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19 Sep 2006 15:38
The Zimbabwean government has renewed seizing white-owned farms, despite official statements that the process had ended, ZimOnline reported on Tuesday.
“Your farm has been acquired by the government and we therefore request you to wind up your business before the start of the rainy season,” Masvingo provincial governor Willard Chiwewe wrote to local farmer John Sparrow.
“You are advised to comply with this order since you risk being forcibly removed ... We also take this opportunity to tell you that you are not allowed to move out with any of your farming equipment,” the letter added.
This was despite the government saying that farm evictions had ended as it was concentrating on raising production on land already acquired from whites.
Influential Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono, as well as vice-presidents Joseph Msika and Joice Mujuru, on separate occasions this year publicly called for an end to farm evictions.
A former official of the white-representative Commercial Farmers’ Union in Masvingo, Mike Nickson, described the situation as unbearable.
Under the government’s land-seizure laws, a farmer cannot challenge the expropriation of his land by the government in court and faces jail for removing equipment from the farm.
According to ZimOnline, another 10 white farmers had also received letters from Chiwewe notifying them to vacate their properties. There were also reports that government militias and veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s independence war had been sent out to put pressure on farmers to give up their properties.
Chiwewe on Monday defended the latest evictions, saying the government needed the land to resettle black villagers who occupied game parks and conservancies at the height of the farm invasions.
“We are looking for farms to resettle our people,” Chiwewe said. He denied knowledge of war veterans and government militia intimidating farmers.
Only about 600 out of an estimated 4 000 large-scale producing white commercial farmers remained in Zimbabwe.
According to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe the farm seizures, which begin in 2000, were meant to correct an unjust land-tenure system that reserved 75% of the best arable land for minority whites.
Blacks were cramped on poor soils, a situation that has been blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into severe food shortages.
The southern African country that was once a regional breadbasket has largely survived on food hand-outs from international relief agencies for the past six years. It would require more food aid this year for at least a quarter of its 12-million people, ZimOnline reported.—Sapa
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