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7th White Farmer Killed in Zimbabwe

December 13, 2000

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Assailants armed with semiautomatic weapons killed a white farmer and seriously wounded his son in violence linked to Zimbabwe’s disputed white-owned land, farmers’ leaders said Wednesday.

The Commercial Farmers Union said Henry Elsworth, who was in his 70s, and his son Ian were returning to their homestead around dusk Tuesday when they were ambushed by gunmen at the farm gate.

Ian Elsworth, the driver of their vehicle, was shot five times in the lower body. His father, wounded by one shot, ``staggered to the driver’s side to attempt to start the car and was shot in the stomach,″ the union said in a statement based on Ian’s account. He died 15 minutes later, the statement said.

Ian Elsworth was in a stable condition in a Harare hospital Wednesday.

The union said the identity of the attackers was not known. But Elsworth is the seventh white farmer killed here since a racially tinged land dispute began in February, and the union has blamed the other deaths on the breakdown in law and order.

Several thousand whites own about one-third of the productive land in Zimbabwe, though that land also supports 2 million farm workers and their families. About 7.5 million blacks live on the remaining two-thirds of the country’s land.

Since February, ruling party militants have illegally and violently occupied about 1,700 white-owned farms, squatting on the land and disrupting farm production. Militants had camped on Elsworth’s cattle ranch near Kwekwe, 125 miles southwest of Harare, for several months.

President Robert Mugabe has described the farm occupations as a justified protest against unfair land ownership by whites and has developed his own plan to seize white farms. Earlier this month, Mugabe warned white farmers that they will be expelled if they continue contesting his plans to take over 3,000 white-owned farms and carve them up for landless blacks.

Elsworth had been an outspoken critic of Mugabe’s ruling party, as had several others of the seven farmers who have been killed. He also was a former lawmaker in the white-dominated parliament of Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known in its colonial days, and he served as an independent lawmaker for the first seven years of independence.

Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980. Farm occupations have cut production of tobacco and other export crops and most foreign loans have been halted. Hard currency shortages have led to acute shortages of gasoline.

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