Accessibility links

Militants Force Laborers Off White-Owned Farms in Zimbabwe - 2001-08-17

Pro-government militants in Zimbabwe have brought work to a halt on 25 white owned commercial farms southeast of Harare. The militants have also forced laborers off the farms.

The Commercial Farmers Union says that work on half the farms in the Hwedza area, 80 kilometers from Harare, has stopped. About 3,500 laborers and their families have been forced off at least six of the farms, say farmers in the area, and several hundred of those evicted have nowhere to go.

At Chinhoyi, 100 kilometers northwest of Harare, looting and invasions of white-owned farms has subsided, says the farmers union. More than 40 homesteads in the area have been looted and wrecked, which has led European governments making formal protests to Zimbabwe.

On Friday, a judge again delayed a decision on granting bail to 21 farmers from the Chinhoyi area who are in prison on charges of attacking land invaders. Judge Rita Makarau postponed the hearing until Monday, telling prosecutors and defense lawyers she needed more time to prepare her decision. Defense lawyers for the farmers argue there are no grounds to detain the farmers, who have already been jailed for almost two weeks.

The main government daily newspaper, The Herald, has repeated its accusation that the farmers engineered the looting in Chinhoyi in conjunction with the British embassy so as to provoke international condemnation of the government. Both the farmers union and the British embassy say the accusation is without any foundation.

Meanwhile, four journalists on the country's only independent daily newspaper, The Daily News, are waiting for government prosecutors to decide if they should be charged with writing subversive articles.

The four were arrested over a front-page article in The Daily News that said police vehicles have been used in the Chinhoyi looting.

Mutch Masunda, chief executive of the company that owns the newspaper, says the journalists are back at work after making written statements to the police on Thursday.