Mugabe supporters attack farmers

White farmers protesting over their land being seized were attacked by Robert Mugabe’s supporters the same day he was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president, it emerged today.

Three farmers and one manager were beaten in Mashonaland West, a stronghold of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, said Deon Theron, vice president of the Commercial Farmers Union.

Most members of his union are white farmers. Three of those attacked yesterday had appealed to a regional body and been granted temporary permission to stay on their farms, Mr Theron said.

One couple and their son-in-law were attacked on their farm and then forced into a truck by a mob.

They were kept there until being thrown out of the truck after midnight, and were later taken to hospital with head wounds, burns and fractures.

A farm manager nearby was attacked by another mob earlier in the day and is now in hospital with serious injuries, Mr Theron said. A third farm was also raided, but nobody was harmed.

“It’s very, very tense at the moment,” he said. “I think now with the president being sworn back in, they (ZANU-PF supporters) now think they have total immunity again.”

Mugabe claims the farm seizures that began in 2002 were to give land back to poor blacks, but many of the farms went to his ZANU-PF cronies. The seizures are blamed for the collapse of Zimbabwe’s key agriculture sector, leading to a broader economic crisis.

In a report released today as Mugabe attended an African Union summit in Egypt, AU observers said “the fear of violence deterred popular participation in the electoral process” and noted that the opposition was denied equal access to the media.

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who dropped out of the runoff because of government-sponsored violence against his supporters, said Mugabe should have no place at the AU summit.

“Robert Mugabe is not the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe. He is usurping the power of the people. He has brutalised his own people.

“The crisis that he has caused in this country is now the responsibility of the AU and SADC,” he said.

Election observers from the Southern African Development Community said Friday’s vote did not express the will of the Zimbabwean people. Its report said the run-off election took place under “unprecedented levels of violence and political intolerance, followed by extreme statements from the country’s principal political figures.”

Both observer groups recommended regional mediation to facilitate talks between the two main parties.

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