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Zimbabwe Farmers near Botswana Border Ordered Out - 2002-10-02


Dozens of ranchers in southern Zimbabwe have been ordered to leave their homesteads or be arrested. At least three ranchers were held Tuesday in police cells near the Botswana border, while others are expecting to be detained.

Commercial Farmers Union spokesman Mac Crawford said at least 40 farmers in the dry Matabeleland Province were ordered to leave their homes immediately.

He said some of the affected farmers had eviction notices they had defied, others had court orders allowing them to remain, and several had not received notice their properties were to be nationalized.

While 90 percent of commercial farmers in central Zimbabwe were forced to leave their land in the past few weeks, those in Matabeleland Province had been least affected. Despite several murders of both ranchers and farm workers since President Robert Mugabe ordered invasions of white-owned land 31 months ago, about 300 farmers in the province remained.

Farmers in Matabeleland run huge dairies and produce most of Zimbabwe's beef.

Mr. Crawford said following police raids a few ranchers had quit for good. He said others are expecting to be arrested and are preparing a court challenge.

Farmer and opposition Member of Parliament Roy Bennet was released from detention in eastern Zimbabwe, just hours before he marched with his fellow parliamentarians to police headquarters.

Limping badly from wounds he said he suffered while in police cells, Mr. Bennet and fellow opposition parliamentarians took a petition to the police to protest torture.

They said increasing numbers of officials and ordinary members of opposition groups, including youngsters, are being routinely tortured in police custody.

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