmac. Since independence Lady Soames has been back at least five times. The Mugabes flew over to Lord Soames's funeral in Hampshire in 1988, and Lady Soames went to Mrs Mugabe's funeral in 1992. "I often wonder, if she'd been alive, whether she would have had a restraining influence."

Lady Soames knows many third and fourth generation farming families, employing hundreds of people, contributing to the prosperity of the "breadbasket of Africa". Her friends, the Travers family, developed their farm and wildlife reserve into a great game park, Imire, where the black rhino, an endangered species, is bred, attracting ecologists and tourists.

On her last visit she visited a rose farm, owned by a South African woman, managed by black and white. "From the start I've watched black and white people working harmoniously together, which was wonderful when you recalled the bitterness of the conflict.

"But who's going to invest in Zimbabwe now? The whole economic structure is crumbling, God knows what the Zimbabwe dollar is worth. These things can't be restored overnight. Quite apart from the desperate human considerations."

Of course, it wasn't perfect, she concedes, but Zimbabwe has remained stable for years, even when the economy faltered. "The land problem was a source of deep-seated discontent, and in the course of the struggle for liberation, Mugabe undoubtedly promised that his veterans would inherit the earth. It was always understood there should be reform and resettlement, and the farms should not be expropriated but bought at a fair price. That was proceeding, but, perhaps, not quickly enough."

She adds: "But I just don't recognise, today, the Robert Mugabe of 1980, or even of two years ago.

"It's as if some demon has seized him. I can only think it must be related to the fact that he took a bit of a putdown in the referendum [in February to amend the constitution to allow him to remain in power for another 12 years and to seize white farms without paying compensation]. I don't lose friends lightly, but I feel desperately sad about it now. And disillusioned."

President's 'brownshirts' lay waste the wealth of the land means of support

Zimbabwe: special report

Andrew Meldrum in Enterprise
Saturday April 22, 2000

As our vehicle approached the roadblock about 30 men jumped up, and one motioned us to come closer. We thought better of it and began to turn round. The men ran at us, brandishing clubs and sticks in a most menacing way. We managed to drive off with only a thump on the back of the truck from a thrown stone.

Supporters of President Robert Mugabe had closed Chifumbi Road, 25 miles north-east of Harare. They were almost certainly some of the 200 men who burned down the homes of 1,000 farm labourers on Thursday and beat to death the farmer's dogs and other domestic animals. It did not seem wise to try to speak to them.

"They asked me what political party I support," said Tendai Badza, a young man walking along the road. "I said 'I back the ruling party,' so they let me pass."

We later discovered that Mr Badza was one of the invaders of a nearby farm.

Uniformed policemen less than half a mile away were told of the roadblock and merely shrugged.

The men at the roadblock stopped journalists visiting the Atlanta and Rudolfia farms, which were invaded and vandalised on Thursday.

Alan Windrum, the owner of Rudolfia farm, was Zimbabwe's biggest tomato producer, employing 1,000 workers, and a supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"He spent millions of [Zimbabwe] dollars building those homes, putting in water, sewage and electricity. He looked after his labour well," said Horace Kirton, who works with farmers in the area.

"Windrum left his farm to Mugabe's invaders. Now look what they've done, they've destroyed valuable property. They've destroyed the belongings of poor farm workers.

"Now 5,000 people are homeless. They are not doing this to get land. They are doing this to frighten people from voting for the MDC."

The roadblock contradicts the assurances given by Mr Mugabe and the war veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi on Wednesday that there would be no more violence against white farmers.

Mr Mugabe said it would be safe for the farmers to return to their farms without any special police protection.

His public statement may have been for the benefit of the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, and other international leaders concerned about the increasing breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. On the ground though, his followers are still on the warpath.

The Chifumbi roadblock was not an isolated incident. Similar roadblocks have closed access to white farming areas in Enterprise, Arcturus, Macheke, Murehwa and Wedza, in central Zimbabwe. Since two white farmers were killed, increasing numbers of farming families have fled their homes.

It is reported that workers on the big farms are being beaten and their homes ransacked by the invaders, many of whom are armed. They accuse white farmers, motorists and farm labourers of supporting the MDC.

They have closed the Nyamapanda border post, north-east of Harare, saying that the customs officers there support the MDC, the Daily News has reported. The post lies on the main road from Zimbabwe to the city of Tete in Mozambique, and to Malawi.

