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Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Zimbabwe: e-mail highlights

We have been inundated with e-mails concerning the crisis in Zimbabwe. Here is an edited selection.
Experiences from Zimbabwe

I was a resident of Rhodesia from 1976 to 1978. I remember one day reading in the Rhodesian Herald about a white farmer who was convicted of beating a sixty-year-old farm worker to death because he had planted the maize seeds to close together. He was fined $300 (about £200). Where were the calls for justice then? I remember white farmers putting African workers in their car boots to take them to the fields. I remember drunken white soldiers boasting about throwing people out of helicopters and other horrors. I remember sitting in a crowded city centre restaurant being shouted at as a "kaffir lover" because one of my companions was "coloured". None of this makes Mugabe right - but why the western sympathy for the white farmers? When did they ever say sorry?
Will Rogers, Britain

I lived in Nyamandhlovu, Zimbabwe for 4 years, Martin Olds was my neighbour. He did not deserve to die such a violent death. Now that the conflict has reached Matabeleland we can expect to see further violence in the country. I always thought that Mr Mugabe was strong enough to see the country through all the difficulties ahead after Independence. On this anniversary of their independence I would like to ask Mr Mugabe to think of the future for all people in his country; the Shona, the Matabele and the whites. He had a lot of respect when he took over the presidency and could regain this by working towards conciliation. I also send my sincere condolences to Alf and Gloria Olds and to the families of all those touched by the current tragedies.
Alison Carman, United Kingdom

would like to add a comment about the killing that went on Today at Nyamandhlovu. Mr Martin Olds on the first white person to receive a Bronze Medal of Valour for saving MR G Parkin's life on the 11 Jan 1989 from a crocodile attack. Approx. 1 year later Mr Olds went to the State House where he shook hands with Mr Mugabe to accept the medal. The Nymandhlovu Police have had a history of poor service especially where whites are concerned, this has been highlighted tragically by today's events.
Lisa, Zimbabwe

As a white Zimbabwean farmer who has had to flee from my home we send out a plea to the rest of the world. We are being executed by our government because of the colour of our skin, all in an attempt by a thoroughly corrupt leader to cling to power. Can anyone help us?
Lorraine, Zimbabwe

What is Britain and the United Nations going to do about this ethnic cleansing? How many more innocent Zimbabweans, black and white, have to die before the international community reacts to stop this dictator bringing the country to it's knees in his desperate attempts to maintain his iron grip on power?
Expat in Exile, UK

I am a white Zimbabwean - I was born here - I have nowhere to go. The farmers were agreeable to land distribution from the very beginning, provided it was done fairly. They drew up plans and presented them to government. The government then took it upon themselves to take the land they wished and give it to their buds. All that land is standing idle whilst 20 year old 'war veterans' are destroying productive farms. Once they have taken the farms how can they possibly hope to run them? Please will someone out there help us before our home is destroyed....
Sarah , Zimbabwe

Born in Zimbabwe, raised in Zimbabwe, forced to leave because of the colour of my skin. Where do I go? The UK? I have no right of abode. I am not a British citizen. Where is my home? I have no farm, I have nothing. Just my skin colour. That's enough to make me the expense of Mugabe's desperate attempts to retain his dictatorship. He's not the only black Zimbabwean who can lead. Don't let the actions of a few desperate men convince you that Zimbabwe has a racially unstable society. Anyone taken in by Mugabe's last playing card has got to look at themselves and think "do I really want to be his puppet?". What do you want? I want harmony, success, and happiness in the place I was born and raised. I want to work, as I have, for a better life for us all. I want a place I can call home.
Homeless, No Man's Land

