Mugabe plans new land seizures - BBC

diggers350 tony at
Sun Dec 30 22:48:37 GMT 2001


Zimbabwe plans new land seizures
Sunday, 30 December, 2001, 22:17 GMT 
All but 5% of white-owned land is to be seized

The names of nearly 100,000 black Zimbabweans allocated land to be seized from white farmers will be published this week, the state-owned Herald newspaper has reported. 

About 1,700 white-owned farms have already been occupied - some violently - by supporters of President Robert Mugabe in the controversial land reform programme at the heart of the country's political crisis. 

The 8.5 million hectares of land now earmarked for seizure in the run-up to presidential elections in March make up 95% of the land currently owned by white Zimbabweans. 

Some of the occupations have been violent
Nearly 55,000 blacks will receive their own commercial plots, while the rest will be allocated space on communal land, the paper quoted a government spokesman as saying. 

Veterans of the war which ended British colonial rule in Zimbabwe - then Rhodesia - are guaranteed land if they have not yet been allocated it, he said. 

The announcement comes amid unconfirmed reports that dozens of farms taken from white owners have been given to high-ranking party officials, rather than redistributed to poor Zimbabweans. 

But the spokesman denied that applicants for land were selected on their affiliation to Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. 

Violent 'reform'

Mr Mugabe's land reform programme has been marred by violence since government supporters, calling themselves war veterans, began occupying white farms 18 months ago demanding that they be redistributed to landless blacks. 

President Mugabe faces elections in March
Police have largely failed to stem the accompanying violence. 

The farm seizures have been declared illegal by Zimbabwe's High Court, but the ruling was reversed after the government appointed four new judges. 

However, the first farmer to sue individual Zimbabwean Government ministers over land reform has won a minor victory in his battle to get his farm back. 

Guy Watson-Smith launched proceedings against two government ministers and the former head of the national army after he was ordered to leave his farm in early December. 

Court battle

Last week he also appealed for a relief order allowing him to reclaim machinery, animals and game from his farm, which is on prime land 100km from the capital, Harare. 

On Friday the High Court ruled that Mr Watson-Smith should be allowed to collect his property from the farm. 

He will continue his legal battle from South Africa, where he has moved for safety. 

Mr Watson-Smith has said he believes his farm will be given to a high-ranking Zimbabwean official close to the government. 

His court action comes amid reports of increasing violence and intimidation, including the recent murders of four opposition members.

More information about the Diggers350 mailing list