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Kathy Olds
"The police would not allow the ambulance to pass the road block"
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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Forced to flee Zimbabwe
Kathy Olds
Kathy Olds says she longs for the Zimbabwe she loved
Kathy Olds fled Zimbabwe in May with her two children, a suitcase and 60 in cash. Her husband, Martin Olds, had been murdered by squatters who had occupied their farm and the children were terrified.

Now the three of them are in the UK and have applied for political asylum.

In an interview with BBC World's programme, Hardtalk, Kathy Olds said her son and daughter wanted to leave Zimbabwe.

"They asked me virtually on a daily basis for us to please leave and to go somewhere safe," she said. "There was many a night when they would come through to me saying how frightened they were.

"The children and I did feel threatened. Our telephone was bugged, we were followed, we were watched. A visitor had his car tyres slashed.

"My brother received death threats after he delivered the tribute at Martin's funeral. The Presbyterian minister who delivered the sermon was harassed by the CID and also received death threats."

Alone on the farm

Mrs Olds, a third generation Zimbabwean, felt she had no choice but to leave. She does not yet know whether she will ever return.

"There was nothing for us to stay for," she told Tim Sebastian. "We had no home.

"We didn't have our anchor in our lives anymore."

"The police put up a road block after these armed men had already passed through the village - 120 armed men and 15 minibuses

Kathy Olds
Martin Olds, a vocal member of the farming community, was murdered on 18 April. He was alone in the family farmhouse at Nyamandhlovu, 500 kms (300 miles) south of Harare, when about 100 self-styled war veterans turned up to take over the land.

He had received death threats and one white farmer had already been killed.

Mrs Olds said: "Martin received a death threat on 10 April. In trying to protect the children and I he never really elaborated on it, but he did tell me he went to the police station and reported that he was in fear of his life and that he'd received this death threat.

"The police did not react."

The sites of the two farmers' deaths
The situation in Zimbabwe deteriorated. On Saturday 15 April farmer David Stevens was shot dead at point blank range by squatters who had occupied his farm at Macheke, south of Harare.

Martin Olds was worried. On 17 April he asked his wife and children to go into town. He planned to join them the following day, Independence Day, and spend the day with them.

But he did not make it. Kathy Olds found out at about 11:00 that her husband had died in a gun battle at their home.

"He called his mother and said that he'd been surrounded and please to call the police," Kathy Olds said. "She phoned the police on four occasions and they did not react.

"The police put up a road block after these armed men had already passed through the village - 120 armed men and 15 minibuses.

"One of [Martin's] last communications was that he had been shot in the leg. He had made himself a splint for that injured leg.

"He requested medical attention and the police would not allow the ambulance to pass the roadblock."

Mounting crisis

Investigators who went to the farm afterwards found kalashnikov cartridge cases around the farm yard. The squatters had burned the house down.

"The petrol from the Molotov cocktails was taken from the motorbikes in our garage and they were thrown into the house to try to flush him out as the gun battle was continuing," said Mrs Olds. "Martin always said that he would, as the law requires, fire warning shots.

"And after that, depending on how the situation developed, he would then have to defend himself."

Kathy Olds told Hardtalk that she and her husband believed the land issue was stirred up by President Robert Mugabe.

Farmer David Stevens
David Stevens was the first white farmer to be killed
"We did discuss it but we were always under the impression that it could be resolved amicably," she said. "The farmers accepted that more land was needed, but the government had acquired a lot of land that hadn't been used for resettlement, and secondly farmers were quite prepared to offer land if they got compensation.

"Certificates of no interest had been issued to other farms, which mean the government was not interested in purchasing them and they could then be sold openly to interested buyers."

Kathy Old said she had many wonderful memories of Zimbabwe.

"I look on it with great sadness and I also look at it with great longing," she said. ""It was a good and wholesome life."

But she does not think the country is safe to return to.

"I don't believe Mr Mugabe is sincere about offering the hand of reconciliation," she said. "You've only got to look at his track record."

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