Most of the people commenting above are out of touch with the reality of the situation. All of us Zimbabweans fought for our country and there should be no privileged minority such as the "war vets".
I am a black Zimbabwean and feel that Mugabe has lost it and its time to go. He is clinging to any possible "solution" to extend his period in power. It is unfortunate that fellow Zimbabweans "war vets" continue to be used by a man who will shake them off once he has "won" the elections. We can not pay for the sins and inequities of our forefathers. The government has acquired land for themselves and the top brass, why can't they redistribute that land first before they go and illegally acquire more.
The whole land reform and distribution process is not transparent hence the upheaval happening today. You do not correct a wrong by another wrong. Zimbabweans wake up before it is too late. Mugabe has taken us for a ride over the past twenty years.
Susan, Zimbabwe

I was sitting in a restaurant in Zimbabwe with my friends one minute, the next minute the riot police had thrown tear gas in.... I was certainly crying¿. I want to go back. I am worried about my family there, and my friends. I can't watch them be destroyed by a little man, who is very short and very clever! Lets hope that he is not clever enough!!!
Kat (age 17), UK

On the land issue

Who are the commercial farmers supposed to give their land back to? The land tenure system in Zimbabwe recognises two forms of land ownership - private freehold and communal. I presume the commercial farms would have to be given to the people and cease to be freehold and revert to communal ownership. The financial institutions will not lend money to the communal owners of the land to develop it. The financial institutions will not lend the present owners of any freehold money to develop it if its ownership is under threat.
Mugabe and his war veterans are taking the country back into a communally owned form of land tenure that can only support agrarian subsistence farming. If they get their way and are allowed to flaunt the laws of the country Zimbabwe will become a rural slum. If farmland is to be 'nationalised' what about urban land? No one's freehold property in Zimbabwe is secure.
God help Zimbabwe. Let the voters decide on which party can lead the country into the information age. The voters will get the government they deserve. If Mugabe ever lets free and far elections the voters will get their chance to replace him and ZANU (PF). If the current voters do not like their politicians they can do what thousands of others have done and voted with their feet and become economic refugees and exiles living outside the country they would love to call home.
Osie Osborne, New Zealand Ex Zimbabwe

The point people seem to be missing is this; the conflict is about land and the confiscation of white owned land. Mugabe wants to confiscate the white's land without compensation. The people of Zimbabwe voted AGAINST this confiscation of land in the recent referendum. The courts have ruled in favour of the farmers, so they can't be in the wrong. Wake up world - your silence is allowing a dictatorship to flourish. Murder and anarchy will follow.
Jason, UK

This 'conflict' has nothing to do with land. It has everything to do with the corruption of Robert Mugabe. He is a corrupt political tyrant who has bled Zimbabwe dry to fill his own pockets and those of his ZanuPF cronies.
Like most African countries since the ending of white rule, the victors have been the greedy and insane. The ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe, both black and white will now suffer at the hands of one of Africa's most successful and richest dictators.
The British government (of all persuasions) bear some of the blame for keeping him in power for so long. Now is the time to pull the plug on Mugabe. He has bankrupted what was one of the richest countries in Southern Africa, and condemned its people to poverty. If 'ethnic cleansing' is deemed wrong in Europe, then it should be deemed wrong in Africa, and the West take a stand.
Dave, UK

Because of these land occupations current crops are not being harvested and new winter crops are not being planted. Farmers will not be able to pay their debts and will go bankrupt. If this happens, the economy in Zimbabwe will collapse as, an agricultural economy, no foreign exchange will come into the country, and there will not be any money to pay for food imports to replace the unplanted food crops.
Taking farms away from whites may sound like a fair and noble idea, but the reality is that most of these re-distributed farms will be used for subsistence farming. Unfortunately subsistence farming does not feed a nation.
Unless something is done about this now, the world will end up paying later in the form of economic/food aid to Zimbabwe.
Aris, UK

There are many facts that need to be stated clearly. Who 'owned' the land before the Shona moved onto it prior to white people moving onto it? Mugabe and his cabinet have pocketed the 30 million odd pounds that the British Government donated to buy back the land from white farmers. Mugabe is now one of the richest men in the world - he wasn't 20 years ago. The white farmers are largely responsible for keeping the economy such as it is, going. Without them the country will become another Ethiopia in the not too distant future. In the interests of law and order and human decency the world must rally to support the white Zimbabwe farmers.
Jean Illingworth, Australia

