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White Farmer Shot in Zimbabwe Again
By RAVI NESSMAN .c The Associated Press
HARARE, Zimbabwe - Hours after a second white landowner was killed, President Robert Mugabe told the nation today he was trying to broker a compromise to end the occupation by black squatters of about 1,000 white-owned farms.
But Mugabe, in a televised address marking the 20th anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence from Britain, presented no concrete solutions to the increasingly bloody crisis and gave different speeches in different languages, apparently trying to appease both sides of the conflict.
Squatters shot and killed cattle rancher Martin Olds today in Nyamandhlovu, 50 miles north of the western provincial capital Bulawayo. Olds, 42, had initially survived being shot and beaten and called for help on a radio, but his attackers kept medical workers away until it was too late, said David Hasluck, director of the Commercial Farmers' Union which represents white farmers.
Another group of squatters today abducted Kevin Tinker, a white farmer and opposition supporter, from his farm in Christon Bank, 10 miles north of Harare, said Hendrik O'Neill, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change.
Squatters also set David Stobart's farm ablaze in Enterprise Valley, 25 miles north of Harare after getting into a fight with his workers.
The farmers' union was advising farmers to leave the area.
The attacks came three days after squatters shot to death David Stevens, a white farmer and supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party. Five other farmers who tried to help him were severely beaten.
In Mugabe's first version of his speech, delivered in English, he expressed regret for the deaths and said farmer resistance to land reform has ``created frustrations leading to the current spate of farm occupations.''
But in a second version of his speech, delivered in the native Shona language, Mugabe thanked the occupiers, reportedly led by veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war, for moving onto the farms.
Opposition leaders say Mugabe planned the farm occupations as a political ploy to rally support for his party ahead of parliamentary elections expected to be held in May.
Hasluck said his union has evidence that a top Mugabe aide, Border Gezi, arranged for supporters to move onto white-owned land after voters on Feb. 16 rejected a referendum that would have let the government seize white-owned farms without paying compensation. Ruling party legislators passed the law anyway on April 6.
``This thing will escalate until somebody takes a stand to stop it,'' said Chris Jarrett, a white farmer who lived near Olds.
Mugabe said land reform remains ``emotive and vexed'' and said he was talking to the farmers and the war veterans to try to find a solution to the crisis.
About 4,000 white farmers own one-third of Zimbabwe's productive agricultural land. Government plans to resettle landless blacks on some of that land have foundered from corruption and government mismanagement.
``We can understand the frustration of the war veterans, just as we understand the pressures faced by the commercial farmers,'' Mugabe said.
Mugabe also criticized Great Britain and the United States for failing to help pay for land reform, which he called ``the last colonial question.''
Mugabe's televised speech came in place of the military parades, tribal dances, sports displays and other anniversary celebrations that the government said it canceled to save money. However, it is widely believed that Mugabe called off the festivities because of fears of political protests or violence.
Zimbabwe is suffering from its worst economic crisis with more than 50 percent unemployment and 70 percent inflation.
On Monday, Mugabe abruptly summoned white farm leaders to his office for their first meeting since the occupations began two months ago and promised to personally intervene to ``to get things back to normality'' on the white-owned farms, said Tim Henwood, a farm union official.
An account of the meeting in the state-controlled Herald newspaper today made no mention of Mugabe's reported promise to the farmers. The report said the farmers reaffirmed their support for land reform in Zimbabwe and pledged to keep their organizations out of politics.
The renewed violence includes the killing Saturday of two black opposition party figures in a firebomb attack.
On the Net: http://www.docuweb.ca/Zimbabwe/
-- Flash (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 19, 2000
Yeah, That's real smart, kill your source of food.
-- FactFinder (FactFinder@bzn.com), April 20, 2000.