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The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"He says he won't take any lessons on democracy from London"
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Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe
"The fight for freedom arose because of the misdeeds of the British"
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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
Defiant Mugabe prepares for election
Robert Mugabe
Mugabe: Will not order an end to land occupations
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has launched his party's election campaign in defiant mood, saying he will not order an end to the occupation of white-owned farm land.

We need half of the 12 million hectares in white farmers' hands

President Mugabe

"Let no one ever think that we will call upon the war veterans to withdraw. They need the land to backtrack to," Mr Mugabe said, unveiling an election manifesto in which land is the central issue.

"What we are saying is we need half of the 12 million hectares in white farmers' hands," Mr Mugabe told several hundred supporters at the launch of the manifesto.

In London, UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook responded by announcing further sanctions against Zimbabwe because of the continuing violence surrounding land reform.

British sanctions

In a statement to parliament, he said Britain would not grant any new export licence applications for arms and military equipment to Zimbabwe, including spare parts for British-made Hawk jets.

We just want our land and will take it the way we know how. What can they do?

Mr Mugabe on the Commonwealth

"I am sorry to say that the events of the past two weeks and President Mugabe's inflammatory speech earlier today suggest the government of Zimbabwe is interested in the issue of land reform only to create a condition of crisis in which it can secure its re-election," Mr Cook said.

Mr Mugabe has still to set a date for the parliamentary elections, which he originally said would take place in May.

Those polls could be held at any time in the next three months.

The ruling Zanu-PF party has chosen the election slogan: "The economy is the land - the land is the economy."

Violence continues

At least 15 people including farm workers, opposition supporters and two white farmers have been killed in escalating pre-election violence.

Drummers on a white-owned farm
Courts have declared land occupations illegal
In the latest incident, an opposition activist was killed in his home village in the east of the country.

Elliot Pfebve, a member of the National Executive Committee of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said his brother, Matthew, 47, was murdered late on Monday by a mob of war veterans and supporters of Zanu-PF.

Mr Pfebve, a candidate in the elections, said his brother had been kidnapped by a group of Zanu-PF supporters, and beaten to death.

Their father was also seriously injured in the attack.

The MDC says its followers are routinely intimidated. There are reports of gangs of government supporters roaming the countryside, searching houses and beating suspected MDC activists.

Commonwealth concern

President Mugabe has brushed aside the concerns of the Commonwealth.

"They have expressed their concern. What concern? We just want our land and will take it the way we know how. What can they do?" the president said.

On Tuesday, the eight foreign ministers of the Commonwealth Action Group, CMAG, which monitors human rights in member-states, voiced their concern at the ongoing violence, loss of life, illegal occupations and failure to uphold the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Don McKinnon
Don McKinnon intends to express concerns directly to Mugabe
Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon is to be sent on a special mission to Harare to spell out these worries to President Mugabe.

Mr McKinnon said the ministers had been under pressure to take much tougher action, but had counselled against expelling Zimbabwe from the organisation.

"I've had many calls from people who say we should expel Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth," he said.

Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge was particularly scathing of the Commonwealth statement, describing it as "unbalanced and uninformed."

"It is therefore quite puzzling why the CMAG has decided to adopt the hectoring and patronising tone of the British government by calling on Zimbabwe to hold elections within the time prescribed by the constitution," he said.

"I am tempted to advise my friends in the CMAG that for goodness sake if you have run out of things to say, remember silence is golden," said Mr Mudenge who had served as a member of the same group.

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03 May 00 | UK Politics
UK imposes Zimbabwe arms ban
19 Apr 00 | Business
Zimbabwe's economy under threat
06 Mar 00 | Africa
Points of view: Occupying farms
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