Wed Feb 28, 5:12 AM

By Desiwaar Heita
WINDHOEK (Reuters) - Rights activists in Namibia on Wednesday shouted "tyrant" and waved placards condemning Robert Mugabe's controversial land reforms in a protest to mark the Zimbabwean leader's visit to the southwestern African nation.
Mugabe, facing growing unrest at home over policies that critics say have ruined Zimbabwe's economy, was kept away from scores of protesters who chanted and paraded outside the Zimbabwean embassy in Windhoek, the Namibian capital.
Two dozen police officers kept a wary eye on the crowd, which carried signs that read "Retire Tyrant Retire" and "Mugabe Repent" outside the building. Zimbabwean officials remained inside during the demonstration.
"Robert Mugabe should be in prison for his human rights violations," said Phil ya Nangolo, director of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), a Namibian group that organized the protest, which was joined by a number of Zimbabwean exiles and Namibian opposition members.
"His land redistribution has not empowered any Zimbabweans but has just brought poverty," Nangolo said.
Mugabe, who arrived in Namibia on Tuesday on a state visit, has been accused of destroying Zimbabwe's once-thriving agricultural sector through the seizure and redistribution of white commercial farms to landless blacks.
A subsequent drop in production of maize and other key crops has worsened a deepening economic crisis there, marked by inflation of about 1,600 percent -- the world's highest -- soaring unemployment and chronic shortages of basic necessities.
At least 1.4 million Zimbabweans, or about 15 percent of the population, will need food assistance in the coming months, according to the U.N. World Food Programme. The food crisis also has added to rising political tensions in the country.
But Mugabe, who turned 83 last week, defended his land redistribution policy during a state banquet Tuesday night in Windhoek.
"Our programme has addressed and reversed a skewed land ownership pattern, which favored the minority at the expenses of the majority of our people," Mugabe said as he addressed Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and other attendees.
He also repeated his accusation that the United States and Britain had sabotaged the Zimbabwean economy, punishing the African nation's people for "daring to take their destiny into their own hands."
The two Western giants are among a number of nations that have imposed sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on Mugabe and other members of his government.
Mugabe's visit to Namibia is his first foreign trip since his government imposed a three-month ban on political rallies and protests in volatile townships in the capital Harare after clashes between police and opposition supporters.
Anti-Mugabe groups have described the move as effectively a "state of emergency" designed to stifle the opposition.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.