Incumbent leader Robert Mugabe has called Zimbabweans to protect their land from whites, stoking emotive land issues as the country anxiously awaited presidential poll results.
from our correspondent in Harare
His call comes in the wake of reports that some white former commercial farmers were trooping back onto farms they once owned threatening to evict black beneficiaries.
“Land must remain in our hands. The land is ours, it must not be allowed to slip back into the hands of whites,” said Mugabe on Sunday.
Mugabe urged Zimbabweans to jealously guard the land for which thousands of freedom fighters died during the liberation war in the 1970s.
“Today, we cannot afford to retreat in the battle for land,” said Mugabe.
On Saturday, Mugabe’s supporters seized one of Zimbabwe’s few remaining white-owned farms amid heightened tensions over the unclear outcome of last week’s presidential elections.
Ruling Zanu-PF spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa had accused the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of seeking to reverse Mugabe’s controversial land reforms.
“The MDC claim they have won and they are unleashing former white farmers on farms occupied by new farmers to reverse the land reform programme.
Last night state television had reported that the southern city of Masvingo had seen a “large influx” of whites and that Mugabe’s supporters had seized a farm “in reaction to reports of former white commercial farmers who are trickling back to reoccupy… land”.
Farmers leaders said at least five farms had been invaded, but police had moved in to disperse the so-called “war veterans”, many of whom were born after Zimbabwe gained independence 28 years ago.
A leader of war veterans in the southern Masvingo province, where the first fresh invasion took place on Saturday, Isaiah Muzenda, threatened farmers with unspecified action.
“We are also warning them of strong action if they continue to tread on
that dangerous path. “We are prepared to act in defence of our land. We will take very strong action, which I will not reveal, against such actions from the unrepentant white former farmers,” Muzenda said.
Mugabe had often used the war veterans to intimidate opponents and they were at the vanguard of the occupations of some 4 000 white-owned farms during his controversial land reform programme, which began in 2000.
Critics blamed Mugabe’s land reform programme for Zimbabwe’s meltdown from regional breadbasket to economic basket case.
Faced with 80% unemployment and six-digit inflation, almost one third of
Zimbabwe’s 13 million population had left the country, both to find work and food as even basics such as bread and cooking oil were now hard to come by.
Meanwhile, a Zimbabwe court will today (Monday)rule on whether it has the authority to order the release of delayed presidential election results that Mugabe’s opponents say will show his long grip on power is over.
No results have emerged from the presidential vote nine days ago and Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF wants the electoral commission to delay announcing the outcome pending a recount.
MDC says Mugabe wants the delay to help him find a way to cling to power despite his people rejecting him in the face of hyperinflation and economic collapse.
It is asking the High Court to force the release of the results. On Sunday, after a hearing lasting almost four hours, High Court judge Tendai Uchena adjourned to consider an electoral commission argument that he did not have jurisdiction.
The MDC says its leader, Tsvangirai, has already won and should be declared president, ending Mugabe’s uninterrupted 28-year rule since independence from Britain.
Tsvangirai says the country is on a razor’s edge and called on the international community to help resolve the stalemate.