The principle of land redistribution is not in dispute. The overwhelming majority of white farmers in Zimbabwe accept that an unfair situation needs to be put right.
But this crisis is not really about land. It is about Mugabe seizing any opportunity he can to remain in power. Most Zimbabweans would like to see a fair settlement on the land issue. Mugabe would rather see continued unrest... it provides him with an issue that he thinks will attract support. The reality is that most Zimbabweans despise him and his corrupt government. If he did not have the whites to flog, he would find some other reason to behave the way he has done.
Vengai Ndlovu, UK

I appreciate that there may be past injustices and very real land issues in present day Zimbabwe, however have the war veterans possibly forgotten an fundamental point. Did they fight the Rhodesian war merely about land? Were they not also fighting against racial discrimination? Were they not also fighting for democratic rule? It appears to me that they have lost the war on these fronts entirely.
Noel, UK

On race

Mugabe surprises me with his war vets. I am sure many of them do not even know proper farming methods because many never learnt agriculture in school, yet agriculture holds almost 70% of Zimbabwe's economy, lets wait and see how the vets will perform after they are handed the farms, no repair will be done to the machinery because they do not even know what fertiliser to apply where and how. Let Mugabe compensate the white farmers and I am sure farming in Zimbabwe will come to a halt the moment vets take over.
Martha James, Tanzania

Mugabe's strategy is working...he is going to create terror and the whole world are going to give him what he wants in order to stop the bloodshed. Watch - Britain will give money to resettle the blacks, and farmers will not be compensated. The opposition will be defeated because of the terror he is installing and the Mugabe supporters will rule strong because the first world once again gives into Mugabe just to stop the violence.
Linda Edwards, Canada

Is it any surprise that after Mr Mugabe's recent incitement, white farmers are now being killed by "war veterans" who have been instructed to invade their land. Another example, sadly, of Mr Mugabe's disgusting dictatorial attitude to government. I know that the troubled history of this beautiful country, but I fail to see how the latest round of violence will help to resolve anything
Malcolm, UK

The western media is guilty of racism. For the last 25 years, thousands of blacks have die in the struggle for equality. The ferocity of the media has never been as acute as it is now. We've all heard the names and seen the faces of the murdered and beaten white farmers in the media. What about the black opposition activists who were recently murdered... who were their names again?
John, UK

Personally, I think Robert Mugabe has been destroying Zimbabwe ever since he took over. The country has only been going down and down and now they've hit rock bottom. If he stays in control of the country, it's just going to get worse (and we thought when you hit the bottom, you can't get any worse.. wrong!). Get rid of him and let the country get back to its beautiful self.
Colin Webb, England

It is very reassuring to hear that so many Zimbabweans, black and white, have not been distracted by the Mugabe race hate propaganda. These intelligent people have shown that they know exactly what the megalomaniac Mugabe is up to. I think this shows that there is much hope for Zimbabwe, as long as Mugabe goes soon before the damage is irreparable.
Graeme, England

The harmony which has existed for so long has been deliberately destroyed by Mugabe and Zanu-PF. They do not wish to see unity. They hope to achieve their own political ends via unrest.
The world can see that there is no place in the 21st century for Mugabe and his racist views. The hatred is not confined to whites but also targeted at the Asian business community. Pamphlets have recently been circulating in Bulawayo, proclaiming "the Indians will be next". In many ways they are more visible than the white community.
White farmers known to hold British passports are being deliberately targeted by Mugabe's thugs. This is nothing but ethnic cleansing.
John Nevitt, UK

