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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Zimbabwe whites ignore farming ban
Car at farm in Chinhoyi
Some farms have already been abandoned
Many of the 2,900 white farmers in Zimbabwe affected by a ban on farming their land, which comes into force at midnight on Monday, are carrying on work as usual.

The Commercial Farmers' Union says that most of its members appear to have ignored the legislation which requires them to stop working and then give up their land.

A spokeswoman for the union said her impression was that most of the CFU members subject to the law do not intend going anywhere.

White farmers
2,900 must stop farming
500 have given up land
One court case won by the government
95% of white-owned farms listed for acquisition
CFU membership down by 30%
Source: CFU

A farmers' representative in the central province of Masvingo said he and his colleagues are aware of the legal situation but prefer to "sit it out".

Any farmer who carries on working their land 45 days after receiving an acquisition notice could face two years in prison.

Seizures

In some areas of Zimbabwe, the ban will come into effect when white farmers are still harvesting sugarcane.

Children queuing for food aid
Millions of Zimbabweans are going hungry
The CFU says its members have financial commitments and crops in the ground that make them unwilling to stop work and leave their farms.

The number of farmers affected represents about 60% of the total of white farmers who were in Zimbabwe at the time that land seizures began two years ago.

One farmer has been quoted as saying that you cannot wind up 50 years' work in 45 days.

Leave

The policy of confiscating white-owned farms was begun by President Robert Mugabe over two years ago, and his critics say it is partly to blame for the food shortages affecting millions of Zimbabweans.

Sign on farm
War veterans have spearheaded the government's land push
Last month the government passed the legislation, giving farmers 45 days to stop working land which has been listed for acquisition and redistribution.

In theory the farmers now have another 45 days, at the end of which they must leave their properties for good.

The government was not available for comment, but a state controlled newspaper said the authorities had rejected requests from farmers that they be allowed to stay on.

'Man-made crisis'

Zimbabwe is facing severe food shortages as a result of a drought and a crippled economy.

Since the beginning of June almost all domestic grain stocks have been exhausted, and nearly two-thirds of the country's needs are not being supplied.

Launch new window : Southern Africa famine
In pictures: Southern Africa famine

For a country that was once the breadbasket of southern Africa this is nothing short of a disaster.

International aid agencies - including World Food Programme - say the food shortages are directly linked to the often chaotic redistribution of land.

They warn that about half of the country's 14 million might be in need of food assistance by the end of the of the year.

Farmers in Zimbabwe also say the food crisis in mainly man-made.

"When one looks at it, the drought was a minor drought - it was nothing compared to the 1991-92 drought," Mac Crawford, cattle farmer in Matabeleland, said.

"But yet we're facing a major disaster... for the simple reason of politics."

But the government says that by taking land from white farmers and giving it to landless black peasants, it is ensuring greater self-sufficiency in the future.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Shukman
"As many as 13 million people could be at risk"
Jenni Williams, Commercial Farmer's Union
"It's unlikely a majority of farmers will down tools"

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See also:

15 May 02 | Africa
09 May 02 | Africa
03 May 02 | Africa
13 Mar 02 | Africa
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