February 10, 1999 – A day of International news. From Zimbabwe came news that the government of Robert Mugabe was overruled by the courts over the confiscation of many, but not all farms owned by Whites. The land reform program was dealt a blow, as a judge ruled that the time limit for acquiring land cannot be extended. Meaning the government must relinquish its claims to over half the number of white-owned farms it wanted to give to poor Black families. According to Zimbabwe’s Land Acquisition Act, the government had days from sending out notices of acquisition to take any disputes to court. Figures varied, but even the official media said that almost two-thirds of the farms the government wanted to seize were processed after that deadline. Other sources claimed as many as 90 percent of applications were filed late. The court ruled they could not extend the time period, despite all the fiery rhetoric, it seemed all the government’s plans for radical land reform lay in ruins.
News from East Timor was coming in thick and fast as reports that rebel leader Xanana Gusmao was going from high-security prison to house arrest. Gusmao was seen by many Timorese as the man who would bring all the divergent parties and factions together to achieve independence. After a quarter-century of Indonesian occupation of East Timor with no hope of an end or a solution, things were changing very quickly in recent days. First; there was the Indonesian government‘s radical change of heart, considering the possibility of independence for East Timor. Second; at the UN, talks between Indonesia and Portugal, which were stagnant for so long, produced agreement in principle that the East Timorese got to choose their political future – though how, was not so clear. And then earlier this day, the release from prison in Jakarta of the East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao. He was taken from a high security prison, where he was serving a twenty-year sentence for armed rebellion, to house arrest nearby. Gusmao was mobbed by Indonesian press and supporters as the leader was being transitioned and the whole atmosphere took on a pop-star air, rather than a political one.
And that’s a very small slice of news for this day, as reported on the BBC World Service program Newshour for February 10, 1999.