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Six Southern Africa Leaders Visit Zimbabwe - 2001-09-10


Six southern African heads of state are in Zimbabwe to try to help resolve the country's economic and political crisis. Their visit follows an agreement signed in Nigeria last week to end invasions of commercial farms, but the meeting is being held as unrest on farms continues and pressure on opposition political parties intensifies.

More than 20 civic, political and private sector organizations are being questioned over the next two days by the leaders of Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

Two human rights groups, including the Zimbabwe affiliate of Amnesty International, say they have been barred from taking part in the talks in Harare and are to protest to the organizers, the Southern African Development Community.

Six journalists representing foreign news organizations, including VOA, have also been barred.

The Nigerian agreement commits Zimbabwe to ending invasions and violence on commercial farms, in return for at least $50 million to help resettlement. Britain and other Western countries are to provide the money.

More than 2,000 commercial farms have been invaded by pro-government militants in the last 18 months. At least 15 farmers and workers have been killed in the violence and at least 70,000 workers have been forced off the farms and thousands more have been beaten up.

A number of incidents of violence have occurred on farms since the Nigerian agreement was signed. More farms have also been invaded.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says there was severe harassment in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second biggest city, during municipal elections over the weekend. Shots were fired at MDC officials while others have been arrested for allegedly possessing military weapons.

The party's candidate for mayor of the city has been arrested and accused of trying to bribe voters.

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