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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Zimbabwe 'evicts squatters'
War veterans confront police
Previous evictions have quickly been reversed
The government of Zimbabwe says it has started evicting thousands of families who have invaded farms not earmarked for acquisition under the land reform programme.

Correspondents say this is the strongest move by the authorities against illegal occupation of farmland since it started in February 2000.

Last week, the law was amended to give the government of President Robert Mugabe immediate control of the farms targeted for seizure.

Zimbabweans in search of food
Food queues have become common in Zimbabwe
More than 5,000 of the 8,000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe have been listed for state take-over.

The reported evictions are taking place on the remaining 3,000 farms, as well as wildlife conservancies, plantations and black- or church-owned properties.

The Commercial Farmers Union, which represents the interests of white farmers, told BBC News Online that it could not confirm illegal occupants of properties had been evicted, and that it believed the government had only talked of doing so.

The eviction process is expected to last a month in one of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces alone, Masvingo, where it has already begun, according to the state-run Herald newspaper.

Violent take-overs

Among those to be evicted in the Masvingo area are peasants who had settled on a farm belonging to Zimbabwe's Speaker of Parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a top official in the ruling Zanu-PF party, and a close aide of President Mugabe.

Many of the illegal occupants in Zimbabwe are pro-government militants led by veterans of the war of liberation from British colonialism in the 1970s.

Several white farmers and their black workers have been killed during these violent take-overs.

Zimbabwe is facing a food crisis following the invasions and drought which has hit the region.
White farming family
White farmers have felt under siege for two years

Its once prosperous economy is in tatters and people have begun to die from starvation.

The 4,500 white farmers, who make up less than 1% of the population, own 30% of prime farm land.

Mr Mugabe wants to redistribute most of this land to poor black families.

The farmers say they are not opposed to the land redistribution programme, but that they object to the way it has been implemented.

President Robert Mugabe says the land reform programme should be completed by August.

See also:

09 May 02 | Africa
Mugabe tightens grip on land
03 May 02 | Africa
Starvation strikes Zimbabwe
13 Mar 02 | Africa
Africa backs Mugabe win
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