Harare intensifies drive to expel white farmers

The Zimbabwe government has intensified a drive to expel white farmers issuing eviction orders to more farmers and threatening to arrest those who have not vacated their properties after the expiry of a September 30 deadline to do so.

Fewer than 600 white commercial farmers remain in Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe’s government began seizing land from white farmers, then numbering about 4 000, for redistribution to landless blacks seven years ago.

The Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU), which represents white farmers, at the weekend said the government had issued eviction orders to more farmers following a court ruling two weeks ago that farmers still occupying land after the September 30 deadline were in breach of the law.

“About 10 of our farmers in different parts of the country were served with fresh eviction notices by officials from the Ministry of Lands and also received phone calls from the police notifying them of the intention to charge them and have them prosecuted in court,” said CFU vice-president Deon Theron.

The farmers ordered to vacate are from the Karoi and Hurungwe farming districts, according to Theron.

A magistrate’s court in the farming town of Chegutu two weeks ago rejected an appeal against eviction by 10 white farmers, ruling that their continued stay on farms earmarked by the government for redistribution to blacks was a violation of the law.

Some of the farmers are believed to be considering appealing against the lower court’s ruling at the High Court.

The CFU has said that despite the court ruling it will continue negotiations with the government to try to find an amicable solution to farm evictions.

Theron said: “It’s unfortunate; we have been trying to make efforts to engage the government, but our members have already been given court dates and are going to be prosecuted for producing food for the nation on the farms.”

Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa was not immediately available for comment on the matter. But the government has since the beginning of the year given conflicting signals on the fate of remaining white farmers, with some officials saying they would be allowed to stay and others saying they would be evicted. Nonetheless, evictions have continued sporadically.

Zimbabwe, also grappling with its worst economic crisis to date, has since 2000 relied on food imports and handouts from international food agencies mainly due to failure by new black farmers to maintain production on former white farms.

Poor performance in the mainstay agricultural sector has also had far-reaching consequences as hundreds of thousands have lost jobs, while the manufacturing sector, starved of inputs from the sector, is operating below 30% of capacity.—ZimOnline

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