Monday, November 28, 2005

One of Zimbabwe's last remaining white farmers was strangled and burned to death in an attack inside his home

Peta Thornycroft:

Don Stewart, 68, was set upon shortly before dawn in the bedroom of his tightly-guarded homestead near Norton, 25 miles west of Harare. He was one of the last 300 white farmers left in Zimbabwe. There were 4,000 five years ago.

Police insisted that Mr Stewart's murder was the work of common criminals and had no political motive.

His assailants were unable to penetrate the barred windows and reinforced doors of his homestead on Ingwerati dairy farm.

Instead, they entered through the roof and strangled Mr Stewart in his bed. Then they covered him with a mattress, doused it in petrol and set him alight.

Several of Mr Stewart's workers tried to rescue him. But when they got inside the house, also through the roof, he was already dead. Nothing was stolen but a hunting rifle.

Mr Stewart, who was born in Zimbabwe, lived alone. After the strain of five years of continuous violence against white farmers, his wife, Margaret, had moved to Britain.

His son, David, worked alongside him on Ingwerati farm and lived a mile away in a cottage. He was too distraught to speak yesterday.

John Worsley-Worswick, the chief executive of Justice for Agriculture Trust, a pressure group, said: "We are appalled at the cold-blooded murder of yet another of Zimbabwe's few remaining productive commercial farmers. It was particularly abhorrent at this time of Zimbabwe's acute food crisis."

Zimbabwe's summer rains started last week but few crops have been planted. Commercial agriculture has collapsed following President Robert Mugabe's purge of white farmers.

Mr Stewart's murder came as the self-destruction of Zimbabwe's opposition allowed President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party to sweep to an easy victory in elections for a newly-created senate.

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1 Comments:

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