Mob armed with axes attacks farm owner and staff

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As soon as the land invaders arrived on Marion Herud's farm, Ardingly, in the Karoi area north of Harare, she grabbed her camera. "Our local farmers' security group had advised us to get any evidence we could because prosecutions are extremely difficult in Zimbabwe," she said yesterday.

Her graphic series of photographs, circulated worldwide through news agencies after she gave the undeveloped film to a photographer at the weekend, were taken in terrifying circumstances for Marion, her husband, Adrian, and Lionel Gundry, their farm manager.

"We were first invaded the Saturday before last, when most of the invaders were women and children. This last Saturday, they came with terrible weapons - axes and pangas (machetes), and they kept poking Lionel and pushing Adrian about," Mrs Herud said.

"I was taking photographs from the passage window, which was pretty dangerous. Between photos I was throwing things into a suitcase. My hands were shaking and I had to stop after a while because I couldn't watch any more."

Mr and Mrs Herud were among the latest farmers to have their land occupied by squatters at the weekend. A total of 900 farms have been occupied by war veterans and supporters of President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front since February, when the government decided to ignore the results of a referendum that rejected proposals for land redistribution.

Mr Herud was beaten by the squatters and said he lost consciousness briefly. "When I came round, they made me write apologies to Mugabe," Mr Herud said. He was also forced to shout slogans in favour of President Mugabe.

Mr and Mrs Herud have still got squatters on their farm but have not been threatened since they agreed, on Saturday, to sign away one-third of their land. "We signed under duress even though we had been advised not to," Mrs Herud said. "Now the invaders are staying down the road, next to our labourers' village."