Surge in attempts to take land from white farmers in Zim

There is an upsurge in attempts to forcibly take over Zimbabwean properties still owned by whites 15 years after the launch of a land reform programme, a Zimbabwean farmers’ union said on Tuesday.

The Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) said there had been at least 20 “incidents” on white-owned properties in recent weeks, in most cases with farmers told to leave their farms.

Some had been given as little as one month’s “notice”.

“They are informing the owner that time is up; some people are getting 90 days, some people are getting 45 days, some people are getting 30 days to wind up their farming operations and vacate the property,” said CFU director Hendrik Olivier.

He said in some cases the demands were made “without any official correspondence from the [lands] ministry to wind up their farming operations. There’s no paperwork”.

He said many of the cases had occurred in the southern Matabeleland province.

Ceded parts of farms
There are believed to be between 300 and 400 white farmers left on their farms – down from around 4 000 15 years ago. Many of those still left have already ceded parts of their farms.

An unknown number of white farmers have also quietly returned to rent land from the new owners.

Last month vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa hinted that President Robert Mugabe’s government would take over more white-owned farms.

Mugabe launched the land reform programme in 2000 in what was described then as an attempt to correct colonial-era imbalances in land ownership.

Critics said it contributed to Zimbabwe’s economic crisis by sparking a drop in investor confidence and agricultural production.

Mugabe and his supporters say Western sanctions are to blame.

On the latest farm takeovers Olivier said: “It would appear that this is just more people who need farmland and they are just picking off the remaining couple of [white] farmers who have already lost land but are fortunate enough to still be on a small piece of land.

“Now they are taking that away too.” – Sapa

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