Sat, 29 Apr 2000

Mugabe vs. Zimbabwe

A few hundred white farmers hold more than 70 percent of cultivable land and employ only 350,000 people, out of a population of more than 11 million. The injustice is patently obvious and socially explosive. For many weeks, a group of former fighters has been spreading terror on white farms and has, with the public support of President Mugabe and the passive complicity of the police, occupied numerous properties. One would feel more sympathy for their cause if the political context was different. But what one is dealing with is a personal power that is as unpopular as it is dictatorial.

If the problem of land redistribution is urgent, Mugabe's exploitation of it for political gains is glaring. Mugabe must face elections which his ZANU-PF party risks losing. He launched the movement of former fighters as a diversion. Under its cover, the militants of the ZANU-PF are terrorizing not only the white farmers -- they have already murdered two -- but, they have also beaten, imprisoned, and burned alive the black militants of the opposing party, the MDC. Mugabe speaks of land redistribution, but his main preoccupation is holding onto power.

-- Le Monde, Paris