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The BBC's Mark Devenport
"The UN has been extremely cautious about getting involved"
 real 28k

The BBC's Grant Ferret
"Mr Hunzvi was in clear and wilful contempt of court - said the judge"
 real 28k

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
"Illegal occupations have to come to an end"
 real 28k

White farmer David Crawford
"This is the beginning of a lot of chaos"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Court blow for Zimbabwe veterans
Chenjerai Hunzvi at a Harare rally
The war veteran's leader says he cannot stop the farm occupations
Zimbabwe's High Court has found war veterans leader Chenjerai Hunzvi in contempt of court for inciting illegal occupations of white-owned farms.

Mr Hunzvi was found in "clear and wilful contempt" for disobeying a court order last month, and was given a 5 May deadline to instruct his followers to end their illegal occupations or face imprisonment.

I am not responsible for the deaths of the farmers

Chenjerai Hunzvi
Immediately after the verdict, leaders of Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers and the war veterans went straight to President Robert Mugabe's residence for crisis talks.

Wednesday's court case was brought by the Commercial Farmers Union following two months of occupations in which over 1,000 farms have been targeted.

Two white farmers and several opposition activists have been killed in recent violence, as the UN and Britain, the former colonial power, have appealed for calm and law and order to be respected.

Wearing a black pin-striped suit, the war veterans leader told reporters he had no power to encourage his supporters to end their actions.

"How can I contradict the order of my president?" he asked, referring to President Mugabe's support for the occupations.

UN appeal

On the 20th anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence from Britain, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to President Mugabe by phone to defuse the tensions which have led to the killing of two white farmers and several opposition activists.

Correspondents say the UN has been cautious until now about commenting in public on the growing confrontation between white farmers and squatters because it views the issue of land ownership as a domestic issue.

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has said that the continuing violence in Zimbabwe will be deeply destructive for the country and destabilise the region if it is allowed to continue.

Mr Cook told the BBC that Britain had to tread carefully or President Robert Mugabe may hit back against the farmers.

You are now our enemies because you really have behaved as enemies of Zimbabwe

President Mugabe
In an independence anniversary speech, Mr Mugabe described white farmers as "enemies" of the state, whose resistance to land redistribution was the last vestige of British colonialism in Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe has also repeated that he would send a ministerial-level delegation to London to discuss the land issue on 27 April.

Families flee

Some white farmers are leaving their farms altogether, while others have sent their families to stay in major cities.
Martin Olds
Martin Olds died before help could reach him

Correspondents say the next few days will be tense as people wait to see if the fatal shootings of two white farmers were isolated incidents.

Some farms that have been abandoned have subsequently been burnt by the squatters.

The violence in the rural areas is taking place against the backdrop of the parliamentary election campaign.
Land facts
Total population: 12.5m
White population: 70,000 (about 0.6%)
70% prime agricultural land white-owned (11m hectares)
1m blacks own 16m hectares - often in drought-prone regions
White-owned farms: 4,500

In his address to the nation on Tuesday, President Mugabe again hinted that the vote may take place next month, but declined to given an exact date.

Opposition supporters say they are facing intimidation and attacks from groups of activists from the governing Zanu-PF party.

Farmer Martin Olds was shot dead early on Tuesday after being trapped on his farm in Nyamandhlovu, near Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo.

Another white farmer, David Stevens, was shot dead at the weekend, and at least five opposition activists have been killed in recent weeks.

Farmers say the main road leading out of the capital, Harare, is now too dangerous for local traffic.

Bands of war veterans and squatters are reported to be roaming the area and the police are doing little to arrest those behind the violence.

Zimbabwe's information minister, Chen Chimutengwende, told the BBC that the farmers should surrender the land confiscated from blacks by British settlers.

Asked if the government was concerned about the deaths of opposition supporters, he said: "We are more worried about our people that have been killed as well."

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See also:

19 Apr 00 | Media reports
SA media urges action on Zimbabwe
19 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Blair condemns Zimbabwe violence
19 Apr 00 | Business
Zimbabwe's economy under threat
18 Apr 00 | Media reports
Mugabe's anniversary speech
18 Apr 00 | Africa
Mugabe address 'non-event'
18 Apr 00 | UK Politics
UK could take 20,000 Zimbabweans
17 Apr 00 | Africa
Farmer's widow wants justice
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