February 05, 2007
Zim farmers relieved as eviction date passes
Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers expressed relief on Monday after the government made good on its pledge to allow them to harvest their crops before evicting them.
05 February 2007 12:09
President Robert Mugabe's government had given white farmers, and an unspecified number of black people illegally occupying farms, until February 3 to vacate their land. It later said it would allow them to stay on until the harvest in late August.
Emily Crookes, communications manager of the Commercial Farmers' Union, said the deadline passed without incident.
"We have had instances in the past when the government has not honoured their promises and farmers were anxious over this deadline, despite an assurance that they could harvest. We are pleased ...," she said, adding that more than 100 white farmers faced eviction.
"We have not been made aware of any eviction; it has been quiet."
Zimbabwe's government said in early January it would issue eviction orders and prosecute former white commercial farmers and new black farmers occupying land illegally.
Mugabe says the government's land-redistribution programme aims to equitably distribute prime farmland, 75% of which was occupied by the 4 500 white farmers.
But critics say much of the land has ended up in the hands of government and ruling party officials.
They blame the policy for destroying commercial agriculture in the country, a former regional breadbasket that has increasingly found it difficult to feed itself and is in the grips of an economic crisis.
Zimbabwe's Gazetted Land Act, which was passed last month, gave the white farmers and illegal black land occupiers up to 90 days to vacate land acquired by the state. Those who fail to move could face up to two years in jail.
In 2005, Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party used its majority in Parliament to amend the constitution, nationalising all agricultural land and barring white farmers from challenging farm seizures in court.
Thousands of former white commercial farmers have lost their land under reforms to redistribute land to black people. Critics say the reforms have damaged commercial agriculture and worsened a deep economic recession.
Only 500 white commercial farmers still own their land out of an original 4 500 in the year 2000. -- Reuters
Posted by Publisher at February 5, 2007 01:57 PM
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