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Saturday, 8 September, 2001, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Zimbabwe militants seize white farm
Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Dr Stan Mudenge
The foreign minister promises to repel the invaders
Zimbabwean militants have invaded a white-owned farm and burned workers' homes, less than two days after a deal was hatched in Nigeria to end such land seizures.

It happened as the country waited for President Robert Mugabe to personally endorse a deal intended to end the land crisis.

In the first incident reported since Zimbabwe agreed to halt farm invasions, the mainly white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) said more than 150 militants armed with logs and axes had attacked a farm in Beatrice, 50 km (31 miles) south of Harare.

President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugage is on holiday

A CFU spokesman said they chased out workers, set their homes on fire and destroyed tobacco seeds.

He said they did not attack the farm manager, whose family was away, but ordered him to leave.

Government officials said Mr Mugabe was abroad on a brief holiday, but refused to say where he was or when he would return to Harare.

Evicting invaders

There is speculation he may be in Libya.

Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge, who led Zimbabwe's team at the Commonwealth ministerial meeting in Nigeria at which the deal was reached, said on Friday the government would move swiftly to evict illegal land invaders.

But sceptics believe that without Mr Mugabe's public seal of approval, the deal aimed at ending the 18-month land crisis in the southern African country remains shaky.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Sule Lamido flew into Harare on Friday and was waiting to brief Mr Mugabe on the Abuja agreement.

By Saturday there was no official word from the 77-year-old Zimbabwean leader, who political analysts say has walked away from previous deals.

Personal approval

Observers say that without Mr Mugabe's personal "rubber stamp" it is hard to tell whether the agreement will really hold.

Under the accord announced in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday, Zimbabwe agreed to stop landless blacks from invading white-owned farms, occupations encouraged by Mr Mugabe, and to acquire farms for black resettlement on a fair and legal basis.

The UK, the former colonial power, agreed to co-finance compensation for farmers whose land was acquired under the scheme.

The CFU and Zimbabwe's main opposition party have welcomed the Abuja agreement, but said the key question was whether Mr Mugabe would implement it.

The BBC's Helen Callaghan
"Ony last week Zimbabwe agreed there would be no more occupations"
Commercial Farmers Union's Guy Watson-Smith
"The police had not changed their attitude at all"
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