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Mugabe Survival Strategy Seen In New Zimbabwe Land Reform Turmoil

Many rural areas in Zimbabwe have been gripped by turmoil and at times violence in the wake of the March 29 elections whose outcome was still unknown on Tuesday in the case of the presidential ballot, amid speculation a run-off may be in the cards.

Liberation war veterans and ruling ZANU-PF party youth militia besieged all of the last 450 farms remaining in white hands in a replay of the turbulence that gripped the Zimbabwean countryside in the chaotic land reform drive begun in 2000.

Observers said such violence in rural areas looked like part of a strategy by ZANU-PF to bolster flagging support for Mr. Mugabe in rural areas and to intimidate those who voted against the 84-year-old incumbent in the presidential ballot March 29.

Mr. Mugabe in presidential campaign speeches, echoed by state media and prominent war veterans, charged that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, his opponent (and according to MDC officials the president-elect), would reverse land reform and restore colonial-era inequities. Tsvangirai has proposed to establish a land commission to restore order to the farm sector.

Justice for Agriculture, an association of displaced white commercial farmers, said at least 60 farmers have been driven from their farms while another 120 voluntarily left for fear of violence amid threats from veterans, and to seek legal assistance.

Justice for Agriculture member Ben Gilson told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that latest evictions sent a shock through farming circles.

The Zimbabwe Liberators Platform, an association of liberation war veterans which is not aligned with President Mugabe, has urged the rival War Veterans Association of Zimbabwe and security service chiefs to respect the outcome of the elections.

The veterans group issued a statement saying it “watched with anxiety, apprehension, dismay and disbelief the comical circus” since the elections. It has accused the War Veterans Association of harassing and intimidating opposition members.

Liberators Platform co-founder Wilfred Mhanda told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that ZANU-PF with the help of the war veterans has seized the land issue in an attempt to retain power, but said the mass appeal of the land reform issue has been exhausted.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...