AF-Zimbabwe-Farms 1stLd-Writethru 04-17
Mugabe loyalists on farms defiant
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A multiparty fact-finding delegation got a chilly reception Friday as it toured Zimbabwean farms seized from whites by supporters of President Robert Mugabe.
The delegation that visited farms just outside Harare was led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, a longtime Mugabe opponent now part of a unity government. A politician from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, lands minister Herbert Murerwa, also went along.
"What I see here is not pleasing," Mutambara told reporters who accompanied the tour. "There is a lot of violence, disruption. ... I shall make sure that they (invaders) have vacated the farms and the legal owners are allowed to continue with their activities."
Politicians and rights groups say continuing seizures of white-owned farms threaten the reforms Zimbabwe needs to end its economic crisis. Many believe the crisis began in the first place because the agricultural-based economy was disrupted by a land redistribution campaign that Mugabe began in 2000. The number of white farmers has dropped from about 4,000 to 400, and farms have ended up in the hands of Mugabe cronies.
Mugabe blames Western sanctions for his country’s woes.
Farm invader Landmine Shamuyarira was defiant Friday, claiming one of the farms Mutambara visited belongs to his brother Nathan Shamuyarira, a prominent ZANU-PF politician. "We are not going anywhere," Landmine Shamuyarira said. "Mutambara and his ministers are wasting their time to come here. We are now the owners of this farm."
Brian Bronkhorst and his family had raised cattle on the farm, Violet Valea, before being forced off. Bronkhorst is among a group of commercial farmers that has challenged farm seizures in a regional court.
At another farm Friday, Mutambara’s delegation found Farai Madzongwe, daughter of a ZANU-PF senator, living in the main house and supported by a police guard.
Richard Etheridge, who also has challenged Mugabe’s land reforms in court, said his family had grown citrus on the land for 35 years before being forced out last month by the Madzongwes.
"This farm now belongs to us," Madzongwe said Friday. "I am not going anywhere."
The coalition government agreed to end farm seizures but they have continued, raising questions about how much influence politicians like Mutambara have in the new government. Farmers’ organizations have said about 100 farms have been targeted, most by Mugabe party officials and their supporters.
Western donors who have had tense relations with Mugabe have yet to respond to the unity government’s pleas for financial help, waiting to see if it will be able to control ZANU-PF hard-liners.