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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
African warning for Mugabe
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe has traditionally counted on African support
Leaders of southern African states have been putting pressure on Zimbabwe's President Mugabe to bring the land crisis there swiftly under control.

President Bakili Maluzi of Malawi, who currently chairs the Southern African Development Community (SADC), told Mr Mugabe that the problem threatened to affect other states.


Of great concern to all of us is that, if the land issue is not urgently resolved amicably and peacefully, the economic and political problems Zimbabwe is facing now could easily snowball across the entire southern African region

President Bakili Maluzi of Malawi

He was speaking at the start of two days of talks in Harare which are also being attended by four other SADC heads of state.

Correspondents say the talks indicate a much tougher stance by Zimbabwe's neighbours.

President Maluzi said that if Zimbabwe's land crisis was not resolved urgently in an amicable and peaceful manner, then the political and economic problems could easily snowball across the entire region.

The increasing level of instability would in turn lead to foreign investors turning their backs on SADC states.

Africa intervenes

Attending the talks along with Mr Maluzi are the leaders of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique, as well as ministers from Angola, Nigeria and Tanzania.

As the BBC's Rageh Omaar reports from Johannesburg, the stance of African states on the Zimbabwe crisis was crucial to President Mugabe's decision to agree to the land agreement brokered by the Commonwealth in Nigeria on Thursday.

It is now clear that, for the first time, major African nations are not only urging the Zimbabwean government to do everything to end the crisis, but are also prepared to break ranks openly with Harare.

Looted farm in Zimbabwe
The land issue also concerns South Africa and Namibia

Zimbabwe cannot afford to be totally isolated and publicly at odds with African powers like South Africa and Nigeria, as well as other neighbours.

During their talks in Harare, the African leaders are due to meet Zimbabwean farmers, war veterans and opposition parties to examine what concrete steps need to be taken to implement the commitment made by Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth.

In Abuja, the Zimbabwean government agreed to stop attacks by black militants on white-owned farms in return for financial assistance to implement a fair land reform programme.

But there have been reports of further violence on white-owned farms in the north of the country.

Violence continues

The Commercial Farmers Union reports a massive upsurge in land invasions in the days since the agreement was announced.

Hundreds of farms have been seized by self-styled war veterans since February in protest at the fact that - 20 years after independence - the vast majority of the productive land in the country is still owned by a small number of white ranchers.

Mr Mugabe has accepted the land ownership plan in principle, but says the deal will have to be approved by cabinet and his ruling Zanu-PF party.

In another development, shots were reportedly fired at opposition activists during local elections in Zimbabwe's second city Bulawayo on Sunday.

Welshman Ncube, Secretary General of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said he and a group of other officials in the party were shot at by a group of suspected war veterans who support Mr Mugabe but no-one was injured.

The opposition have accused the government of massive vote-rigging in the election, considered a rehearsal for upcoming presidential elections.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"Government militants are yet to be reined in"
Bheki Kumalo, S African President Mbeki's spokesman
says he does not see it as a case of warning President Mugabe but of doing the right thing
See also:

10 Sep 01 | Africa
Does South Africa hold the key?
08 Sep 01 | Africa
SA land reform frustration builds
07 Sep 01 | Business
Zimbabwe's economic crisis
07 Sep 01 | Africa
Text of Zimbabwe agreement
25 Aug 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Gauging opinion in troubled Zimbabwe
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