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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Zimbabwe commits to land deal
US activists in Durban South Africa protest in favour of land reform in Zimbabwe
President Mugabe's supporters demand land reform
Zimbabwe has committed itself to a Commonwealth-brokered deal to end the violent occupation of white-owned farms by restoring the rule of law.

Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said the government would pay "full and fair" compensation for any land it transfers from white farmers to poor blacks - so long as the former colonial power Britain and other countries fulfil promises to fund the programme.

This deal will be music to the ears of my white countrymen

Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge

The deal, signed in Nigeria, came after African nations added their voices to international concern about the situation in Zimbabwe.

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) welcomed the agreement, saying it could restore peace and justice in Zimbabwe.

Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon also welcomed the deal in principle, but warned: "It is a matter now of ensuring implementation of the deal and that means a greater grip on the rule of law."

Zimbabwe agrees:
No further occupations of white-owned farms
To restore the rule of law to the process of land reform
To the principle of freedom of expression
To take firm action against violence and intimidation
Voluntary sale of hundreds of white-owned farms
Britain and others to compensate farmers
The Zimbabwean foreign minister said people occupying land that the government did not intend to acquire would be moved to legally acquired land.

But he repeated government claims that it was not behind the violent occupations of white-owned farms by so-called war veterans.

He said: "Zimbabwe has no policy of intimidation and no policy of violence and will continue to ensure that there is no violence or intimidation."

Malcolm Vowles of the farmers' union said: "We hope the agreement will be implemented fully because we see in it a landmark towards restoring peace and justice in our country."

"I think we are slowly moving towards normalcy."

Where is the rule of law when our land was being taken from us?

Andy Mhlange, Zimbabwe War Veterans Association
However, Andy Mhlange, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe War Veterans Association, refused to confirm an end to the violence.

He told BBC News Online: "Where is the rule of law when our land was being taken from us?"

And he said there would be resistance if barren rather than productive land was given to them and if white farmers refused to co-operate in the exercise.

Rights monitoring

He also said Mr Mugabe, who he called their commander, is perhaps the "only one with the authority and not the courts, to ask them to stop their occupations".

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe's opposition MDC party, said: "I believe that everyone is agreed that land reform is imperative, but under the conditions of law and order.

"The government has had its fingers burned. I hope that it has learned its lesson and will refrain from this violence."

Under the deal, Zimbabwe has also agreed to allow close monitoring of the human rights situation in the country, and of its presidential election, due for next year.

President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe must face the electorate next year
In addition, it said it would safeguard freedom of expression and the press. Zimbabwe has expelled a number of foreign correspondents, and local journalists have complained of intimidation.

The BBC diplomatic correspondent says a question mark remains over whether or not the deal is simply an attempt to head off a row at the Commonwealth summit next month.

Neighbours' concern

Before the agreement was reached, Nigeria's foreign minister had made it clear that Zimbabwe's neighbours were becoming increasingly concerned as the 18-month crisis continues.

Land Facts
Total population: 12.5m
White population: 70,000 (about 0.6%)
Whites own majority of the best farming land
1m blacks own 16m hectares - often in drought-prone regions
White-owned farms: 4,500
More than 1,700 white-owned farms occupied since March 2000
"Africa cannot afford another war, not least a racial war or one with racial undertones," said Sule Lamido.

Until now, the issue of land reform in Zimbabwe has been regarded by other African nations as largely an internal matter.

Mr Mugabe and his government have been happy to keep it that way, accusing the former colonial power, Britain, of meddling in its affairs and of failing to pay reparations for land taken during colonial times.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar in Abuja
"South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya told Zimbabwe that the game was up"
William Saidi, assistant editor of the Daily News
"There was relief among business people"
Don McKinnon, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth
"I think this is a turning point amongst the nations of southern Africa"

Key stories

The vote



Zimbabwe deal: Is it a breakthrough?



948 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

05 Sep 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe welcomes farmers' offer
25 Aug 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Gauging opinion in troubled Zimbabwe
17 Aug 01 | Africa
Fleeing Zimbabwe for UK
16 Aug 01 | Africa
Diplomatic options over Zimbabwe
02 Aug 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe targets more white farms
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