8. May 2008

40.000 farm workers displaced

Some 40 000 farm workers and their families have been displaced as a result of violence and intimidation by pro-government militias since Zimbabwe's elections, a union leader said on Thursday. "Since the elections we have recorded a total of 40 000 people who have been displaced," Gertrude Hambira, general secretary of the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe, told a press conference in Johannesburg. "Our members and their families have been left homeless. They have been attacked by a group of militias wearing army uniforms. They have been accused of voting for the opposition. Most of them are either on the roadside or sheltering at some farms." She said about 400 of the farm workers and their families are hiding in the nearby bush without access to food and medical attention. "We are trying to find ways of taking food to them," she told reporters. Hambira said violence against farm workers and their families, who are estimated to be 1.5 million, has escalated since the 29 March joint presidential and parliamentary elections.
"This population represents what might be termed the swing vote between the traditional MDC strongholds in urban areas and the Zanu PF strongholds in the rural areas," she said. The union, together with the Zimbabwe Justice for Agriculture Trust, released a report that documents human rights abuses after the elections. "The scale of this recent blacklash has remained hidden from the view until now," Hambira said when she launched the report titled 'Land, Retribution and Elections'. "At least one-third of the remaining commercial farmers have reported major disturbances in the last three weeks," said the report. The incidents recorded so far includes "barricading of farmers into their homestead, assaults, abductions, arson, torture, political re-education and voter intimidation," it added. Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF lost its traditional majority in parliament after the March elections in which the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the presidential vote but fell short of an overall majority. The opposition leader will now face veteran leader Robert Mugabe in a presidential run-off, the date of which has yet to be announced. (ZWNews)

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