The murder of white farmers in Zimbabwe was "no worse" than those in South Africa, and President Robert Mugabe's government didn't deserve the "bad publicity" it got for them, a senior banking official has said.
Deputy central bank chief Jesimen Chipika said "just four" white farmers had died, contradicting figures from rights groups and farmers' groups that said at least 13 white farmers and at least 20 black farm workers were killed in the first months of land reform.
"The killing of the white commercial farmers during the land reform was not worse than the killings in South Africa," said Chipika, who was appointed by Mugabe in April.
"There were just four or so farmers who were killed and I don't know why we got bad publicity for it," said the banker, in comments carried by NewZimbabwe.com.
Mugabe's supporters launched the sometimes violent takeover of white-owned farms in 2000. Most of the 4 000-strong community have now lost their land. In addition to the killings, many farm workers were assaulted and thousands were either made homeless or jobless.
Chipika, an economist who has worked for the UN, was speaking at the launch of a new book entitled: "Towards Democratic Developmental States in Southern Africa."
She told guests at the book launch that Zimbabwe's redistribution of land and minerals meant it was poised to achieve the UN's sustainable development goals, which are supposed to protect the planet, end poverty and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
"We have already done that as a country because we have already redistributed land and minerals to the majority and addressed the skewed ownership of resources," NewZimbabwe.com quoted her as saying.
Last month Mugabe said no one would be prosecuted for killing white farmers who had resisted land reform.