Whites shave their heads as a protest at detention of farmers

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The Independent Online

White Zimbabweans shaved their heads yesterday in solidarity with 21 white farmers arrested 12 days ago on charges of inciting public violence.

White Zimbabweans shaved their heads yesterday in solidarity with 21 white farmers arrested 12 days ago on charges of inciting public violence.

As a high court judge in the capital, Harare, postponed a ruling on the men's bail application until Monday, dozens – if not hundreds – of white Zimbabweans heeded a call by fax and email to protest by shaving their heads.

Charles Drazdik, a 24-year-old farm electrician in Chinhoyi said he shaved his head"as a silent protest for the guys". He said he knew of 15 other men who had been shorn in the past 24 hours.

Mr Drazdik said: "My hair is generally quite long – over the ears – and now I'm bald for the first time since I was born. The women are having No 4 cuts but the guys have gone all the way."

Reading from an anonymous fax circulating in Chinhoyi – the home area of the 21 arrested men – and beyond, he said: "The farmers have been held for 12 days in poor living conditions. Their heads have been shaved and their personal clothes have been taken away, even though they have not been convicted of any crime. We would like to suggest that any Zimbabwean living in town or overseas do the same." In Harare yesterday, a lawyer for the 21 men said a high court judge, Rita Makarau, had told him that she needed more time to consider their bail application and that the ruling had been postponed until Monday.

The Chinhoyi farmers were arrested on 6 August for allegedly attacking militants acting for President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF). Pro-government mobs staged retaliatory attacks on commercial farms for a week afterwards, looting and destroying property and forcing white owners to flee before police intervened.

The farmers' lawyers say state prosecution arguments that releasing the men would trigger more violence in Chinhoyi – where they are detained – were an admission of the breakdown of law and order. The state prosecutor has argued the farmers are likely to interfere with state witnesses – some of whom are farm workers – if released on bail.

Nine white farmers and at least 30 black supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have died since February last year when Zanu-PF militants began invading white-owned farms, which represent a mainstay of the economy. The militants are acting in support of President Mugabe who says he intends to redistribute the farms to black Zimbabweans.

* Namibia's black farmers have urged President Sam Nujoma to speed up land redistribution or face Zimbabwe-style farm invasions.

The Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) leader, Pintile Davids, said that the government's policy of "willing-seller, willing-buyer" had failed to address land imbalances because white commercial farmers were unwilling to sell.

"We must shift gears now for the better, we need to take the bull by its horns. We need your direct intervention now," Mr Davids told a farmers' meeting attended by President Nujoma on Thursday night.

Land redistribution in Namibia has been slow since independence in 1993. President Nujoma, who last year changed the constitution so that he could stay in power beyond the term of his mandate, is a close ally of President Mugabe.

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