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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 16:18 GMT

World: Africa

Zimbabwe land reforms to continue

Land reform is key to President Mugabe's future

By Harare Correspondent Joseph Winter

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has vowed to forge ahead with his controversial programme of land reform.

He wants to seize 1,500 farms from their current white owners and redistribute them to blacks.

As a result of colonial policies most of Zimbabwe's best farmland is still in the hands of a few thousand whites while millions of blacks struggle to survive on just a few acres of land per family.

Land reform is crucial to President Mugabe's political future and he has told his governing party, Zanu PF, that he will press ahead no matter what the international community or the country's courts say.

In February, a court ruled that the correct legal procedure had not been followed on more than half the farms the government wanted to acquire.

Informed sources have told the BBC that, in fact, the law has only been respected on a 120 farms whose owners have agreed to sell them to the state.


But Mr Mugabe has now said that the whole process will start again from scratch and that this time acquisitions will be done according to the letter of the law.

This means more time consuming bureaucracy before increasingly impatient poor blacks can be resettled.

It also implies that Mr Mugabe has decided not to change the law to make it easier to acquire land.

With an overwhelming majority in parliament, this was one option, following the legal setbacks, which would have alarmed both white farmers and the international community.

However, the current legislation is clear that full compensation must be paid to farmers and the government does not have enough money to buy all the land it wants.

Until Mr Mugabe can convince sceptical foreign donors that land reform will be transparent and economically viable, it can only proceed on the small scale Zimbabwe itself can afford.

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