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Chenjerai Hunzvi, squatters' leader
"I'm not interested in the High Court decision. They can go to hell"
 real 28k

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"Farmers' lawyers weren't celebrating"
 real 28k

Sternford Moyo, Zimbabwean Law Society
"We expect them to enforce the order"
 real 28k

Thursday, 13 April, 2000, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Harare court rules against squatters
Zimbabwe farm squatters
The squatters have disregarded an earlier eviction order
The High Court in Zimbabwe has ordered that the police must evict squatters from hundreds of white farms, in a ruling that firmly places the courts at odds with President Robert Mugabe.

I say people must be cool ... It is not a fight against whites as such

President Mugabe in Cuba
In a packed Harare courtroom, Judge Moses Hungwe Chinhengo rejected a police appeal against an earlier court order to remove the squatters.

He urged the president to "recognise that it is in the permanent interest of Zimbabwe and the rule of law to bring to an end the farm invasions".

Thousands of squatters have been occupying hundreds of white-owned farms with the backing of President Mugabe. His critics say he is using the issue to gain support ahead of forthcoming elections.

Dr Chenjerai Hunzvi of Zimbabwe
War veterans' leader Dr Hunzvi says invasions will continue
The ruling confirms last month's judgement in favour of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) when an eviction order was served on the squatters.

"There is no basis for me to interfere with the judgment... of 17 March. I dismiss the application with costs," Judge Chinhengo said during a hearing that lasted less than five minutes.

A BBC correspondent at the courtroom says that it is unlikely that the judge's ruling will bring any immediate practical changes, because the squatters have continued to disregard the earlier eviction order.

Racial powderkeg

On Monday, Zimbabwe's Attorney-General Patrick Chinamasa argued against the earlier order.

He said that the 20,000 strong police force did not have the resources to evict 60,000 veterans from about 1,000 mainly white-owned farms.

Zimbabwe Farms: Commercial Farmers Union estimates
5,500 commercial farms
4,500 white-owned
1,000 black-owned
1,000 farms occupied since February
600 farms currently occupied
Commercial farms account for a third of Zimbabwe's total exports
They employ about 340,000 people

Mr Chinamansa warned that trying to evict the squatters could trigger a civil war.

He described the situation as "a racially and politically charged powderkeg ready to explode."

"What is before you is not the executive, what is before you is a helpless commissioner of police," he argued.

But farmers' representatives said the police estimates of the number of squatters were exaggerated.

The farmers say the squatters number only 7,000.

More invasions planned

President Mugabe, speaking from the Cuban capital Havana, where he is attending the G-77 summit, acknowledged that some farmers had been assaulted for resisting the occupation of their farms.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
President Mugabe has supported the farm occupations
But he described the invasions as peaceful.

"What they (the invaders) have done is merely stage a demonstration, a peaceful demonstration in most cases, because they have not been guilty of any acts of violence," he said.

"I say people must be cool ... It is not a fight against whites as such; it is a fight against a particular section of the whites who have land," he added.

On Thursday, newspapers in Zimbabwe quoted Dr Chenjerai Hunzi - the leader of the war veterans who are organising the occupations - as saying that more invasions will be taking place.

In a separate development, the government has cancelled next week's celebrations to mark 20 years since the end of white rule.

Instead, the president will deliver a televised address, which many expect him to use to set an election date.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Africa
Is Mugabe's strategy working?
11 Apr 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe edges towards election
11 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Mugabe is 'ethnic cleansing'
10 Apr 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe 'powder keg' warning
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