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John Osborne
"They beat Dave very badly then shot him"
 real 28k

Monday, 17 April, 2000, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Neighbour recalls shooting terror
John Osborne
John Osborne: "It was unreal"
White farmer John Osborne recounts the terrifying sequence of events that led to his neighbour, Dave Stevens, being shot dead by war veterans who have been occupying farms around his home in Virginia Macheke district.

We received a call for assistance from one of our neighbours, Dave Stevens, at about half past one.

A chap ... who is police liaison, and I, went to Dave's place. As we turned off the main dirt road into his farm road, three vehicles came out.

The middle vehicle was Dave Stevens' Land Rover. He was in the passenger side. He was handcuffed.



These guys are not playing, they are deadly serious, and they are out of control

John Osborne
We then thought we had better follow him, and see where they were taking him. So we followed them all the way into Murehwa business centre.

We actually lost sight of the bus going near Murehwa. But once we got into Murehwa, apparently it's the war veterans' building or compound or whatever - these guys came swarming out, so we shot off down he road, turned around and hoofed it back through Murehwa.

As we went through, this first vehicle in the convoy of three vehicles came after us, let a round off at us in the middle of Murehwa, and it was trying to catch us, and we decided to turn into the police station. As we did that they let off another round at us.

Then we went into the police station thinking we would be safe - there must have been 15 or 20 police cars on duty. We went into the courtyard in the police camp.

'Police just stood by'

Within a very short time there were quite a few - call them war vets - some of them are too young to be war vets - pitched up and they just marched into the police station.

The police just stood by, the guys came into the police station with the weapon, they handcuffed all three of us, then they took us to the war veterans' headquarters, which was the same building we had seen them going into.

I was the first one pulled out of the vehicle and I was given quite a good beating. I was then thrown into a room out the back and there I saw Dave Stevens.

We were locked up in this room, both of us were handcuffed. We were knocked about a bit, then they put Dave and myself into the private sedan car, the one that had chased us and shot at us.



They threw me into the car, and they beat Dave very badly and then shot him

John Osborne
They drove through Murehwa up to a dirt road, and they drove I would guess about 2km off this road, then they dragged us out of the car and abused us, beat us around, and then one of the women said she recognised me, and that I shouldn't be hurt because we've helped out our communal neighbours quite a bit.

And there was another young guy who said the same thing. And so they threw me into the car, and they beat Dave very badly and then shot him.

I was then taken back to one of the Murehwa people's homes, nothing to do with this particular scene, it's just a senior guy there, a well-respected family. They looked after me until we could organise transport to get me through here to Marondera.

I wasn't overly frightened - there's not much you can do in a situation like that. I really wasn't thinking much, I was just hoping I would get through it.

(The shooting) changes things, doesn't it? His two kids are two years old - twins. What can you say?

'It was about the vote'

It was quite interesting throughout the whole episode that there was no talk about land, no talk about anything, it was about the vote.

They say because we are white we are automatically MDC supporters. I think that's why they targeted Dave, because he had been involved in the MDC at a low level. His workers were all very pro-MDC. I think that's why they targeted him.

... The war veterans are running rampant in that neck of the woods (Murehwa) at the moment. The police seem either not to have the will, or they are just completely powerless. I would say it's a combination of both ...

Isn't it a natural consequence of having no law and order - that's why we find ourselves in this situation. There is no law and order at the moment.

As the for the consequences in the country, look what's happened in the last couple of months, and the popularity all this carry-on has caused.

The war veterans are running rampant in that neck of the woods ... at the moment. The police seem either not to have the will, or they are just completely powerless. I would say it's a combination of both

John Osborne
Interestingly enough, the guy who looked after me yesterday before I came to hospital, he said go ahead and farm ... There will be a few farms taken, but your farm will be fine.

I got beaten up farly soon after everything came apart. I lost my glasses - both pairs of glasses, and I didn't see that much. I would say in the vets compound, 80 to 100 people maybe.

We were warned by one of the senior vets that a vehicle had come ... carrying war vets to try to sort farmers out, and we were told another was coming down ... to add numbers, and when I was being kept at this house, there were people marching up and down in the town itself.

'Don't send white people here'

There were some farmers reasonably close by who had asked if they should come and pick me up. I asked the people that were looking after me, and they said "no, don't send any white people in here." They were obviously very wary as well.

It was unreal yesterday. And these guys are not playing, they are deadly serious, and they are out of control.

They were going to take farms over, they were going to teach those whites who hadn't listened properly a lesson

John Osborne
I think what triggered the event, was the retaliation by the employees on Dave Stevens' farm against these war vets.

According to the senior war vet there, four of their people are in hospital here in Marondera, and two of them had gone missing.

Now they inferred by going missing that they were dead. Whether the guys had run away or whatever they had done I do not know. This story was probably spread and distorted and was enough of a story to really wind up all the war vets.

If they carry out the threats I would think it (Murehwa) would be a pretty risky place to be in the next few days.

They were going to take farms over, they were going to teach those whites who hadn't listened properly a lesson.

The only two weapons I saw clearly were a 303 rifle and a shotgun - a new shotgun.

We should be 20 years on further down the road. This country's got such a great potential, it's just mind-blowing that we've dropped down to this level.

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