Bloodshed would be unavoidable since bloodshed is the only language colonialist understands. Whites in Zimbabwe would be responsible if bloodshed happens since they were tolerated for long and even asked nicely to leave. No one should expect peace after taking forcefully other's land. If the whites in Zimbabwe don't want to see bloodshed they should leave Zimbabwe and go back to Britain. It is Britain where they belong. Whites claims are baseless.
The Africans were never given the protection of the law and compensated when they lost their lands to this same people. Now it is their turn. Talk of economic disaster is propaganda to divert the real issue. What we see is history catching up with the Whites. Every form of colonialism shall be eradicated. Zimbabwe is symbol for Africa and the world.
Mahamed Abdullahi, Somalia

The great sadness of all this is that Mugabe is employing racism ("its all the fault of the white devil") to prop up his political support (much as European racists have done in France, Austria, Italy and elsewhere). Clearly the land was illegally expropriated many years ago, but from whom? Until this is clearly agreed, the present (white) incumbents have the greatest claim to their farms. At such time as agreement is reached (possibly by arbitration) the farmers must pay adequate compensation - they may argue that they have paid for the property, but unfortunately it was not the vendors to sell.
Craig Harry, England

I cannot believe the comments about 'this is because of colonialism', and 'land distribution is needed so economic wealth to be shared'. Rubbish! Within five years of a world war Germany had rebuilt itself more than most of Africa has managed in the 30 years since independence. That's because of corrupt and incompetent governments in Africa. Not colonialism. As for the land - it needs to be distributed to all for the good and overall wealth of the country..... I don't see it being a major issue in any developed country. It's time to stop your ignorant and misplaced ideals, support the law, and try and do what is best for Zimbabwe; which is to get a decent government.
Nick, UK

On Mugabe

I lived in Zimbabwe in the late eighties and experienced Mugabe's dictatorial methods firsthand when he tried to blame South Africa for killing Samora Machell. Anyone in Zimbabwe will remember what I mean. Everyone is to blame, except him and his cronies. Now it seems that it is open season on White Farmers. The same White farmers that provide Zimbabwe with most of there badly needed foreign currency. Most of the 'Veterans' that I have seen 'liberating' Farms were not even born when Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe was having its 'liberation war'.
It seems that it is the usual Zanu PF rent a mob, being used to catch votes for the forth-coming elections. To keep an old man who is trying to retain power in this land, one way or the other. Racism is such an easy card to play - this man has been playing it for years, would any western country be allowed to get away with what is happening in Zimbabwe?
Mark, England

I am a Zimbabwean based in Canada. What I do not understand is the concern now being expressed by the British over what is going on in Zimbabwe. In 1997 Tony Lloyd visited Zimbabwe where he had the temerity to tell journalists that Britain had no obligation to honour the promise it made during the Lancaster House negotiations. Things have now come to a head because all diplomatic efforts to solve Zimbabwe's land problems were ignored by the British, particularly the Tony Blair government. What is important is to realise that blacks in Zimbabwe need land; their land that was expropriated up to 1974 when the Tangwena clan was driven away from their land which was then taken by a Hanmark. Please what us Africans need is a place we call home.
Spear Katibu, Zimbabwean/Canada

We have seen the sad destruction of our once rich and glorious African colonies, since the winds of change speech. African Governments should be inviting back our pioneering youth to resettle the land and bring a firm hand to the task of rebuilding the country. The white settlers who have built up so much from scratch have as much right to own and farm as the tribesmen. African countries are largely artificial groupings, with a collection of tribes living in their bounds. The whites largely created Africa as we know it.
G F Sandeman, UK

So now these people who chose to live in Zimbabwe, as "Zimbabweans" are going to be rescued by the British. What about the black Zimbabweans? Everyone tries to say that this shouldn't be a question of 'black' and 'white' but to me it seems clear that when the going gets tough, the British government is prepared to airlift people just because of the colour of their skin. Not enough attention has been given to the blacks who are against Mugabe, and who have died for their beliefs.
Kirsty Carter, Zimbabwean living in the USA

