- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

NYAMANDHLOVU, Zimbabwe Zimbabwe's first lady, Grace Mugabe, has chosen the white-owned farm she wants and has ordered its elderly owners and residents off the land.
Mrs. Mugabe has picked the Iron Mask Estate, 30 miles north west of Harare, which belongs to John and Eva Matthews, both in their 70s. The couple abandoned their home over the weekend.
Residents on the farm said Mrs. Mugabe and a high-powered entourage visited the property last week and politely told the black residents that she would be taking up residence shortly and that they should find alternative accommodation.
The news came as police continued their hunt for white farmers refusing to move off their land after the passing of a deadline set by President Robert Mugabe's regime.
Mr. Mugabe's supporters moved onto several farms in the eastern part of the country while the owners were in police cells. Farm equipment and personal possessions were looted, although police denied any knowledge of the crimes.
More than 20 white farmers were charged yesterday for defying the government order. The administration has ordered 2,900 of the remaining 4,500 white commercial farmers to leave their land without compensation, although 2,000 have refused. More than 200 have been arrested.
In Chegutu, 60 miles south of Harare, eight farmers, including the president of the Commercial Farmers' Union, were formally charged and released on bail. Jean Baldwin, 72, was given one month to vacate her property after pleading that her husband was terminally ill and that the family needed time to arrange their departure. "We have nowhere to go," she said later.
In another case, in rural Nyamandhlovu, 40 miles north of Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, 13 cheerful farmers, several of them pensioners, were granted bail but were waiting at the local farmers club late into the afternoon to hear whether they could return home before the next court hearing in September.
Before their court hearing, the barefoot farmers, several exercising in a small enclosure outside their cells, cracked jokes.
David Olds, whose mother and older brother were killed by Mr. Mugabe's militia on their farms, stripped off his shirt and turned his face and chest to the early morning sun to warm up after a cold night on concrete.
Police in Nyamandhlovu refused to let the press or the wives of the accused attend the hearing in the local magistrate's court within the police compound. The wives were told that police were anxious about potential hostilities from people gathered across the road.
The nationwide swoop on the white farmers, including a woman breast-feeding a 1-month-old, has irreparably damaged Zimbabwe's commercial agriculture at a time when half the population is on the brink of starvation. Several hundred farmers have fled their homes and businesses, most of them forever.
A lawyer representing farmers at the Myathi magistrate's court, also in Matabeleland, said his eight clients were granted bail and allowed to return home for a month to wind up their affairs.

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