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BBC's Joseph Winter reports from Bulawayo
The threats are being taken seriously
 real 28k

Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 16:18 GMT
Zimbabwe veterans threaten civil war
Farm sign
Veterans are continuing to take over land
Former guerrillas in the war for independence in Zimbabwe are threatening a return to hostilities if the government of President Robert Mugabe is defeated in next month's parliamentary elections.

"Should the party fail us, we would rather go into a military government for a period of five years to set things straight," said a spokesman for the veterans, Andrew Ndlovu.

White farmer and black veteran
The stand-off at white-owned farms continues
He accused white Zimbabweans and the UK, the former colonial power, of funding the trade union-based opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change.

The MDC, has dismissed the comments as unfortunate and far-fetched.

Agrippa Gava, a director of the Liberation War Veterans' Association, which claims to represent some 50,000 ex-fighters, said: "We have a history of fighting for our land. We have reached a point of no return."

Mr Gava, addressing a meeting of civic groups and farmers' leaders, said his organisation in January warned the UK that veterans would seize land from the descendants of British settlers unless the former colonial power bought farms and gave them to poor blacks.

"The farmers have built a timebomb for themselves," said Mr Gava.

Redistribution

The UK has refused Zimbabwean demands to pay for the redistribution of large tracts of fertile land from white commercial farmers to poor blacks.


President Mugabe
President Mugabe lost the referendum
Invasions of hundreds of mainly white-owned farms, with the blessing of President Mugabe, began several weeks ago, after voters rejected a new draft constitution which would have given the government the power to seize white-owned land without paying compensation for it.

Mr Gava said that voters were bought "with sweets and sugar" by whites and opposition groups to vote "no" in the referendum.

Tensions are building ahead of parliamentary elections near the end of April which are expected to be the closest yet.

The war veterans are playing a central part in the ruling party's campaign strategy,

Our correspondent say the farm invasions and apparent immunity of war veterans is seen by people as the start of a breakdown in law and order.

He says this latest threat will only heighten those fears as Zimbabwe moves closer to the elections.

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10 Mar 00 | Africa
Why Zimbabwe distrusts the UK
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