White farmer killed in unabated violence

HARARE, MAY 8. A white farmer in Zimbabwe has died after he was beaten unconscious by suspected liberation war veterans leading the violent seizure of white-owned farms and attacks on opposition supporters.

Mr. Alan Dunn was the first white farmer to be attacked in two weeks and the third to die since veterans of the 1970s war against white rule began invading farms in February, demanding land they say was stolen by British settlers. ``I can confirm that the patient is dead,'' said a spokesman for the Harare hospital where Mr. Dunn was being treated for severe head injuries sustained on Sunday.

Police said Mr. Dunn had been assaulted on his farm, about 40 miles southwest of the capital Harare, during a confrontation with people believed to be war veterans. Zimbabwe's political crisis has shown no signs of abating. Four more white- owned farms were invaded by veterans on Sunday and opposition supporters beat two men wearing shirts with the logo of the President, Mr. Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF at a rally.

Dunn was a regional executive committee member for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which poses the first serious threat to Mugabe's party in 20 years of post- independence rule.

``It is all aimed at intimidating the opposition. It is part of a terror campaign that has been going on for the last three months,'' said the MDC leader, Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai.

``White farmers who support the MDC are seen as a challenge to ZANU-PF and they are made to pay - some with their lives. It is very tragic,'' he said.

The MDC secretary for legal affairs, Mr. David Coltart, said a dozen serious assaults had been reported to party headquarters in the last 24 hours. He accused the ZANU-PF of trying to intimidate voters ahead of parliamentary elections due by August.

Farms invaded

Mr. Dunn was at home with his wife and three teenage daughters when a man knocked on the back door and asked him to come outside, said his friend Mr. Guy Watson-Smith. Once in the yard, five men beat him unconscious and left him for dead.

``I guess that this is the agenda. There is a serious campaign against anyone who is perceived to oppose the Government and I presume that Alan Dunn was perceived to oppose the Government.''

Some 700 white-owned farms have been invaded and at least 19 people killed since the land reform crisis and related political violence began.

``This (Dunn's murder) is not about the land issue. Alan Dunn was an MDC supporter and maybe that has something to do with it,'' said Mr. Jerry Grant, deputy director of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), which groups 4,500 mainly-white farmers.

The CFU cut a deal with the veterans nearly two weeks ago to stop the invasions, end the violence and allow farmers to plant winter wheat crops. Since then more than 50 farms have been invaded and attacks on farm workers perceived to be opposition sympathisers have gone unchecked.

- Reuters