Although large areas of Zimbabwe are lawless, the rest of the country appears eerily normal. A couple of miles from the barricade in Chifumbi Road, fields of peas and beans were being watered and a greenhouse covering two acres (almost a hectare) was under construction.

Only a cluster of huts of thatch and plastic sheeting showed that squatters were occupying the farm.

Less than a mile from the roadblock a British army colonel was training a group of more than 50 Zimbabwe army officers in map reading and orienting.

"We are carrying out routine training to improve the Zimbabwe army's peacekeeping capacity," said Colonel Aubrey Fletcher, a member of the British military advisory and training team.

"We come to this area every year for this map reading exercise. It just so happens that on this occasion there is trouble nearby."

The farm invaders have carried out a scorched earth policy: tobacco crops have been burned and fresh flowers ready for export ruined.

"These are the export crops that are supposed to pay for the fuel we are importing and the electricity we are importing," Mr Kirton said

"This is crazy. This destruction will only dig this country deeper and deeper into a bottomless pit. Mugabe doesn't care about this country anymore."

A minister in Mr Mugabe's cabinet was asked at a private meeting yesterday why the government was not obeying court orders and upholding the country's laws. "This isn't a legal matter, it is a political matter," he replied.

Mr Mugabe and his supporters may find this a convenient answer, but his critics say that the policy is taking Zimbabwe towards an irreversible course of lawlessness.

"The war veterans have become Mugabe's brownshirts," said Iden Wetherell, deputy editor of the Zimbabwe Independent.

"They are his private militia charged with carrying out his campaign of rural terror. They are beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies.

"Mugabe has conducted a coup against the constitution and the law of Zimbabwe." 

Amicable Solution to ZIMBABWE'S Land Problem Urged

HARARE (April 22) XINHUA - Zimbabwe's business magazine Megabuck has called for an amicable solution to the land problem to avert the deepening of an economic crisis which is threatening the country.

In its latest publication released here Saturday, Megabuck said if the farm invasions by ex-combatants persisted it would be difficult for any initiatives to rescue Zimbabwe's ailing economy, faced with the burden of foreign debt, fuel and foreign currency shortages.

"As the tobacco selling season is approaching there is need to ensure that no further hitches will derail it. The country relies on foreign currency earned by tobacco and other agricultural export products like beef and horticulture," the magazine said.

It said if foreign currency inflows from tobacco were not forthcoming then Zimbabwe should brace for more severe shortages that would cause industries to close.

"These sporadic invasions surely have a great opportunity cost which must not be gambled with," it said.

The magazine noted that farmers were set to lose if they delayed in harvesting their crops because of the farm occupations.

The ex-combatants have occupied about 1,000 white commercial farms since February, this year.

This would force the country to import foodstuffs straining the already stretched foreign currency stocks, it said.

"The collapse of the agricultural sector due to lawlessness might heavily affect industrial production due to a shortage of raw materials, leading to a decline in economic growth," it said.

It also warned that the breakdown of law displayed by the invasions would send wrong signals to investors and the international community that there was no peace in Zimbabwe.

This would scare foreign investors who might believe that the Zimbabwean economy was not conducive to business ventures.

"Investors might also be afraid of uncertainties lying in the future since their businesses may be targets for future invasions by the war veterans," it said.

Zimbabwe's economy is agro-based with most industrial inputs coming from the farming and mining sectors.

Sweden has with immediate effect frozen aid to Zimbabwe over the farm invasions while the British Airways has moved its crew base from Zimbabwe to Zambia.


Mugabe gangs torch homes of farm workers

Andrew Meldrum in Harare
Friday April 21, 2000

Gangs of attackers torched the homes of farmworkers yesterday, despite promises by the leader of Zimbabwe's squatters' movement of an end to hostilities.

Smoke covered the Arcturus area, 30 miles north of Harare, as nearly 1,000 homes were razed by men who identified themselves as war veterans. Other farmers reported that their workers were beaten and intimidated by supporters of President Robert Mugabe.

The main target was Alan Windrum's tomato-growing farm in Arcturus. More than 100 armed men broke down doors, looted homes and threw in burning straw to set them alight. The farmworkers and their families had fled, so the attackers beat their dogs and goats to death with clubs. The scene was recorded by a lone APTV cameraman.

"This was the headquarters of the [opposition] Movement for Democratic Change and was causing us a lot of problems," said David Mashandu, leading the attackers. Many appeared to be teenagers, too young to have fought in the war against Rhodesian minority rule that ended in 1979.

