Zimbabwe farmers support national stoppage

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwe's white farmers postponed their annual congress in support of a national strike called to pressure President Robert Mugabe to end violence against opposition supporters.

Zimbabwe's white farmers postponed their annual congress in support of a national strike called to pressure President Robert Mugabe to end violence against opposition supporters.

Mr Mugabe will face the strongest challenge yet to his authority when farmers, labour unions and the main opposition party join forces in a three-day strike from Wednesday.

David Hasluck, the director of the Commercial Farmers' Union, said the association of 4,500 mainly white farmers would now hold its two-day conference in September.

"We have had to postpone the congress from Tuesday and Wednesday to early September because of the three-day stayaway proposed by the [Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions]. The re-establishment of the rule of law is very important.'' he said.

Farmers bore the brunt of an anti-white campaign by the ruling Zanu-PF party in June, suffering physical attack and seeing nearly a quarter of their farms occupied by pro-Mugabe militants demanding white land be given to blacks.

The union congress, which claims the support of most of the country's 1.2 million formal labour force, called for a strike on Friday, a decision which has since been endorsed by the farmers and the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Though only 10 months old, the MDC won an unprecedented 57 of the 120 parliamentary seats contested in the June poll.

Mr Hasluck said the situation was still tense on hundreds of farms which were invaded by self-styled veterans of the former Rhodesia's 1970s war against white rule.

"We are still compiling our weekend report, but so far the indications are that there are still people on farms and a lot of lawlessness.'' he said.

Gibson Sibanda the vice-president of the MDC, urged Mugabe on Saturday to evict the war veterans, saying they were "raping, beating and killing farm workers."

Nathan Shamuyarira, a spokesman for Zanu-PF said the war veterans leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, should crack down on those defying government orders to leave. (Reuters)

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