Zimbabwe veterans defy order to vacate White farms

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at bom4.vsnl.net.in
Sun Mar 5 03:42:20 PST 2000

5 March 2000

Zimbabwe veterans defy order to vacate White farms By Cris Chinaka HARARE: Zimbabwe war veterans on Saturday defied government orders to vacate White-owned farms they invaded to press their demand for land reform. The government had given the men until Saturday to get off the land, but they vowed to move only when Zimbabwe's parliament approves a land reform plan proposed by President Robert Mugabe. Home (Interior) Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa had said the police would act against the war veterans if they stayed on the land beyond the deadline, but government officials said on Saturday the police had not been authorised to use force. Hundreds of former guerrillas from Zimbabwe's 1970s war against white rule have moved onto more than 100 large white-owned farms across the southern African country, saying they are tired of waiting for promised land allocations. Some 1,000 of the war veterans met in Harare on Saturday at the headquarters of Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party to review the farm invasions, and said they would remain on the land to help bolster Mugabe's reform plan. "I don't care what Dumiso says. We will carry on until we liberate the land," Chenjerai Hunzvi, chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, said to cheers. Mugabe's government published plans on Wednesday to amend the constitution to allow his government to seize white-owned farms for black resettlement without paying compensation. According to a notice published in the official Government Gazette, the amendment would make former colonial master Britain responsible for paying farmers for the seized land. Zimbabwe whites form less than one percent of the 12.5 million population but are said by Mugabe to control 70 percent of the country's most fertile farmland. A government official told Reuters on Saturday the government would negotiate with the veterans rather than use force against them. "The government is trying to convince the war veterans that it is pushing the constitutional amendment through parliament, and that an orderly and fast resettlement programme is on the way," he said. The government denies that it is promoting the land invasions to improve its chances in general parliamentary polls in April in which it is expected to face a stiff electoral challenge from an opposition feeding on the country's worst economic crisis in two decades. Mugabe, who came to power at independence in 1980, suffered a blow in February when the public rejected a draft constitution that critics say was designed to increase his power, and also had clauses allowing the seizure of white-owned farms. Industry officials say the farm invasions have severely affected the harvest and are bound to affect production and business confidence in the long term.(Reuters)

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