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Zimbabwe: Current Issues - page 13 / 19





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better position himself for the 2002 presidential election. In April 2001, it was estimated that 2,600 farms had been slated for takeover, and the government maintained that 70,000 families had been resettled on 3 million hectares of land. Government critics maintained that far fewer had actually been moved onto farm plots.

South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki warned on October 25, 2000, that “The occupation of farms must stop. They are a violation of the rule of law.” (Whether President Mbeki was speaking out strongly enough on the Zimbabwe situation, however, was a subject of much debate in South Africa.) The Zimbabwe Supreme Court ruled on November 10, 2000, that the President’s land resettlement policy violated fundamental constitutional rights, but the government vowed to proceed with the takeovers. On December 14, 2000, President Mugabe told a ZANU-PF Congress that “Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy,” and vowed to continue with land takeovers regardless of any court decisions. The congress endorsed Mugabe as ZANU-PF leader, and internal critics of the president were dropped from leadership positions.

The Supreme Court ruled against “fast track” land takeovers on December 21, 2000, increasing tensions between the court and the Mugabe government. On March 2, 2001, the Chief Justice of the Zimbabwe Supreme Court, Anthony Gubbay, agreed to go on immediate leave and to retire July 1, following intense government pressure for his resignation. Gubbay had reportedly received a number of death threats.

On April 23, 2001, the International Bar Association (IBA) issued a report [http://www.ibanet.org ] finding that the “rule of law in Zimbabwe is in the gravest peril” and noting “conduct committed or encouraged by Government Ministers which puts the very fabric of democracy at risk.” The report, prepared by a 10-member delegation of jurists, including a Maryland U.S. District Court judge, affirmed land reform as “a legitimate and urgent aspiration of the people of Zimbabwe” to be attained “within the law and not outside it.” The delegation blamed the “current situation of lawlessness” partly on a lack of condemnation by the President of Zimbabwe and other officials. Zimbabwe Information Minister Jonathan Moyo rejected the IBA findings, saying they merely repeated uncorroborated assertions.

ZANU-PF prevailed in a July 2001 parliamentary by-election in Bindura, north of Harare, as it had in the other two by-elections held since June 2000. Analysts see the Bindura vote as giving a foretaste of government strategy in the 2002 presidential election. The campaign was marked by considerable violence, and the MDC candidate was detained by police in the midst of the voting. Recently resettled farmers, reportedly including former urban dwellers, participated in the voting and probably contributed to the ZANU-PF tally.

The Minister of Land, Joseph Made, stunned a meeting of commercial farmers on August 2, 2001, by announcing that the government planned to take 8.3 million hectares of white-owned land rather than the 5 million originally announced. Analysts noted that this amount would represent about 90% of the remaining commercial farms, but there was some confusion about whether this was what Made had intended to convey. (Financial Times, London, August 3, 2001) A white farmer, who had been attacked earlier in the week, died of his wounds on August 7, becoming the ninth white farmer to die since the unrest began. On August 16, the editor of Zimbabwe’s only independent newspaper and three journalists were charged with publishing a subversive statement. They had been arrested the day before


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