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The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"Another farm is destroyed"
 real 28k

The BBC's Grant Ferrett reports
"Farm workers were beaten and their belongings looted"
 real 28k

Robert Mugabe talks to the BBC
"You want me to set war veterans in the army against war veterans outside the army?"
 real 28k

Friday, 21 April, 2000, 01:02 GMT 02:02 UK
Violence flares in Zimbabwe
Farm occupation
Black farm workers were beaten, their houses torched
Fresh violence has erupted on white-owned farms in Zimbabwe, despite promises from squatters' leaders of a temporary halt to hostilities.

Black farm workers were beaten and their houses torched on Thursday in the Arcturus area east of the capital, Harare, by a group of more than 150 government supporters.

The assailants - armed with sticks, whips and rocks - rampaged through the farm settlement, kicking down doors, smashing windows and burning down about 30 houses as dismayed workers looked on.



Your security on the farms is given and it is given not only by me, but by the president

Veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi

The white farm owner had already abandoned his property after receiving threats, neighbours said. Many other white farming families have done likewise, fearing for their lives.

The leader of the attackers said the farm was a headquarters for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"Our people have been suffering because of these people," he said.

The news of the latest violence comes as President Robert Mugabe prepares to host a regional summit on Friday which will discuss the growing threat of instability in Zimbabwe.

Peace pledge

He and his opposite numbers from South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique will also hold a separate meeting to discuss the continuing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Hunzvi
Chenjerai Hunzvi: Temporary halt to attacks

Friday's planned summit follows talks between Mr Mugabe and leaders of the white farmers and the war veterans who have been occupying their property.

On Wednesday, the organiser of the farm invasions, war veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi, said there would be no further attacks pending negotiations towards resolving the crisis over land ownership.

On Thursday he repeated his call for a "cessation of hostilities" in a meeting with farmers in the Marondera area - where a white farmer was killed at the weekend.

"Your security on the farms is given and it is given not only by me, but by the president. All other things should stop. There have been aggressions from the war veterans and aggressions from the farmers. There should be a cessation of hostilities," he said.

Killings

Over the past two months, government supporters have illegally occupied more than 1,000 white-owned farms.



Two white farmers, two black members of the opposition MDC and a black policeman have been killed, and two rapes have been reported.

A wake was held in Harare on Thursday for the two MDC workers who died in a petrol-bomb attack on Saturday

On Wednesday, Mr Mugabe said the veterans - who have led the occupations - would not withdraw until the farmers made clear what land they intended to hand over.

And in an interview with the BBC, he said he did not want international help, such as from the United Nations, to ease the land crisis.

Representatives of the war veterans and the white farmers union will meet on 28 April, according to Mr Hunzvi.

A representative of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) has said that in the interest of "national unity" he believed a solution would be reached.

Attacks

There were also unconfirmed reports overnight of violence against white farmers and black farmworkers in the Marondera district further east.


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

According to Reuters news agency, farmers in the area said on Thursday that they had found the body of a black foreman missing since farmer David Stevens was killed on Saturday.

Reuters said no details were available on the identity of the foreman or the circumstances of his death.

"There were a lot of attacks of farm workers in their compounds last night," a farmer from the Marondera area about 100km (62 miles) east of Harare told Reuters.

Some white farmers are leaving their farms altogether, while others have sent their families to stay in major cities.

Farmers say busloads of war veterans are moving into the eastern highlands and the ranch lands northwest of the capital, Harare. They fear a new wave of farm seizures.

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See also:

20 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Queen's note upsets Zimbabwe whites
19 Apr 00 | Business
Zimbabwe's economy under threat
19 Apr 00 | Media reports
SA media urges action on Zimbabwe
17 Apr 00 | Africa
Farmer's widow wants justice
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