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More Than 100 White Farmers Arrested in Zimbabwe - 2002-08-17

More than 100 white farmers in Zimbabwe have been arrested in the continuing crackdown on those who defied the law and stayed on in their homesteads beyond the August 8 deadline set by President Robert Mugabe's government. Information about arrested farmers is coming in all the time.

Prison cells across Zimbabwe are filling up with white commercial farmers, some of them frail and elderly. At least two women also have been held.

They chose to stay on in their homes beyond the deadline for nearly all white farmers to abandon their land and their homesteads.

The law, sections of which have already been declared unconstitutional by the High Court in Harare, was supposed to be the final stage to rid Zimbabwe of white farmers who produce nearly all agricultural exports and food.

President Mugabe launched the invasions of white-owned farms in February 2000, and has not wavered, despite international condemnation and travel sanctions in his drive to return white-owned land to black people.

He has repeatedly made assurances that white farmers could keep one farm property. But political analysts say those statements, the most recent earlier in the week, were intended for international consumption.

The mass arrests, with more expected in the next few days, have led many white farmers to concede, for the first time, that their lives in Zimbabwe, as farmers, are over.

In the wake of the arrests, hundreds of farmers have fled to the nearest town.

Sad stories are emerging from the rout of white farmers who are Zimbabwe citizens. One man, Tony Smith, who left his farm more than a month ago, and was living in Harare, was picked up from his new home in the city Saturday, beaten up in front of police, and jailed in a prison near his abandoned farm. He has been denied medical help. A former employee on the farm was beaten up to give Mr. Smith's town address and is now in a hospital.

Among those jailed are several retired farmers living out their days on farms handed over to their children.

One rancher arrested Friday is the father of Zimbabwe's national cricket captain, Heath Streak. Mr. Streak was away from the farm when his father was picked up.