Thursday, April 10, 2008
By Kingsley Kaswende in Harare
Thursday April 10, 2008 [04:00]
ZIMBABWEAN police on Monday drove militant war veterans off white-owned farms they had invaded on Saturday. In a new wave of farm attacks precipitated by the election results in which the ruling ZANU-PF is believed to have lost and the subsequent threats by former white land owners to repossess their land, the war veterans drove as many as 12 farmers out of their properties in Masvingo district, south of Harare.
The militants accused farm owners whose land was spared during the land seizures of using their farms as bases for former white landowners to launch their bids to reclaim the land.
There have been reports that some white farmers have been seen in the rural areas attempting to reclaim their previous land, following MDC's victory in the polls.
Police said they warned war veterans not to take the law into their own hands.
Acting police commanding officer in Masvingo, assistant commissioner Mekia Tanyanyiwa said the war veterans had been ordered to vacate the farms they had seized but warned white farmers who lost their land through the land reform programme to respect the law.
"We want, however, to warn some of the white former farmers who have been reportedly threatening to repossess acquired farms that they will be definitely arrested and face the full wrath of the law," said Tanyanyiwa.
State television footage on Monday night showed scores of militant war veterans forcing out white farmers and giving others ultimatums to vacate the land.
"We are giving you four hours to leave. From today onwards this farm is ours," the footage showed one uncompromising war veteran telling a farmer.
Zimbabwe's land seizures have been cited as the cause for the country's deteriorating economy, as the farms were taken away from the productive white farmers and handed to some indigenous Zimbabweans who had neither the capacity nor interest to farm.
But President Mugabe's government accuses Western countries of causing the meltdown due to the sanctions they have slapped on the country. [And not just President Mugabe's government - MrK]
About 4,000 farms were seized and redistributed to landless indigenous Zimbabweans.
Currently, fewer than 400 farmers remain.
Last week, association of war veterans chairperson Jabulani Sibanda said his rank and file would repel any "invasion" by white farmers. He said the 2008 elections had been an avenue to re-open the country for invasion by Britain.
And in a speech at a funeral last Sunday, the President urged Zimbabweans to defend the land seized from white farmers in recent years.
"This is our soil and the soil must never go back to the whites," said President Mugabe.