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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK
Police respite for Zimbabwe's farmers
Police in Chinhoyi, 2000
The police are preparing for evictions in August
The police in Zimbabwe say they will not be enforcing a deadline for white farmers to stop working their land but will instead begin evictions in August.

Earlier this week, a 45-day deadline expired for between 300 and 3,000 farmers, whose land is on a list for seizure by the state.


The government is opposed to a 'one farmer, 20 farms' scenario

Robert Mugabe
But a police spokesman told the state-owned Herald newspaper that they did not have the capacity to monitor who was in the fields.

President Robert Mugabe has repeated his position that white farmers will be allowed to keep one farm each while his government issued a new warning to white farmers on Wednesday.

"No farmer need go without land. The government is opposed to a 'one farmer, 20 farms' scenario," Mr Mugabe told a human rights delegation in Harare.

However, an official with the white-dominated Commercial Farmers' Union told BBC News Online that hundreds of farms have been listed, although their owners do not have any other properties.

Government warning

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party was angered by reports that farmers were not leaving their land or were vandalising irrigation equipment and farm buildings.

He said the party had urged the government to take "immediate and swift action" and he vowed there would be a crackdown on farmers damaging property.

"The long arm of the law is going to descend on anybody who defies the government," he warned on state television.

The police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena, said that the police were preparing to take action in August, when the farmers must vacate their land.

"We are gearing ourselves for the eviction process. When the timetable for the farmers to leave is reached, we will be there in full force," he said.

Flower farm
Zimbabwe's economy depends on agriculture

Under a new land law passed in May, farmers have 45 days from the date they receive official notification of the state's intent to take their land to stop working and another 45 days to leave the property.

Those caught still working this week in theory face a fine or a jail term of up to two years.

The precise number of farmers affected is unclear.

The white-dominated Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) says that 2,900 will be affected.

But a CFU official says that the true figure is around 1,700.

While Agriculture Minister Joseph Made says that the first big batch of land seizures will only affect around 10% of white farmers - around 300.

Food crisis

Around 95% of all white-owned farms have so far been listed for acquisition but none has yet been taken without the owner's agreement.

Around 500 farmers have agreed to give up their land and some have received compensation.

Children queuing for food aid
Millions of Zimbabweans are going hungry

Farmers, economists and foreign donors say that the land redistribution programme will worsen the country's food crisis.

Up to six million Zimbabweans may need food aid this year, according to aid agencies.

But Mr Mugabe says that giving land to poor black families will increase their living standards and enhance food security.


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