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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Shoot-out at Zimbabwe farm
White farmer
Mugabe has been trying to evict farmers for two years
A white farmer and a group of government supporters exchanged gunfire on Tuesday morning at a farm in the Karoi area of northern Zimbabwe.

Ian Cochrane was trapped on his farm with his mother, sister and two children by about 100 people armed with sticks, stones and several guns who were apparently trying to seize the farm.


It seems they are trying to provoke farmers to retaliate with weapons

Alan Parsons
Farmer
But tensions eased after police arrived, reports the French agency, AFP. No-one was hurt.

Last week, President Robert Mugabe warned white farmers to co-operate with his land reform programme, leave the country or face jail.

Farmers in parts of northern Zimbabwe were again warned to leave their farms by Sunday, prompting about 100 to flee to the capital, Harare.

'Disappeared'

A crowd of government supporters broke through the security fence at the farm and converged on Ian Cochrane's farmhouse early on Tuesday morning.


Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe's land reform

  • 1890-1980: Black peasants were moved to less fertile areas during the colonial era
  • 2000: 4,000 whites own 70% of prime land
  • March 2000: 'War veterans' occupy white-owned farms
  • 2000-2002: Several white farmers and black workers killed during violence
  • 9 August 2002: 3,000 white farmers ordered to leave their homes


  • The farmer's mother was trapped in another house on the farm. Fearing for her life, Mr Cochrane went to her aid, firing a warning shot as he went.

    He said a violent scene followed.

    "These guys started firing shots at me and I fired shots back because I was outside with this huge mob of people, possibly over 100, all around me.

    "This is absolutely a terrible situation and we can't carry on like this now."

    "When the police got there, the three armed men had disappeared," said Jenni Williams of farmers' lobby group, Justice for Agriculture (JAG).

    Two of the men were armed with semi-automatic shotguns, while a third had a rifle, she said.

    The government supporters later left the farm with the Cochrane family still there, Reuters news agency reports.

    Defiance

    One of Mr Cochrane's neighbours, Alan Parsons said the militants were led by an army major, according to the Associated Press news agency.

    "It seems they are trying to provoke farmers to retaliate with weapons," he said.

    Farming leaders said that Mr Cochrane was one of the 2,900 white farmers ordered to leave their land by 9 August.

    Some complied but others, including Mr Cochrane, are fighting the eviction orders in the courts.

    They argue that they are not legally obliged to leave their farms until their court appeals have been heard.

    But some 300 have been arrested for their defiance, according to Reuters.

    Farmer Colin Shand, who has been writing a diary for BBC News Online, is one of those affected.

    Click here to read Colin Shand's diary

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    See also:

    26 Aug 02 | Africa
    25 Aug 02 | Africa
    25 Aug 02 | Africa
    11 Jul 02 | Africa
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