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Home | ZimCrisis#46 -- Farm Widow's Fury at Mugabe Jibe

Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2000 11:30:23 -0700
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From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#46 -- Farm Widow's Fury at Mugabe Jibe
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By David Blair in Harare

THE widow of a white farmer murdered by squatters in Zimbabwe described President Robert Mugabe's attempts to blame her husband for the violence "totally stupid". Maria Stevens, whose husband, David, was abducted, beaten and shot dead in April by Mugabe supporters who had occupied their farm, accused the president of waging war on his own people. Four more farmers have been killed since the murder of Mr Stevens, and the number of dead in the ruling Zanu-PF party's vicious campaign to stamp out the opposition before parliamentary elections next weekend now totals 29 at the most conservative estimate.

Under pressure from international election observers, Mr Mugabe has tried to deflect the blame and insist that a free and fair contest is possible. Addressing 5,000 supporters on Sunday, he accused Mr Stevens of triggering the violence. He said: "Stevens was the one who started the war. He is the one who started firing and he is the one who started the fight. But when it is shown on BBC and CNN, it is put as if we are the ones who started the war." After murdering Mr Stevens, the squatters rampaged through the farm, looting or burning every building and forcing the 300 black workers and their families to leave.

Mrs Stevens, 39, and her four children lost everything they possessed and were forced to flee to Harare, where they have found temporary refuge in a borrowed house. She is infuriated by Mr Mugabe's accusation. She said: "If Mugabe had half the integrity of David, this country would never be in this state. I certainly won't demand an apology from him because Mugabe has never apologised for anything he has done for the past 20 years." Far from her husband starting a war," Mrs Stevens places the blame squarely on the president. She said: "Mugabe's war on his own people had already started before my husband's death. His war on his own population started when he invaded the farms." Squatters murdered a black policeman a fortnight before Mr Stevens was killed and scores of people had already been beaten and taken to hospital. She dismissed Mr Mugabe's claim that her husband had shot at his attackers. Mrs Stevens said: "We only had one gun and there is no evidence that he even touched it on that day. It was a shotgun and it was used only by the crop guards to kill baboons which raid the fields." Mr Stevens was abducted after he left his farmhouse to see a man waiting at his gate. No one has previously suggested that he was armed and five other farmers who went to his aid were also kidnapped and tortured.

Death threats have prevented Mrs Stevens from returning to her farm, which is "under siege and nothing more than a shell". She describes herself as "an upmarket beggar", dependent on friends and well-wishers for everything. She wears borrowed clothes and her two-year-old twins, Warren and Sebastian, play with borrowed toys. Her older children, Marc, 15, and Brenda, 13, depend on a trust fund established by farmers for their school fees. She said: "We have lost everything, but we must keep going. Life for us goes on." Mrs Stevens remains active and outwardly cheerful. Her strength and resilience have made an immense impression on Zimbabwe. Yet her criticism of Mr Mugabe carries a price: she believes her e-mails and telephone calls are now intercepted by the Central Intelligence Organisation, whose main role is to crush internal dissent. But Mrs Stevens is determined to stay in Zimbabwe and is optimistic that her country stands on the brink of political change. She said: "We need to have that hope. People have been wonderful and have helped me so much. If you think I have suffered, imagine what all the other widows and orphans, without this help, are going through."

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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