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Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 18:51 GMT
Zimbabwe squatters 'not orchestrated'

Veterans want to divide up the white-owned farms
The Zimbabwean Government has denied being behind a spate of occupations at white-owned farms by thousands of war veterans.

Information Minister Chen Chimutengwende said the invasions reflected the veteran's frustration over the government's referendum defeat, which would have given special powers to seize white-owned land for redistribution without compensation.


We understand the war veterans' frustrations ... Stopping the invasions would only be a temporary measure. I can only see more

Chen Chimutengwende
He said halting the invasions would not solve anything and the government would have to speed up its land reforms.

The police have refused to intervene in what they term a political matter, beyond ensuring that no-one is harmed.

Occupations continue

Nineteen farms were occupied on Monday by veterans dropped off at the properties by government-owned lorries - and the process has continued on Wednesday.

Farmer Ross Hinde
White farmers own most of the best farming land
One report said invaders smashed windows to try to gain entry to a farmhouse they had besieged for two days in north-eastern Zimbabwe, trapping frightened occupants inside.

The War Veterans' Association, which backs President Robert Mugabe's plans for land reform, says the squatters will remain there until they are allocated land for re-settlement.

They say the government's humiliating referendum defeat has now prevented plans for some of the best farming land to be redistributed to poor farmers.

Vendetta

The Commercial Farmers' Union has called on the government to restore order and says the chaos can only worsen Zimbabwe's economic crisis.

Robert Mugabe
President Mugabe: Intent on land reform despite referendum defeat
CFU Chairman David Haslett says because there is nobody who is prepared to uphold the rule of law, it is evident there is a vendetta against white farmers

The farmers' union supports land reform but says there are enough farms already for sale to make expropriation unnecessary.

Correspondents say the government's redistribution scheme has also been plagued by mismanagement in the past, with prime properties going to politicians and their backers.

The question of land reform is a long-running and highly emotive one, which the government has repeatedly sought to play up in times of difficulty.

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