'War veterans' murder farmer in night of terror by President's men

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The Independent Online

A white farmer was pinned against a tree and fatally shot in the face yesterday when he tried to escape war veterans, loyal to President Robert Mugabe, who had invaded his land.

Terry Ford, who had not been allowed to grow crops for two years, was on a routine visit to his farm near Norton, about 25 miles south-west of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, on Sunday night. Just before midnight, about 20 self-styled war veterans, led by a woman known as Mrs Rusike, broke through his security fence.

Hours earlier, President Mugabe had been sworn in for a new six-year term of office, and announced that his seizures of white-owned land would be stepped up.

Mr Ford's neighbour, Ben Freeth, said: "Terry called the police and two of his neighbours who also alerted the cops. They didn't respond. They later said their driver was asleep so there was nothing they could do."

Mr Freeth, who is the local Commercial Farmers' Union representative, said: "He was on his own in there, just on a routine maintenance visit because the war vets haven't allowed him to plant crops for two years. It's the same group that has trashed four homes in the last week on the same road."

At 2am yesterday, a desperate Mr Ford called his neighbours to say that the police still had not arrived.

With chanting war veterans breaking down the doors to his double-storey farm house, Mr Ford made a terrifying attempt to escape. Piecing together the last minutes of his life, Mr Freeth said that Mr Ford had managed to get into his pick-up truck. Seeing the gate barricaded with another vehicle, the frightened farmer drove at the fence, but failed to get through. "The vehicle bounced off the fence and they dragged him out," said Mr Freeth. "He was beaten badly, then they shoved him against a tree and shot him in the face."

The first witnesses were confronted with Mr Ford's body slumped against the tree while his dog stood guard. "It was terrible," said Mr Freeth, "The police did nothing to rescue the poor guy."

Another farmer, Jon Rutherford, was savagely beaten last week, while a farm guard in the Marondera district was shot dead by Mr Mugabe's militia in a related incident.