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White farmers in Zimbabwe under siege

Associated Press / October 29, 2010

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HARARE, Zimbabwe — A white farmers’ organization said yesterday that its members had seen a renewed onslaught of farm seizures and attacks, including the slayings of two farmers, in recent weeks.

Deon Theron, head of the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents Zimbabwe’s dwindling white farmers — some 300 whites still hold farmland — said the attacks followed an announcement last month from President Robert Mugabe that scheduled a constitutional referendum and national elections next year. Theron said police and security authorities have refused to act against a new wave of violence, evictions, and occupations in the build-up to polling.

That “signals the start of a renewed onslaught against rural communities’’ by Mugabe’s loyalists, Theron said.

In several districts intruders broke into homesteads and locked the owners out, leaving them with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, the statement said.

Mugabe last month vowed to call elections next year to end the nation’s shaky coalition with his longtime rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The troubled power-sharing deal is due to expire at the two-year mark, in February.

The last two weeks, two farmers have died in robberies, and three were forced from their homes in the Banket district, 60 miles northwest of Harare.

About 4,000 white farmers have been forced from their farms since 2000, disrupting the agriculture-based economy in the former regional breadbasket. Many farms went to Mugabe cronies and still lie idle.

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