- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2000

HARARE, Zimbabwe The violence in Zimbabwe is spreading from farm seizures to attacks on opposition-party supporters, with evidence of coordination and support from the central government of President Robert Mugabe, who must face elections this summer.
"The situation is exceedingly serious. Anyone's notion that there can be free and fair elections is a joke," said Tony Reeler, clinical director at Amani Trust, an organization providing medical and legal help to those under attack.
"There has been intimidation on such a massive scale, it is the wrong term to speak of election violence," said Mr. Reeler, whose independent group has created a database of the killings, farm burnings and other violence raging across Zimbabwe.
"This is … organized violence, strategic violence being organized with the complicity and active participation of the state."
Journalists are also coming under attack after Patrick Nyaruwata, secretary-general of a war veterans association that has taken a leading role in the farm seizures, warned reporters against filing "false and biased" stories.
"With immediate effect, if we hear any journalist saying we are squatters, there is going to be war here. There will be severe punishment," he said.
A South Africa-based reporter who tried Monday to speak to the occupiers of a commercial farm about 25 miles east of Harare was interrogated, threatened with death and chased away.
His two local guides were seized and accused of supporting the political opposition to Mr. Mugabe. The guides said later they were handcuffed and beaten with iron rods and paraded in front of farm workers at a neighboring farm as an example of what happens to opposition supporters.
The guides said the pro-government squatters showed them fresh graves and told them to dig a pit for their own graves. They escaped that night by attacking a new crew of guards with the iron rods and running into the bush.
Both men were severely bruised and one might have suffered a fractured hip, according to a doctor with Amani Trust.
Amani's Mr. Reeler compared the situation to Mr. Mugabe's deployment in the mid-1980s of North Korean-trained special forces in Matabeleland, an area of southwestern Zimbabwe where some 20,000 minority Ndebele people were killed for suspected opposition to the president's dominant Shona-based ruling party.
He said the pattern of violence showed a systematic move by the squatters into communal farming districts where the opposition has broad support, and said there was clear evidence of government sponsorship of the violence.
This includes the provision of food, weapons and transport; coordination of the activities by the government's Central Intelligence Organization; and a general refusal of police to intervene or investigate mass violence.
Despite the evidence of official incitement, South African President Thabo Mbeki refused to criticize Mr. Mugabe during remarks yesterday in Pretoria, South Africa.
South Africa will "work consistently and without making the noise of empty drums to help the sister people of Zimbabwe to find a just and lasting solution to the real and pressing land question in that country," Mr. Mbeki said in advance of a meeting today with Mr. Mugabe in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Mr. Mbeki said the land crisis was a direct result of British colonial rule in Zimbabwe and blamed the collapse of a 1998 land-reform agreement between Mr. Mugabe and the former colonial master for the current crisis.
Learnmore Jongwe, a spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, accused the government of "a well-calculated strategy aimed at singling out the MDC leadership at the local level and attacking and intimidating them."
Matthew Pfebve, the brother of an MDC parliamentary candidate in Bindura district, was beaten to death by a mob of government supporters. His elderly parents also were severely beaten.
Attackers also firebombed the shop of Peter Karimakuenda, another MDC parliamentary candidate, and burned huts at the homestead of an MDC candidate in Gomomonzi, a newspaper reported.
A spokeswoman for the Commercial Farmers Union, representing white farmers, said at least 30 new farms had been invaded between Monday and Wednesday.
"There are massive wheat stoppages going on. That is the winter crop that farmers are trying to prepare for now. Some of the invaders are threatening the farmers and telling them to leave entirely. Other invaders are telling farmers they can stay, but divide the land," the spokeswoman said.

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