Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Friday, August 28, 1998 Published at 06:37 GMT 07:37 UK

World: Africa

Small beginnings for Zimbabwe land reform

President Mugabe needed to show his critics he was serious about land reform

By Joseph Winter in Harare

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has officially launched the second phase of his controversial land reform programme.

He says he will acquire five million hectares of land from white commercial farmers over the next five years and give the land to poor black families.

As a result of colonial policies, land ownership is very unbalanced in Zimbabwe, with a few thousand whites owning nearly half of all the best farm land. Critics say the land reform will destroy the country's economy, which is based on agriculture.

To mark the start of the programme, President Mugabe went to a farm in the north-east of the country which had been bought from a white farmer and which will now be handed over to 40 black families, each with its own field.

This farm was purchased before last year's publication of a list of 1,500 farms set for compulsory acquisition and so is not really part of the new phase of land reform.

Political pressure

But Robert Mugabe was under intense pressure to act, and act quickly. Villagers have recently begun invading white-owned farms, trying to resettle themselves, because they say the government is doing nothing.

The rainy season starts soon, when farmers are too busy to be moving on to new land. Now the president can answer his critics by saying that the process has at least begun.

However it will not be easy. Forty families is not even a dent in the 150,000 who Robert Mugabe says will be resettled over the next five years. And that number still leaves millions more who will also ask for extra land.

Mr Mugabe is in a very tight situation, caught between millions of impoverished villagers, whose appetite for land he has whetted with his fiery rhetoric, and his lack of money to fulfill his many promises.

A donor conference is scheduled for next month, when Zimbabwe will ask for the cash needed for land reform, but there is growing speculation that some donors will retort: "If you've got the money to sent soldiers to Congo, you can pay for your own land."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

In this section

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

Sudan power struggle denied

Animal airlift planned for Congo

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Zimbabwe constitution: Just a bit of paper?

South African gays take centre stage

Nigeria's ruling party's convention

UN to return to Burundi

Bissau military hold fire

Nile basin agreement on water cooperation

Congo Brazzaville defends peace initiative

African Media Watch

Liberia names new army chief