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Home | ZimCrisis#37 -- Zim Police Act for First Time to Evict Farm Invaders

Date: Fri, 09 Jun 2000 09:29:30 -0700
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From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#37 -- Zim Police Act for First Time to Evict Farm Invaders
Cc: "Australian government":;, "British government":;,
"Canadian government":
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"US government":;, Commonwealth:;, "NG organisations":;, Press:;

Zimbabwe police have acted for the first time to end the invasion of a white-owned farm and warned on Tuesday they would crack down on political violence in the run-up to parliamentary elections in June. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the police appeared to be becoming more active in enforcing law and order than they had been since self-styled veterans of the 1970's liberation war began to invade farms in January.

The MDC said police on Monday evicted war veterans from a farm in the Chimanimani area in eastern Zimbabwe owned by Roy Bennett, a high-profile MDC parliamentary candidate. A group of 60 war veterans occupied Bennett's farm three weeks ago and temporarily took his wife hostage and removed tractors and trailers, MDC legal secretary David Coltart said.

Inspector Bothwell Mugariri said on Tuesday the police were determined to ensure peaceful elections. "We are in the process of making sure that nothing goes wrong in the election. Our police stations have clear instructions to clamp down on violence," he said.

The leader of the war veterans who have invaded hundreds of white-owned farms warned police on Tuesday against trying to evict his men from occupied land. "We are staying on the farms until the President (Robert Mugabe) says we should leave. The police know they should not interfere," veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi said.

Home affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa was reported by the state news agency, Ziana, as saying the veterans should move to farms already earmarked by the government for acquisition. "Most of the already designated farms are not occupied and therefore we expect the war veterans and villagers to move to these as the resettlement begins," Dabengwa said. The government last week passed a law giving it the power to acquire land while only paying for the improvements made to it and not the underlying asset itself. South Africa said Saudi Arabia and Nordic countries had agreed to help fund the acquisition of 118 white- owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks with a donation of 9m.

Zimbabwe's 20 000-strong police force has been criticised for standing by while war veterans and supporters of Mugabe have occupied farms and terrorised farm workers and opposition supporters ahead of the June 24-25 election.

The nine-month-old MDC is regarded as the biggest electoral threat to Mugabe's party since it assumed power when the former Rhodesia gained independence from Britain in 1980. The MDC has accused the Mugabe government of orchestrating a campaign of violence that has killed at least 25 people, mostly black opposition supporters, since February. In the latest incident, the state-owned Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday that a campaign manager for a Zanu (PF) candidate was killed at the weekend by political rivals. He was the second member of the ruling party to be killed in the escalating political tension.

The first members of a 160-strong European Union (EU) observer mission are due to arrive this week and will join a Commonwealth advance team and observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) already in the country. The European Commission on Tuesday approved $1,72m in funding and said Pierre Schori, a former Swedish government minister, would head the mission. Schori is expected to arrive in Zimbabwe on Wednesday. The MDC said it expected the observers to help bring calm to the strife-torn country. "As more and more observers are deployed, the government will be forced to enforce the law," Coltart said. The 11-member SADC team arrived earlier this week and did not comment on the prospects for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. The team said it would observe the conduct of the campaign and voting and "does not seek to interfere in this or any other election process."

A US-based election observer group said earlier this month that Zimbabwe was not ready to hold free and fair elections because of the campaign of violence and intimidation. - Business Day

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Brief list of helpful sites on the issue:
- Comprehensive news updates -- http://www.1freespace.com/beetee
- Offers of and requests for help for Zimbabweans -- http://pub9.ezboard.com/boffersofhelp
- Commercial Farmers' Union -- http://www.mweb.co.zw/cfu
- Movement for Democratic Change -- http://www.in2zw.com/mdc
- Zimbabwe Democracy Trust -- http://www.zimbabwedemocracytrust.org
- BSAP Pursuit of Zimbabwean Criminals -- http://www.bsaphq.f9.co.uk