Put up or shut up, Zimbabwe tells UK

Published Apr 28, 2000


By Bill Rosato

London - Zimbabwean Local Government Minister John Nkomo said on Friday the British government should either put up the money to help solve his country's land reform crisis or hold its tongue.

"The British should own up to what the government promised to do, or otherwise they should shut up," Nkomo said after talks in London.

Nkomo was leading a delegation of Zimbabwean ministers who met British government ministers on Thursday in a bid to resolve the issue which has seen thousands of black Zimbabwean war veterans invading and occupying white-owned farms.

At least 14 people - farmers, farm workers and opposition supporters - have been killed in nine weeks of escalating political tension related to coming parliamentary elections and the land invasions.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has demanded that Britain - the former colonial power in Zimbabwe - pay for land he plans to take from white farmers for redistribution to blacks.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has said Britain was ready to boost aid to Zimbabwe by £36-million (about R374-million) over the next two years - much of it to support the land transfers - but insists that farm occupations and the violence must end first.

Nkomo said it was now time for Britain to make good its obligations and stop behaving like the colonial ruler it once was.

"We are a sovereign country, we determine what is going to happen in Zimbabwe, when and how. We are no longer a colony of the British," Nkomo said.

Speaking at the end of eight hours of talks on Thursday, Cook said there could be no resumption of talks on the issue until violence and invasions of white-owned farms ended.

"The ball is now in their court," he said.

But Nkomo said it was up to Britain to shift its position before any fresh talks could go ahead.

"We are not prepared to meet over nothing again," he said. - Reuters

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