Anxious times for white Zimbabwe farmers

Zimbabwe’s remaining white farmers were anxious on Friday ahead of a February 3 deadline for many to leave their farms, a farming official said.

Many of the more than 400 whites still farming out of an original 4 500-strong community have been given until Saturday to vacate their farms to make way for new black farmers.

In early January, President Robert Mugabe’s government said white farmers would be allowed to stay on their farms for an extended period to harvest their crops.

But the government has continued to send out 45-day eviction notices that expire on Saturday, leaving farmers confused and anxious about their rights, said Emily Crookes, spokesperson for the white-run Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) said.

The Lands Ministry has continued to issue eviction notices around the country, Crookes told the media in a telephone interview.

“At least 30 eviction notices have already been issued to farmers this year, 24 of them to landowners in the southern Chiredzi district,” she said.

“Farmers are anxious out there because they’re not sure which way this is going to turn,” Crookes said. “We’re hoping it will be calm.”

Farmers in Chiredzi are hopeful the government will abide by its promise to allow them to harvest their crop.

Zimbabwe Cane Farmers’ Association chief executive Stephen Schwarer said in a telephone interview from Chiredzi that farmers in his area were not anticipating trouble on Saturday.

“We’re assuming there’s a stay of execution,” said Schwarer, whose association represents 200 black and 50 white cane farmers.

“There’s no indication there will be any trouble or pressure for us to leave this weekend,” he said.

In 2000, Mugabe’s government launched a controversial programme of farm seizures, accusing white farmers of supporting the fledgling opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, which almost defeated Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF in general elections that year.

Last week, Lands and Security Minister Didymus Mutasa said only farmers who had shown goodwill towards Mugabe’s government would be allowed to continue farming.

He also warned white farmers that the government had teeth and would use them to bite those who resisted the takeover of their properties.

Zimbabwe, once dubbed the breadbasket of Southern Africa, now has to import food to feed its population of nearly 12-million people.

There has been a massive decline in agricultural output, once the mainstay of the economy, as many of the new black farmers lack capital or experience to maintain production levels.—Sapa-dpa


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