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Farm violence in Zimbabwe claims another victim

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March 5, 2001 


HARARE-(AP) - Armed gunmen Sunday shot dead the mother of a prominent opposition activist, who was himself the victim of a political slaying on the same southern Zimbabwean farm last year.

Three armed men, believed to be members of the Liberation War Veterans Association and armed with at least one AK-47 rifle, killed Gloria Olds, 65, early Sunday morning, said David Coltart, a friend of the Olds' family and a legislator for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Olds was the eighth member of Zimbabwe's white farming community to be killed since militants and veterans of the country's independence war began violently seizing white-owned farms last year with the backing of President Robert Mugabe and his government.

"I have no doubt that (the latest killing) is politically motivated and is designed to provoke farmers into reacting, to give the government grounds to clamp down further and intimidate the farming community," Coltart said in a telephone interview.

The attackers stole Olds' pickup and fled the Silverstreams Farm about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city.

Farmers used private planes Sunday to try and track the killers.

No official comment was available from Harare police headquarters, and Coltart said it was unclear what action police were taking.

In April, Olds' son Martin, 42, was besieged in his farmhouse and shot dead in an assault. In that attack, police barred rescuers or medical assistance.

Olds' wife Cathy and two children subsequently fled Zimbabwe for Britain.

Meanwhile, in the capital of Harare, the leader of the Veterans Association, Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi, rejected an agreement reached Friday between the government and Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay, supposedly guaranteeing the safety of Gubbay and other judges.

The judges, who have repeatedly ruled the farm seizures unlawful, had previously been threatened with dismissal and warned their safety could not be guaranteed.

The agreement stated Gubbay would go on vacation until taking early retirement on July 1, while the government agreed to respect the judiciary's independence and not remove Gubbay's subordinates unlawfully after his departure.

"We will continue fighting them. We will not rest until they leave the bench and go back to Britain," Hunzvi told the Standard newspaper. "If they want us to use violence we can do that."

Police and Cabinet ministers who negotiated Friday's deal were not available for comment Sunday.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo claims agitation for urgent land reform in favor of the rural poor is being used as a smokescreen for terrorizing the opposition ahead of presidential elections that must be called by April 2002.

Mugabe, 77 and in power since 1980 independence from Britain, has vowed to seek a further six-year term.

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