It is very embarrassing to witness what is happening in Zimbabwe. This should not be a race issue. Britain or Zimbabwe's response should be fair. They should treat the white Zimbabweans and the black Zimbabweans equally, by addressing their needs fairly.
If white Zimbabweans truly consider themselves to be true Zimbabweans, they should see the suffering of their fellow (black) Zimbabweans and propose social reforms that will address issues of poverty in the country. It would be wonderful to get all true Zimbabweans, white yellow, black green etc. working together to solve issues in the country. It is very childish to propose going to remove white Zimbabweans from their homeland. Please let there be no racism or discrimination from both sides of colour. When are we going to learn to live in harmony as human beings?
Bernard Mukwavi, Zambian studying in Canada

I am an American who has emigrated to South Africa and have lived in, written about and worked in Southern Africa for twenty years. I have recently been to Zimbabwe for the third time and found no animosity between the races at all. A racist despot in the person of Robert Mugabe has created the present situation. Ask him about his own human rights records in regard to the Metabeli. What has happened to all the young Metabeli men and what of his own young Mashona that have died in his useless alliance with the Congo forces.
Zimbabwe's potential as a tourist Mecca is unsurpassed by even it's rich cousin to the South but one small-minded, tribalistic dictator has been able to bring it to it's knees. Remember when Edi Amin deported the Asian population form Uganda? The only hard currency earned by Zimbabwe is from its farmers. The squatters will not replant the land for export they will simply exist and Zimbabwe will cease to exsist other than as a jungle outpost as Livingston and Rhodes found it.
Michael Bagley, South Africa

We in Canada stole the land from the Indians. We managed to become the numerical majority, and don't lose much sleep over it. For us to prognosticate on Zimbabwe is presumptuous at best. But here at least we have the rule of law, and a tradition of rights for minorities, unlike in Mugabe's kleptocracy. The failure of Zimbabwe is a moral one, not related to any past injustices, but to present greed, present corruption and present incompetence. Mugabe, in his personal moral failure, has failed his people and the country that once held so much promise. When he has finished with the whites, he will return again to victimise that other minority, the Matabele, thousands of whom he had killed in 1983. Mugabe's disease, however, is a pandemic in Africa. Accordingly, the post-colonial epitaph to Africa and Zimbabwe now reads "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here."
John Nicholls, Canada

I was due to fly to Zimbabwe with an aid team this weekend, but we have had to delay indefinitely due to the present unrest. It seems to me that the situation is fairly clear-cut. Yes, a great injustice was done when the British colonialists massacred natives and took land for themselves. Yes, this is still a real issue today, no matter how long ago it happened. But surely anyone with a balanced mind can see that there is a right way and a wrong way to resolve this kind of issue.
The right way is by peaceful negotiation, and using democratic and peaceful means to apply pressure where necessary. The wrong way is what Mugabe is doing - using violence, intimidation and ignorance to further his own political ends. When will the world realise that Mugabe is not interested in justice for his people, but in staying in power and tightening his hold on the nation? His behaviour, and that of his regime, is typical of any dictator in the process of losing his grip (a look at the history books will confirm that).
I am not proud of the atrocities committed in the name of Britain in the past, but I fear that if Mugabe has his way, the majority of white farmers will leave. It's not difficult to predict what will happen then: an economy already on the verge of collapse will sink into the abyss, and the poor will get poorer while Mugabe and his cronies continue to do what they've been doing - lining their own pockets with land and money that should have been given to the people.
Rob Grayson, UK

My family arrived in Bulawayo on Christmas Day in 1896. They were given land by Cecil John Rhodes and have remained there ever since. They were people desperate for a start in life and this was it. Did they think of the Matabele who had just been cheated of their land by the British? Who knows? That is not the point. Like the USA and various other countries around the world, this is the way it was. My mother and father still live in Bulawayo. They are not British or citizens of any other country. They are Zimbabwean. The ignorant comments submitted by the "Go back to England where you belong" crowd are laughable. May as well tell that US Farmer in Iowa to go back to Ireland or Poland or wherever his ancestors came from. The real issue at hand here is that Mugabe is willing to trade people's livelihoods for his own personal gain.
P Blundell, Ex Zimbabwean now in Australia

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