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Zimbabwe President Mugabe labels white farmers 'enemies'

Slaying of second farmer mars Independence Day

April 18, 2000
Web posted at: 11:47 a.m. EDT (1547 GMT)


In this story:

Violence takes a sharp toll

Leader blames British government for conflict

Many see little reason to celebrate

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Zimbabwe's president again gave his tacit approval Tuesday to black war veterans occupying several hundred white-owned farms in the former British colony, telling a national television audience that white farmers were "enemies of the state."

"Our present state of mind is that you (the white farmers) are now our enemies because you really have behaved as enemies of Zimbabwe," Robert Mugabe said after the broadcast of a prerecorded message for the 20th anniversary of the former Rhodesia's independence from Britain.

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VideoCNN's Bob Coen explains the conflict, and Zimbabwe's history of independence.
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CNN's Bob Coen reports from Harare on the reaction to Mugabe's speech

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During a televised speech Tuesday, Mugabe talks about the recent escalation in violence in his country

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Mugabe discusses resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe

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"We are full of anger," he said. "Our entire community is angry, and this is why you have the war veterans now seizing land."

As Zimbabwe marked its 20th anniversary on Tuesday, a second white farmer was killed by veterans of the bloody war that ended with Zimbabwe's independence on April 18, 1980. Both deaths have been attributed to the veterans who have taken up an armed struggle to seize land for black Zimbabweans.

The occupations began two months ago after voters rejected a new constitution that would have allowed the seizure of white-owned farms without compensation. White farmers opposed the constitutional change, and many worked with the opposition against it.

Violence takes a sharp toll

Mugabe has refused to condemn the occupations or order the veterans to quit the land, although Zimbabwe's High Court last week ordered the police to evict the squatters.

With Mugabe out of the country for a conference of developing nations, the confrontations turned violent over the weekend.

Martin Olds, a cattle rancher in western Zimbabwe, was shot and killed on Tuesday, three days after farmer David Stevens was beaten and shot to death in the Macheke district south of Harare.

The veterans abducted another farmer, Kevin Tinker, on Tuesday, and set ablaze the farm of David Stobart.

"These gentlemen are out to teach us a lesson," said Chris Jarrett, a neighbor of Olds' who was packing his truck to leave the area. "This thing will escalate until somebody takes a stand to stop it."

Leader blames British government for conflict

wake
Relatives grieve at a wake for Tichaona Chimenya, a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, who was killed over the weekend  

Mugabe is not likely to be the one to take a stand. Already accused by opposition politicians of orchestrating the occupations to bolster his sagging political fortunes and distract attention from Zimbabwe's dismal economy, the president said in his prerecorded anniversary address that the veterans' frustration was "understandable."

The blame, he said in English, lay with those who opposed his plans to redistribute white-owned land from the country's commercial farms to poor black families.

Legal challenges and dwindling resources were augmented, he said, by "the reluctance of (Britain's) new Labor government, which did not want to honor commitments made by the previous British government on the land issue."

Nevertheless, Mugabe said he was "determined to resolve (the land issue) once and for all" and said he regretted the deaths that have come as a result of the occupations.

But in a second version of the speech, broadcast in the native Shona language, Mugabe thanked the black veterans for occupying the farms.

Many see little reason to celebrate

At the end of Zimbabwe's war for independence, the new nation's leader, Mugabe, extended the hand of reconciliation to his former enemies, urging the whites to stay and help build Zimbabwe's future. The country prospered -- and has been held up as a model of racial reconciliation.

But this year, public celebrations of Zimbabwe's Independence Day have been canceled, and many feel there's little to celebrate.

"Right now there is disorder in the entire country, there is no respect for the rule of law," said Margaret Dongo, the leader of the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats.

Dongo, a war veteran, started her own political party after splitting from Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF Party.

To many, the campaign to seize white-owned lands is a signal of Zimbabwe's decline. Despite being declared illegal by the courts, the seizures have continued, gradually turning more violent.

Many veterans see the land issue in simple terms.

"We fought for the land, we want the land," said former fighter Darlington Chirinda.

Correspondent Bob Coen, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Zimbabwe president tells white farmers he'll regain control in land crisis
April 17, 2000
White farmer killed as Zimbabwe land crisis deepens
April 15, 2000
Zimbabwe's vice president asks squatters to leave white farms
April 13, 2000
Zimbabwe Parliament dissolves ahead of elections
April 11, 2000
Zimbabwe farmers brace for more land invasions
April 10, 2000
Law targets white farm confiscation in Zimbabwe
April 7, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Africa News Online
U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Reports for 1999
Zimbabwe Independent Newspaper Online
Zimbabwe Page
Land Issue in Zimbabwe
Commercial Farmers' Union
Zimbabwe Government Online

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