/ 8 December 2012

Zim government seizes former PM Smith’s farm

A 2000 picture of Ian Smith
A 2000 picture of Ian Smith

Owen Jarman, manager at the cattle ranch Gwenoro in the central Zimbabwean district of Shurugwi said he was winding up affairs at the farm after being told by government officials in late September that it had been "listed for compulsory acquisition for resettlement."

Smith was prime minister of Rhodesia, as it was formerly known, from 1964 until 1978, defying international condemnation over his refusal to relinquish white rule.

A five-year guerilla war led by black nationalists ended in 1979 with a settlement which allowed Robert Mugabe to win elections. He has remained in power since.

In 2000, Mugabe launched a campaign to seize white-owned land and redistribute it to black farmers. While most white farmers lost almost everything they owned, the main section of Smith's farm had remained untouched.

"We understand that the farm was left alone out of (Mugabe's) respect for Mr Smith," said Jarman. "We have farmed here without interruption since 2000. But there seems to have been a change of heart and they have now decided to take it."

It was being handed to a local technical college, he said. No compensation is to be paid.

Smith bought the farm in 1948, lived on it throughout the pre-independence guerilla war but finally left in 2005 to go to South Africa as he became infirm with age. He died there in 2007 aged 88, the same age as Mugabe is now. His ashes were scattered at Gwenoro.

Jarman has been running the farm for Smith's step children since his death. "It'll take me perhaps the next couple of months to clear out," he said. "They are giving us time. They don't seem to be in a huge hurry to get us off."

The World Bank and other major international financial institutions have accused Mugabe of destroying what was once regarded as "the breadbasket of Africa" with the land seizures.

They say it led to the collapse of the rest of the economy in 2008. The World Food Programme says Zimbabwe is facing one of its worst "hunger periods" this year, with 1.7-million people facing starvation. – Sapa-DPA.