Unmoved by the execution-style death of a white farmer in Zimbabwe's land wars, President Robert Mugabe encouraged invaders yesterday to continue their campaign.
"We warned the white farmers: we cannot protect you ifyou provoke the war veterans. You must accept the consequences," President Mugabe said on returning to Zimbabwe from Cuba, after a stopoverin Paris.
In London, reports of the death of the farmer David Stevens, and the severe beatings of five others at the weekend, prompted the Foreign Office to summon Zimbabwe's high commissioner. During a frosty 20-minute mid-afternoon meeting, Peter Hain, the minister responsible for Africa, told Simbarashe Mumbengegwi of his "grave concern" at the growing anarchy in the country.
Mr Stevens' death, as well as a petrol-bomb attack on the car of an opposition leader, in which two people were killed, are the latest casualties in clashes in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections. Ten days ago, a black policeman was shot dead by land invaders when he cycled through an occupied farm in the same area as Mr Stevens' farm.
A Foreign Office statement after the meeting in London said Mr Hain had delivered a "strong appeal" for immediate action by the Harare authorities. For order and stability to return it was essential, the minister declared, that the rule of law was upheld. It was "imperative" too that intimidation of political opponents of the Mugabe regime be halted, so that free and fair elections could be held.
But the Government insisted that planned talks would go ahead in the next 10 days between Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Stan Mudenge. The talks will cover a call from Zimbabwe for further British financial backing for land redistribution.
The petrol-bomb attack on Saturday in Buhare, south of the capital, Harare, killed Tichaona Chimenya, the official driver for Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and another unnamed occupant of the car.
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