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Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Zimbabwe violence fears rise
The leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party has given his strongest indication yet that his party will retaliate against attacks on its supporters.
Morgan Tsvangirai said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would take violence to the doorsteps of those responsible for attacks on its supporters.
His comments come amid an atmosphere of increasing violence, with five MDC activists being killed in the past five days at the hands of supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Some 15 Zanu-PF supporters have been arrested after two killings in the northern town of Kariba.
One of the men died after he was held down and repeatedly stamped on the head, and another 14 people are in hospital with serious injuries.
"We believe as MDC that the time has come when in the face of these attacks and without protection it is certainly a moment when the MDC will have to devise strategies to protect ourselves," Mr Tsvangirai said.
He did not specify what action the MDC would take, but he said that the party "could not watch while its people are being brutally murdered".
Mr Tsvangirai said the violence was being co-ordinated by some ministers and members of parliament.
"Some of the ministers and members of parliament actually condone the violence and say that killing people is the right thing to do. From the vice-president to some of the members of parliament we know who is involved," he said.
The country, he said, was in a state of siege which would make free and fair parliamentary elections impossible, if left unchecked. Elections are scheduled for May.
A BBC correspondent in Harare, Richard Lister, says these were the strongest comments yet from Mr Tsvangirai after several days of increasing violence.
The MDC said a bouncer at a bar in Harare, had died from injuries sustained on Monday. The man had been wearing an MDC T-shirt.
And a spokesman for the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) has said a farm labourer was killed Tuesday in an attack on the workers' compound on Charara Estate near Lake Kariba in the north of the country.
The major tobacco growers in Zimbabwe have failed to attend a tobacco auction that is normally vital to the country's economy.
Farmer's leaders have denied that there has been any officially organised boycott and have urged tobacco growers to start selling next month.
Farmers say the recent invasion of 1,000 white-owned farms, along with severe fuel shortages, have caused delays in sending the crop to market.
Zimbabwe is the world's third largest tobacco producer and the crop is its main export.
BBC Harare correspondent Grant Ferrett says that until the tobacco sales begin in earnest, Zimbabwe's economy is, in effect, at a standstill.
Church seeks solution
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has held a meeting in Harare of the country's political leaders aimed at finding an immediate solution to the violence.
Mr Tsvangirai, who attended the meeting, was disparaging of what it could achieve.
"I was at the church meeting this morning. They were all saying, 'Let's pray for peace.' Yes, it is very good to pray for peace when you are not the victim," Mr Tsvangirai said.
White farmers have been spared from violence in recent days as black farm workers who are suspected of supporting the MDC have increasingly been targeted.
More farm invasions
New invasions of white-owned farms by war veterans and supporters the Zanu-PF were reported earlier on Wednesday by the CFU. There are no reports of casualties.
A spokesperson for CFU said a busload of squatters had arrived at the Amerinda farm, south of Harare and demanded the land.
Gangs of youths are reported to be roaming between farms in the Marondera district east of Harare threatening black workers with sticks.
The CFU has also reported that there has been some progress following meetings between representatives of the union and war veterans' groups.
Guy Watson-Smith, the Mashonaland CFU representative, said: "I think we have got a little bit of an understanding here and progress on the ground. There are a couple of areas that are better places to be than they were."
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