- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2000

JOHANNESBURG The crisis in Zimbabwe over demands by landless blacks for white-owned farms has moved to the cities with the deployment of government troops to urban opposition strongholds, says opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mr. Tsvangirai, whose Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formally challenged June election results in 28 districts yesterday, told business leaders during an appearance in Johannesburg that his party would aggressively confront President Robert Mugabe's government in court and in parliament.
"We are going to … tear [the government's program] apart. At every stage we will exploit opportunities" to challenge the ruling party over tenders, procedures and governance, he said.
His remarks Tuesday came as at least 230 white farmers quit working and businessmen in a provincial town shut down stores in the country's biggest action so far to protest a breakdown in law and order, farm union officials said.
The rising urban tension is focused in the capital, Harare, where parliament opened last week with thousands of opposition supporters chanting anti-government slogans in the streets.
The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) "has to go through some culture shock. If we can make the government accountable, we will have made a very significant impact," Mr. Tsvangirai said in Johannesburg.
He told The Washington Times later that he had received conciliatory back-channel communications from business officials connected with the ruling party. But he added that he was not sure whether they represented the views of Mr. Mugabe or merely concerned businesses.
"It may be because their businesses are suffering and they know they can't get going unless we compromise," Mr. Tsvangirai said.
In another possible sign of conciliation, a ZANU-PF official yesterday called on black squatters now occupying hundreds of white-owned farms to stop disrupting farm operations.
The seizures are of deep concern in South Africa, where a poll released yesterday showed that 70 percent of whites and 51 percent of blacks believe similar farm invasions are possible. Only 28 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed found the prospect unlikely.
The survey also found that 76 percent of whites and 57 percent of blacks blamed Mr. Mugabe for the invasions, saying he had not managed land reform properly.
Yesterday was the deadline for filing court actions to overturn last month's parliamentary elections in which Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC stunned the ruling party by winning 57 of 120 seats despite widespread violence and political intimidation.
The party's legal chief, David Coltart, said the MDC had filed challenges in 28 voting districts, in addition to seven races that were challenged earlier.
The first court-ordered recounts are already under way in two constituencies, where MDC lawyers said they have found evidence of massive double voting.
The MDC would have to win 19 of its challenges to secure a majority in the 150-seat parliament, which includes 30 unelected members appointed by Mr. Mugabe.
"There is a massive amount of evidence. Most cases it is evidence of political intimidation. These will all go to full-blown trials," Mr. Coltart said.
The state-owned Herald newspaper, meanwhile, reported that civilians had filed at least 21 criminal charges against army troops in Harare's densely populated townships that voted overwhelmingly for the MDC.
Soldiers and police have been used to break up public gatherings, opposition victory celebrations and crowds outside nightclubs.
The troops have been deployed since shortly after the election results were announced June 26, but anger and fear surrounding their presence has grown since Mr. Mugabe was heckled at the opening of parliament.
At the time, he angrily replied that he would not hesitate to use the apparatus of state security in response to insults to state and national leaders.
"There have been confirmed reports of soldiers and police beating up civilians. Those … appear to be vigilante groups or unauthorized groups within the military," said Tony Reeler, head of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum.

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