- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

HARARE, Zimbabwe Zimbabwean police arrested and imprisoned 47 white farmers yesterday as President Robert Mugabe stepped up his agricultural-redistribution program and declared all-out war against farmers refusing to leave their land.
The farmers, the oldest of them 78, were detained and are likely to spend the weekend in jail before appearing in court on Monday.
They have been charged with failing to follow eviction orders under the land-redistribution act, which required them to leave their farms Aug. 10.
"They're being arrested left, right and center," said Jenni Williams, spokeswoman for the farmers' lobby group Justice for Agriculture (JAG). "They are men from all age groups from every part of the country."
Warrants also have been issued for the arrest of a hundred more farmers, some of whom were believed to have gone into hiding, farmers' representatives said.
JAG said police headquarters had ordered police stations across the country to arrest every farmer who had ignored the deadline. Only 400 of the 2,900 farmers given compulsory acquisition orders are believed to have left their homes.
In a separate development, four Americans, two Germans and a Briton who flew into the country on a flight from London on Thursday were refused entry into Zimbabwe and expelled, apparently in retaliation for Western sanctions and a travel ban slapped on Mr. Mugabe and senior members of his government.
Britain's Foreign Office in London said yesterday that four British nationals have been refused entry at the Harare airport since Aug. 8.
On Monday, Mr. Mugabe warned that he would target British and American interests in Zimbabwe.
In a speech last night, Mr. Mugabe said the land reforms were unstoppable, and Assistant Police Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena announced that the arrests would continue.
One farmer, Colin Shand, proved luckier than most of his colleagues and was released after spending nearly three hours in custody. Mr. Shand had won a court ruling overturning his eviction earlier this week and allowing him to remain on his land until December.
"A group of armed policemen and a guy in civilian clothes came up to my gate and said I was under arrest for not leaving my farm on the 10th," he told The Washington Times.
He believes he was released because he is a chronic diabetic who requires four insulin injections a day, as well as a specialized diet. Despite the threats made against him, he is determined not to leave his farm.
"I will continue what I've been doing," he said. "I've only got one farm. I don't have any other house. I'm a Zimbabwean citizen, and I'm not allowed to live anywhere else in the world."
Mr. Mugabe began a violent campaign against the white farmers in February 2000. During the past two years, youths from his ruling party, describing themselves as "war veterans," have occupied many of the 4,500 white-owned farms, paralyzing production and burning millions of acres of crops. They have also killed 12 white farmers, beaten up many more and killed scores of black farm workers.
A looming famine threatening 6 million Zimbabweans, half the country's population, with starvation has largely been blamed on the disruption of farming activities.
Mr. Mugabe says his reforms are meant to correct land redistribution of the colonial era, although many farms have been allocated to his friends and political allies. Eighty percent of whites bought their farms from Mr. Mugabe's government after independence from Britain in 1980, according to JAG.
JAG is challenging the constitutionality of the evictions in the courts and already has won important test cases against the government. However, Mr. Mugabe has regularly defied court rulings.
"The farmers are not breaking the law by staying on," Mrs. Williams said. "It is their duty and right to remain on their farms. They are protected by the constitution, and the government is violating the constitution."
Five farmers from the southern province of Matabeleland were released on bail after being charged with unlawfully remaining on their farms. Fifty others are expected to appear in court in the next few days. They have not been arrested.
On Wednesday, war veterans armed with clubs and rocks forced white farmer Terry Hinde off his land, the first violent seizure since the deadline expired.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide