- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2000

HARARE, Zimbabwe About 50 men invaded the cattle farm of former Prime Minister Ian Smith over the weekend, Mr. Smith said yesterday at his home in Harare.

The invasion of the arid 6,000-acre ranch near Shurugwe, 320 miles southwest of the capital, came just one day after President Robert Mugabe pledged to end a wave of violent farm seizures by forming a committee to plan an orderly redistribution of land.

Mr. Smith, the nation's last chief executive during the period of exclusive white rule, said he was not at his farm when it was invaded and he was cautious in reporting it.

He said he did not believe the takeover was organized by government supporters or by veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war, who have spearheaded the seizure of more than 1,100 white-owned commercial farms since February.

"I don't want to provoke. I'm not looking for trouble," Mr. Smith said.

"I have had a few garbled versions of a small number of people who walked out from Shurugwe, people who have been retrenched from the mining industry and so on. They have been told everybody else is going to farms and staking ground so why shouldn't they?

"My farm is the very category of land the government said it wouldn't touch. I have only one farm. It is one of the most highly productive in the area," he added.

The government has declared that it intends to seize land only from people with multiple farms and whose land is underutilized and suitable for subdivision.

Now 80, Mr. Smith was prime minister from 1964 to 1979. He led a breakaway administration that resisted British attempts to lead the colony toward majority rule, and once vowed that whites would rule for 1,000 years.

"I think [the land grab] is sad because it is destroying our country and bringing our country into disrepute in the eyes of the whole world. We have always been the breadbasket of central Africa. If we go on like this we will be beggars and not givers," Mr. Smith said.

According to Amani Trust, a Harare organization offering medical and legal help to victims of torture and violence, there have been more than 5,000 acts of violence, including rape, murder, destruction of property and widespread assault against opponents of Mr. Mugabe's ruling party.

The number of dead rose yesterday to 20 when John Weeks, a white farmer living about 30 miles south of Harare, died of wounds suffered on Thursday when he was shot in the stomach.

Intimidation continued over the weekend with threats forcing several farmers in the southwestern areas of Matabeleland and Midlands to abandon their farms and take refuge in nearby towns.

"There are still a lot of threats and that has some farmers leaving for town for the weekend," said a spokesman for the Commercial Farmers' Union.

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