29 April 2002

Zimbabwe human rights groups say violence worsens

About 1.300 farm workers and their families have been sleeping in the open for the past two nights at Rainham Farm in Dzivaresekwa Extension, Harare, after they were summarily ordered to leave the farm by so-called war veterans. The eviction has resulted in clashes between two factions of Zanu PF supporters in the Dzivaresekwa Extension area. Another 147 workers evicted from two farms in Marondera are also sleeping in the open, 127 of them at Coronation Park and the remainder at Cleveland Dam, both in Msasa, Harare. At Rainham Farm, one group of Zanu PF youths, which has taken over the farm, is led by a woman whose name was only given as Mai Zvikaramba. Zvikaramba, who is reportedly acting on behalf of two prominent politicians, evicted the farm workers and their families from their homes on Friday. Most of them were not allowed to remove their property.

Political violence in Zimbabwe has worsened since President Robert Mugabe's election victory last month, compounding the plight of people grappling with food shortages, a rights group said on Monday. "It is almost two months since the elections took place in Zimbabwe and there is a worsening situation of intimidation, forced displacement, violence and systematic torture," the Amani Trust said in a statement. "The political rivalry and the resulting recriminations have become a way of life for many people, who also are trying to deal with the problems of food shortages, a serious drought and an approaching winter," the rights group said.

The Amani Trust, which gives aid to victims of political violence, said the number of internally displaced Zimbabweans as a result of political strife was rising daily and was "at crisis level," but gave no figures. Rights groups have said up to 50.000 people have been displaced in political violence before and after the election, and have appealed for international aid. "The safety and security of these refugees is of the utmost concern, and urgent assistance is required to tend to their need for accommodation, food and water, medical treatment, psychological counseling and legal aid," the Amani Trust said. Earlier this month a coalition of rights groups - including the Amani Trust - said 54 people had been killed in political violence since the beginning of the year. Most of the deaths occurred in the runup to the presidential election. Police accused the rights groups of lying, saying political violence had eased since the election, which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai – who challenged Mugabe - condemned as "daylight robbery." The MDC says more than 100 of its supporters have been killed since the runup to June 2000 parliamentary elections in which it came close to defeating Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party.

Ten white farmers have died since February 2000 when militants invaded hundreds of farms in support of a state drive to forcibly acquire land for redistribution to landless blacks. Zimbabwe police said on Monday they had impounded a large amount of farm equipment which they said was being illegally shipped out of the country. But the farmers said the equipment - which includes tractors, trailers, harvesters, water pumps and irrigation pipes – was lawfully removed from properties occupied by militants. "The Land Acquisition Act which the government is using for taking over the farms does not bar farmers who lose their land from moving their property," Jenni Williams, a spokeswoman for the Commercial Farmers Union said. After his re-election, Mugabe vowed to press ahead with the government's seizure of at least 20.5 million acres of the 29.6 million acres of white-owned farmland for blacks. (ZWNews / Reuters / Daily News)

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