Yesterday's violence was in contrast to the promises of peace made by Mr Mugabe and his ally, the war veterans' leader Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, who pledged that the attacks would stop. Hundreds of white farming families have now abandoned their homes in southern Matabeleland as well as the Marondera and Wedza areas.

The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper yesterday claimed that the farm invasions were directed by Zimbabwe National Army officers deployed to coordinate Zanu-PF supporters and war veterans. The ZNA "commanders" are providing supplies to the ex-combatants, who have occupied 1,000 white-owned farms.

Later today President Mugabe will meet the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, at Victoria Falls to discuss the Congo civil war. The conference will also consider the crisis in Zimbabwe.

'Go back? It's not worth your life'

exodus: Fear wrenches farmers from their homes, their land, their livelihoods

Gary Younge in Harare
Friday April 21, 2000

When the time came the decision was easy. After three hours of hearing over the two-way radio how his neighbour was being beaten to death by squatters, Gordon Griffiths knew he had to leave. He had already sent his wife and two small children 50 miles away to the relative safety of Zimbabwe's second city, Buluwayo. When his brother-in-law finally went next door on Tuesday to find Martin Olds dead, it was his turn.

"It wasn't completely unexpected," he says. "They had warned us that we might be targeted and so we had been preparing ourselves for a couple of weeks. But while we thought we might have to leave we never thought something like this would happen.

"After the murder that was it. We all just stood there listening to what was happening on the radio from the surveillance plane but were told the situation was too dangerous for us to go in."

Choosing what to take with them was straightforward. "You just bring the things that are not replaceable," Mr Griffiths, 52, says. "Things like the sofa and the television you can buy again. But it's things like videos of the kids, family photographs and furniture that we had made especially or which has been with us for generations that you will never be able to get again."

So he packed the few heirlooms his wife had not been able to take with her, gave instructions to his black farm labourers and, along with most of the other white farming families in the province of Nyamandlovhu, he made for the city.

His is just one of the hundreds of migrations that have taken place since the weekend as rural white communities evacuate their farms. White flight fuelled by fear that in the wave of violence that has engulfed Zimbabwe in recent weeks they might be next.

First they coordinate their departure with their neighbours over the two-way radio to make sure nobody who wants to go is left behind; then they throw their belongings into their trucks and race away. They leave the labourers to till the soil.

The exodus has been particularly intense in Matabeleland and Macheke, areas which have each seen one white farmer killed. But each day the conflict spreads, sending more farmers running.

Jennifer and Mark Stobbart have a tobacco farm just outside the capital, Harare. This year saw one of their best crops. Yesterday they saw it burnt down by squatters. "We could go back," they say. "But whatever it's all worth it's just not worth your life."

Another white couple, who refused to be identified, have left their farm near Harare. Their most treasured possessions were their passports - they are heading to Britain. "What are we supposed to do?" asks one. "Sit here terrified all the time thinking, every time I hear a car, is that them coming? Are we just going to stay here and be slaughtered?"

The current crisis has engendered fear but also created a spirit of camaraderie among white Zimbabweans, with town dwellers who are away for Easter leaving their keys with neighbours to pass on to evacuees.

"I have family in Buluwayo," says Mr Griffiths. "I think everybody would know someone in town and all of the people here have opened their doors to us.

"Of course it hurts to leave your farm, your home, your livelihood. But the alternative could be so much worse. The situation at the moment is so out of control that it is just not worth risking your life for your land."

Mr Griffiths says he has been here before. During the "bush war", when whites fought to maintain minority rule and blacks were not permitted to own land, the farms had been under siege. But those, he says, were very different times. "Then we had a police force we could count on and an army that we could rely on. We could protect ourselves then, but now there is no support."

On Wednesday he returned briefly to leave further orders for his black workers and check that everything was alright. He went in a convoy of eight other farmers with a plane hovering overhead to watch for possible attacks.

"It's crazy when you think that there's a fuel shortage, but you just can't take chances at the moment. I was very frightened to go back but I didn't think I had any choice. You can't keep on telling the labourers what to do over the phone. You just can't run a farm like that."

President Mugabe's pledge on Wednesday that farmers can return to their homes for good made no impact on him. "When I do go back it won't be because of a politician's promise but when it really is safe. One of my labourers said he had heard that if I do go back I will certainly be killed.

"It is impossible to predict when it will be. We will definitely stay here until Easter is over and then wait and see how things are. It is very, very frustrating. We want to go home. But for now we're just going to have to wait it out," he says.

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