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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Regional concern over land crisis
Squatted: Repeat attacks are feared in South Africa
As President Robert Mugabe's government announced the date for Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections, the media and political leaders elsewhere in southern Africa continued to follow the crisis sparked by the wave of farm occupations.

In South Africa, President Mbeki's handling of the situation was expected to feature during his upcoming tour of Britain and the US.

Similar conflicts could break out in Namibia and South Africa

Theo-Ben Gurirab, Namibia's foreign minister
"President Thabo Mbeki will have to stand firm over the next two weeks when foreign journalists tackle him about his controversial handling of the Zimbabwe debacle," the Johannesburg newspaper Rapport said.

"The plan is for Mbeki to explain his approach and actions toward the land invasion crisis in Zimbabwe to the American president and Tony Blair and their foreign secretaries," it continued.

"For potential British and American investors it will be important to know that the Mbeki government will act against illegal land invasions if unruly mobs follow the example of Zimbabwean land invaders and occupy South African farms."

Thabo Mbeki: Faces questions over land invasions
According to Johannesburg's Sunday Times, Mr Mbeki and Mr Blair "are expected to clash on what Pretoria perceives as British foot-dragging over money promised for land redistribution".

For Mr Mbeki's foreign minister, too, money was the main issue.

"If the money arrives tomorrow I am sure a solution will be found just as quickly," Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said during a visit to Denmark, as reported by Copenhagen's Berlingske Tidende.

"They do not need to get all the land at one time. As long as the process begins and it looks as if it will continue, it will produce calm," she added.

The possibility of the Zimbabwe land crisis spreading was on the mind of Namibia's foreign minister.

"Similar conflicts could break out in Namibia and South Africa," Theo-Ben Gurirab said during a visit to Cairo, according to Egypt's MENA agency.

He said South Africa's whites made up 13% of the population but owned 87% of its land, but added: "This problem should be settled peacefully through negotiations."

Peace was also of concern to Malawian President Bakili Muluzi.

Evacuation plans

"Dr Muluzi said he was aware that indigenous Zimbabweans need land but this cannot be achieved by confrontation," Malawian radio said, reporting his return from a tour of Britain.

"He called on those involved to resolve the dispute amicably and said there was need for peace in Zimbabwe because it is an important trading partner to Malawi."

Further afield, there were signs that Britain is not the only former colonial power in southern Africa with concerns for its nationals.

Portugal's junior foreign minister responsible for the country's expatriates began a visit to Zimbabwe on Sunday to "show solidarity" with the 3,000-strong Portuguese community there, the Jornal de Noticias newspaper reported.

Jose Lello was planning "to assess the civil contingency plan to evacuate the Portuguese if the situation deteriorated to unsustainable levels", it noted.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

16 May 00 | Africa
Talks tackle Zimbabwe elections
06 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Eyewitness: Fear and intimidation
10 May 00 | Africa
Zimbabwe poll boycott threat
15 May 00 | Africa
What can the Commonwealth do?
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