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2000: White farmer shot dead in Zimbabwe
A white farmer in Zimbabwe has been shot dead by squatters occupying his land.

David Stevens was taken from his property 75 miles (120 kilometres) east of the capital, Harare, and driven into the bush.

He is the first white farmer to be killed in the on-going land confrontations involving so-called "war veterans" backed by President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party.

Approximately 1,000 farms are being occupied by the men, some of whom fought in the war for black majority rule in the former Rhodesia.

The veterans say the land was unfairly appropriated by white settlers in the days of white rule and are demanding it should be handed back to black Zimbabweans.

Five other farmers who tried to help Mr Stevens were also abducted - they were later released badly beaten.

One of them, John Osborne, witnessed David Steven's murder.

"It was unreal - these guys are not playing, they are deadly serious and out of control," he said.

Mr Osborne is being treated in hospital for broken ribs and concussion.

About 100 white families fled their farms after the incident.

Mr Stevens' wife, Maria, was not at home when he was kidnapped.

She said she discovered her husband had been taken away when she returned from a trip to Harare with their two-year-old twins.

"I was told that under no circumstances should I go to the farm and that we had been ordered never ever to go back," she said.

War veterans have vowed to continue their takeovers of white-owned farms in spite of a high court ruling that they should leave.

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Farms across Zimbabwe are being occupied



In Context
In spite of international condemnation, President Robert Mugabe pressed on with his plan to remove Zimbabwe's farms from white ownership.

By April 2002 10 white farmers had been murdered.

However, many of the 2,900 ordered to leave their land have resisted the eviction orders.

In September 2002 Zimbabwe's parliament adopted new legislation making it easier to evict them.

Critics of Mr Mugabe's land reform programme say it has contributed to an acute shortage of food in Zimbabwe and its people's dependence on foreign aid.

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