- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2003

JOHANNESBURG Zimbabwean exiles living in South Africa yesterday called on the world not to forget their homeland during the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
With banners that read "Arrest Mugabe for War Crime" and "Bush, Give Mugabe 48 hours," more than 450 black Zimbabweans marched eight miles from the center of Johannesburg to the plush northern suburb of Sandton, where ministers and diplomats do their shopping.
White and black South Africans showed their sympathy by joining the procession at various points along the route.
"We have fled from Robert Mugabe, a dictator as ruthless as Saddam Hussein," march organizer, Jairos Tama, told the crowd. "But, Zimbabwe has no oil and no warheads, so the world leaves us to suffer."
More than 2 million black Zimbabweans live in South Africa and Mr. Tama estimates that another 1,500 cross the border every day.
Mr. Tama said that he had worked as a schoolteacher in Zimbabwe, but had refused to join Mr. Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, a condition of employment. "So I was chased from my job and my family were harassed by the government militia. In the end, I had to come to South Africa," he said.
Mr. Mugabe, 79, has ruled the country since its independence from Britain in 1980. Last year, he won an election that observers said was marred by state-sponsored violence and intimidation. Many nations, including the United States, have refused to recognize the result.
Over the past three years, the government has forced all but 600 of the country's 4,000 white commercial farmers off their land as part of a program to give farms to poor blacks. Aid agencies say much of the land has gone to members of the ruling elite and to Mr. Mugabe's family, including his sister, Sabina, and his second wife and former secretary, known as Comrade Grace.
The United Nations estimates that the disruption to farming, coupled with a drought, has left more than 60 percent of the country's 12 million people dependent on food aid.
Yesterday was a national holiday in South Africa to honor 69 black civilians who were fatally shot by the former white-minority government in 1960 at the town of Sharpville, south of Johannesburg. The massacre marked the start of the country's isolation that only ended when democracy was introduced in 1994.
South African president Thabo Mbeki addressed a rally, but the marchers criticized him for not doing more to dislodge Mr. Mugabe.
"Zimbabwe is landlocked and relies on South Africa for most of its imports, including electricity," Mr. Tama said."President Mbeki could force Mugabe to soften his dictatorship just by threatening to close the border, but he takes virtually no action."

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