Harare to evict 4 000 black farmers

The Zimbabwe government on Thursday said it will evict about 4 000 black farmers who illegally occupied commercial farms and conservancies in the southern Masvingo province.

Masvingo provincial administrator Felix Chikovo said all those who occupied farms that were not earmarked for seizure under the government’s land-reform programme, as well as farms that are protected by government-to-government agreements, will be evicted.

“We have a number of people who are still on undesignated farms. Such people will be evicted in order to bring normalcy on farms. About 4 000 people are likely to be evicted under the exercise,” said Chikovo.

The latest announcement represents a major policy U-turn by the Harare authorities who have in the past ignored calls by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono to restore order on former commercial farms.

But the latest evictions are likely to trigger clashes between veterans of the country’s 1970s liberation war who spearheaded farm invasions six years ago and President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Lovemore Chirove, a war veteran, said he is not going to leave the farm without a fight, adding it was Mugabe himself who encouraged them to occupy the farms.

“We were ordered to move into these farms by the president himself. It is with great shock that we are hearing about these evictions. We are prepared to fight anyone over the evictions,” said Chirove.

Another farm invader, who refused to be named, accused the government of targeting less influential individuals while sparing government ministers who also invaded farms.

“There are a number of ministers and top government officials who own more that one farm and these are the people who should be evicted. Mugabe told us that no one would be evicted from the farms. So where are these evictions coming from?’‘

There are about 700 people still occupying Gonarezhou National Park and other conservancies in Masvingo province despite efforts by several government ministers to evict the settlers.

Zimbabwe is battling a severe economic crisis many critics blame on Mugabe’s policies, particularly his seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks six years ago. The farm invasions slashed food production by more than 60%, resulting in Zimbabweans depending on food aid from international donors for survival.—ZimOnline

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