Zim govt says it's up to Britain to compensate farmers

A Cabinet minister said on Thursday it was up to Britain to compensate thousands of white Zimbabweans whose farms were seized under President Robert Mugabe’s land reform programme.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said a constitutional amendment Mugabe signed on August 30 that strips landowners of their right to appeal expropriation “finally settled the land question in Zimbabwe”.

“All title deeds of the farmers have been cancelled, with the British government having sole responsibility to compensate the evicted farmers,” Chinamasa told state radio.

Zimbabwe has repeatedly accused former colonial power Britain of creating economic and political trouble in this Southern African nation. Mugabe also has accused white Zimbabweans of orchestrating opposition.

Mugabe ordered the seizure of 5 000 white-owned commercial farms starting in February 2000, initially promising to compensate farmers for improvements with long-term, low interest bonds. Farm groups say the government was offering less than 10% of the commercial value.

Farmers resisted the takeovers, lodging appeals that alleged technical or other irregularities.
They refused to surrender title deeds.

Their organisation, the Commercial Farmers Union, estimates up to 1 000 may still be cultivating small portions of their former properties under agreements with new occupiers. They now face two years in jail if found there by police.

Until 2000, whites farmed 17% of the country and earned most of its export revenue. Farming was the backbone of an economy now in free fall.

Commercial Farmers Union official Ben Kaschula said Canadian coffee farm owner David Wilding-Davies and his South African manager Allan Warner had on Thursday been allowed by doctors to go home after receiving treatment for injuries when they were beaten on Wednesday by a mob trying to force them off a farm about 350km south of the capital.

The attack was the first since Didymus Mutasa, head of Mugabe’s feared secret police, the Central Intelligence Organisation, described remaining white farmers as “filth” and said an operation would be launched to “rid the country of remaining whites.” - Sapa-AP

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