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Date: Tue, 16 May 2000 10:13:49 -0700
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Subject: Ian Smith's Farm Invaded

Mugabe supporters invade Ian Smith's farm
Zimbabwe: special report
Andrew Meldrum in Harare
Sunday May 14 2000
The Observer

Dozens of angry supporters of President Robert Mugabe yesterday invaded the 6,000-acre cattle ranch of Zimbabwe's last white ruler, the stubborn and outspoken Ian Smith.

The occupation comes on the eve of a visit to Zimbabwe by the Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon, who is expected to deliver a stern warning to Mr Mugabe about his continuing oppression of white farmers and the political opposition.

About 50 government supporters are now occupying Mr Smith's Gwenoro farm near the southern town of Shurugwe, 200 miles southeast of Harare.

Mr Smith, now 81, who led white-ruled Rhodesia throughout the 1960s and 1970s, played down the incident. He said he did not think squatters were targeting his farm because of his past opposition to Mr Mugabe. "No, they all love me. I've got more black friends than Mugabe at present."

He made light of the occupation. "It's just a few old timers from Shurugwe who are out of work," said Mr Smith from his Harare home. "I don't expect trouble. I've got a peaceful farm and there's no politics on the farm." But later in the day Mr Smith left for the farm, which is run by a manager.

Since Zimbabwe became independent in 1980, Mr Smith has lived peacefully in the country. Last month he suggested that he might run for parliament again to voice his opposition to Mr Mugabe's government and the recent collapse of law and order. Since February Mr Mugabe's supporters have invaded more than 1,200 white-owned farms, killed more than 20 opposition members, and beaten and tortured thousands of black opposition supporters.

Mr McKinnon arrives in Harare today as the violence shows no sign of abating.

Farmer John Weeks died in hospital yesterday after being shot when his farm, in the Beatrice area 40 miles south of Harare, was attacked on Thursday evening. Mr Weeks was shot a few miles away from where farmer Alan Dunn was bludgeoned to death by Mr Mugabe's supporters a week ago.

Mr Weeks' death brings to four the number of white farmers killed in the past six weeks. Sixteen black members of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have been killed by government supporters during the same period.

Beatrice farmers say the area is teeming with militant veterans of the war against Rhodesian rule and other government supporters. Several white farmers have received death threats and hundreds of black farm labourers have been beaten for supporting the MDC.

The wave of violence is being promoted by Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party in an effort to stamp out widespread support for the MDC before parliamentary elections, expected in July.

Mr McKinnon will see if the Commonwealth can field observers in the polls.

Opposition leaders and human rights activists say the government-sponsored violence against the MDC has already made free and fair polls impossible. "Thousands of Zimbabweans have been tortured by government agents, most in public settings which traumatises those that see the violence as well as those that experience it," said Tony Reeler, director of Amani Trust, which counsels victims of violence.

The foreign secretary, Robin Cook, yesterday warned Mr Mugabe against expelling whites from the country."It would be an enormous mistake for Zimbabwe to attempt to expel British citizens with resident qualifications because they provide the backbone for so much of the exports of Zimbabwe in the agricultural sector," he told BBC television.

His comments followed Zimbabwe's decision to order British nationals who have dual citizenship to surrender their Zimbabwean passports.

Copyright Guardian Media Group plc.