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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 12:41 GMT
Zimbabwe's angry white farmers
White farming family
4,000 white families face eviction
Zimbabwe's white farmers have reacted with shock and anger to a presidential decree which seizes their land with immediate effect.

The decree was announced as a United Nations team is expected in Harare to see whether the government is complying with the terms of the Abuja deal struck between Zimbabwe and Britain.

I doubt whether this decree is constitutional. It should be challenged but with the courts as they are now, there is little chance of success

Welshman Ncube, lawyer and MP
Britain agreed to fund the programme of redistributing land from whites to poor black farmers.

Zimbabwe agreed to end the violence which has been associated with the reform programme and ensured that it was done according to the law.

"This is absolutely contrary to Abuja," David Hasluck from the Commercial Farmers' Union told BBC News Online.


He said that it was "very cynical" for Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister, Stan Mudenge, to meet senior UN officials over the week-end and not mention Mr Mugabe's decree.

According to the new law, farmers are not allowed to work their land in any way with immediate effect.

Robert Mugabe
President Mugabe has his sights set on elections next year

If they do, they could face a fine of Z$20,000 ($360) or two years in prison.

The CFU has not yet decided whether to launch a legal challenge to the decree.

They have successfully challenged previous land acquisition measures but this has not changed the situation on the ground.

This year, Mr Mugabe has named several sympathisers as judges.


"I doubt whether this decree is constitutional. It should be challenged but with the courts as they are now, there is little chance of success," said Welshman Ncube, a lawyer and opposition MP.
Self-styled war veterans
Self-styled war veterans have occupied hundreds of white-owned farms

"The government's approach is not meant to achieve social justice and economic prosperity, but (is) politically vindictive and economically disastrous," he told Reuters news agency.

Mr Hasluck was keen that his members should obey the new law and not "provoke the authorities" but he did not want to encourage them to stop work as they would then quickly go bankrupt.

The decree says that farmers have three months in which to leave their homes but this is backdated to May 2000.

"This is nonsense," said Mr Hasluck.

Relief operation

Analysts say that Zimbabwe's economic crisis has been worsened by the land reform programme.

The World Food Programme is due to begin a huge relief operation next month to feed over 500,000 Zimbabweans who face hunger or starvation.

But on Sunday, the Zimbabwean Government announced a ban on humanitarian agencies from distributing food aid saying groups were using it as a pretext to campaign for the opposition party.

Aid groups and political analysts have expressed concern that the government will use food aid to bolster votes in the presidential election due early next year.

Colin Cloete, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers' Union
"It has very far reaching consequences for commercial agriculture and the nation as a whole"
See also:

10 Oct 01 | Business
Zimbabwe slashes food prices
05 Jul 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe admits food crisis
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