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9/23/04 - ZIMBABWE LAND SEIZURE - 2004-09-23

The Zimbabwean government is now evicting thousands of black squatters from land that they were told to occupy when the land was expropriated from some of the country’s white farmers. Since 2000, the government of President Robert Mugabe illegally seized more than five-thousand privately-owned farms.

According to news reports, perhaps several thousand of the original squatters are now homeless in the Trelawney district, north of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. The squatters were evicted by riot police and their homes were set on fire. Reportedly, insiders from the ruling ZANU-P-F party are behind these evictions and are planning to take the land for themselves.

One of those evicted is Reuben Mashanda. He had settled on land that had been part of the “Little England” cattle farm. A backer of Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, Mr. Mashanda told reporters that the squatters originally “were told this would be your land forever”:

“I should think the best thing you could do [for us here] is to get in touch with the president [Mugabe], and talk to him through the phone. Tell him people in “Little England” farm have been told to evacuate from there. Their homes were burned, and they are now along the road.”

This latest abuse of power by the Zimbabwean government confirms what U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State J. Scott Carpenter said earlier this year: “By riding roughshod over the political and human rights. . .by demonstrating total disregard for human rights and democracy. . .a once promising nation with a bright future [has been reduced] to a state of ruin, desolation, and isolation.”