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BBC's Joseph Winter in Harare
Many more farms were invaded over the weekend
 real 28k

Alf Jackson, farmer
"They want to make a statement"
 real 28k

Monday, 6 March, 2000, 11:35 GMT
Zimbabwe farm occupations increase
white farming family
Some families have fled their farms, others have stayed
The number of white-owned commercial farms in Zimbabwe being occupied by government supporters and independence war veterans is rising, say farmers' leaders.

Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) Director David Hasluck said police should act immediately to prevent "an escalating state of anarchy".

The CFU say more than 200 farms are now being occupied and the government order on squatters to leave the farms is being ignored.

police at farm
Police: Have failed to intervene to end the occupations
In a radio interview on Sunday, Zimbabwean Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa repeated his call for veterans to leave the farms, saying they had made their point, but should now withdraw "for the good of the country".

"If the occupations are allowed to continue, this will lead to chaos, and at the end of the day everyone will suffer," he added.

Mr Dabengwa said he had formally proposed an amendment to the existing constitution allowing for the seizure of white-owned farms without compensation.

The failure of the police to move against squatters is fuelling suspicion among many that the government is behind the invasions.

We will resist force by force

War veteran Kedmond Dube-Ntsiane

At a rally on Saturday, war veterans denounced Mr Dabengwa and said they had the full backing of President Robert Mugabe, who is currently out of the country.

A spokesman for the War Veterans' Association, Kedmond Dube-Ntsiane, was quoted as saying that they would resist if the police attempted to evict them.

Spiral out of control

The BBC Harare correspondent, Grant Ferrett, says the land issue, which has simmered unresolved for 20 years since independence, is now taking on a dangerous aspect, with a growing threat that it could spiral out of control.

Since farm invasions began a week ago, fences have been smashed, farmers and workers beaten, and millions of dollars worth of export crops have been left to rot in fields and barns.

White farming family
The government says it will repossess land from white farmers
The CFU say there have been a number of "nasty incidents".with families fleeing farms to safety.

"It is getting worse," said Henry Elsworth, who farms near Kwekwe. "The police are completely powerless to do anything and if they tried they'd be massacred."

Had the government won the referendum it would have been allowed to change the constitution and the rules governing land re-distribution.

Since then, Mr Mugabe has said his government intends to press ahead regardless with plans to transfer white-owned farms to black farmers without compensation.

In an interview on Thursday, President Mugabe said that no-one would forcibly make the squatters leave the farms.

Parliamentary elections are due in five weeks time, and the ruling Zanu-PF party has been accused by opponents of using the land issue to bolster its flagging support.

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