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Wednesday November 20, 2002
TWO Americans and two Zimbabweans were last Friday briefly detained by war veterans at Inversnaid Farm in Melfort after they allegedly threw food from a moving vehicle to farm workers whom they then filmed as they jostled for the food.
The four - Mr Andrew John Simpson, Mr Audu Besmer, Mr Costain Chibanda and Mr Elias Shamu - are alleged to have done this on three separate occasions.
A loaded camera and two computer discs were reportedly confiscated from the group.
They are said to have visited Benridge Farm in Matepatepa and Bineer Farm in Glendale on November 14 to arrange for interviews and for the filming of what they described as "displaced farm workers", eye witnesses said.
The US embassy in Harare said it has protested to the Government of Zimbabwe and called "for swift action to identify and arrest the perpetrators". It claimed that the two Zimbabweans who were accompanying the Americans were beaten up by the war veterans.
"The United States government is deeply concerned by this incident. We call once again on the Government of Zimbabwe to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights," said the embassy in a statement.
The embassy alleged that the incident was "symptomatic of the lawlessness that has affected Zimbabwe for the last two and a half years".
"It is the same sort of intimidation and violence suffered by thousands of Zimbabweans since the rule of law was effectively suspended," the embassy alleged.
The embassy said it had reported the incident to police.
Police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzi-jena could last night not confirm whether such a report had been made.
"The victims of this case would assist the police by coming forward in laying formal charges of assault in this particular case," he said.
He said the police had always investigated all criminal cases, but members of the public should know that each case was treated on its merit.
"We believe in the rule of law but this does not mean that crimes will not be committed in the country. We have tried to prevent the preventable cases and investigate committed crimes," he said.
The Government said the US embassy statement was most unfortunate in that it would not remove the growing impression that the mission was behind various recent incidents that had been used by some overzealous American officials to justify unacceptable intrusions and interventions.
US Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, Mr Mark Bellamy, early this month said his country was considering "intrusive and interventionist measures" that could challenge Zimbabwe’s sovereignty.
The Minister of State for Information and Publicity, Professor Jonathan Moyo, said the Melfort incident was "rooted in intrusive and interventionist behaviour by some US embassy personnel who have been trespassing onto some farms under the guise of looking for alleged displaced farm workers".
"There are no displaced farm workers in Zimbabwe and the embassy knows that. As to claims that there is lawlessness, purely on the basis of this incident, that is over the top and quite preposterous.
"Everyone knows that the US is the citadel of mafia conduct and racist vigilante groups. So will America restore the rule of law by controlling the mafia and the Ku Klux Klan?"
Prof Moyo said what was worse was the fact that African Americans had been gunned down in cold blood by police in uniform in places like New York.
"African-Americans are daily subjected to the indignity of racial profiling, not to mention the numerous Rodney King-type of police brutality against African-Americans in Los Angeles," he said.
The minister said the Government was very proud of its record of keeping and monitoring peace and stability in the country and would not allow people with vested interests to provoke lawlessness by baiting Zimbabweans with food "in the hope of causing a stampede as the US embassy has been doing".
"If they truly believe in the rule of law, they must start by stopping their own lawlessness," he said.
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