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Saturday, 10 August, 2002, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Zimbabwe steps up eviction pressure
Farming family (archive photo)
Most white farmers are staying put
The Zimbabwe Government has warned "arrogant and racist" white farmers to leave their land, after a deadline for their eviction expired.

About 2,900 white farmers have been told to vacate their properties, but so far there have been no reports of violence or arrests against those who have remained.


All the excuses by farmers show what an arrogant and racist bunch they are

Ignatius Chombo, acting Lands Minister
Farmers' group Justice for Agriculture (JAG) said on Saturday about 40% of the farmers have left their homes since the deadline passed on Thursday night.

The government has warned that farmers who defy the order could be fined and jailed for up to two years.

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) said farmers remaining were awaiting the outcome of appeals against their evictions.

But government ministers said the farmers would have to comply.

"All the excuses by farmers show what an arrogant and racist bunch they are," said acting Lands Minister Ignatius Chombo.

"We've told them in no uncertain terms that we are going to distribute land and that the land reform is irreversible," he said.

The US State Department on Saturday denounced the eviction order, calling it "a reckless and reprehensible act".

Court hope

The farmers were given hope by a last-minute decision of Zimbabwe's High Court, which ruled on Wednesday that a mortgaged farm could not be seized if the mortgage company had not been properly informed.

Farmer Colin Shand told BBC News Online that he was staying put.

Click here to read Colin Shand's diary

Zimbabwe state television reported on Friday evening that 400 white farmers had left their homes, but did not given any source for that figure.

"Farmers are generally staying at home to assess the situation," said Ben Zietsman of the CFU.

Union President Colin Cloete said on Friday that the CFU was in talks with the government and that he was advising members to avoid confrontation.

Campaign pledge

The redistribution of Zimbabwe's best farmland from whites to blacks formed the basis of President Robert Mugabe's re-election campaign in March this year.


President Robert Mugabe
Land reform is Mugabe's main policy
Zimbabwe's land reform

  • 1890-1980: Black peasants were moved to less fertile areas during the colonial area
  • 2000: 4,000 whites own 70% of prime land
  • March 2000: 'War veterans' occupy white-owned farms
  • 2000-2002: Several white farmers and black workers killed during violence
  • 9 August 2002: 3,000 white farmers must leave their homes


  • But international donors say that the fall in agricultural production is one of the reasons for Zimbabwe's current food crisis.

    Up to half of the population - six million - face starvation this year, aid agencies have warned.

    Concern about the land reform programme was one of the reasons why the International Monetary Fund suspended financial support for Zimbabwe.

    Mr Mugabe argues that the seizures will right the wrongs of British colonialism, under which 70% of the country's best farmland was concentrated in white hands.

    He says giving land to poor black families will increase their living standards.

    Mr Mugabe is expected to reiterate the government's position on land redistribution in a speech on Heroes Day, on Sunday, an occasion honouring those who fought against the white minority government in what was then Rhodesia in the 1970s.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
    "White people make up a tiny minority of Zimbabwe's population"
    Widow of a Zimbabwe farmer, Naomi Raaff
    "Lots of farms surounding us had been ransacked with no reaction from the police"

    Key stories

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    See also:

    09 Aug 02 | Africa
    25 Jun 02 | Africa
    18 Jul 02 | Africa
    09 Jun 00 | Africa
    11 Jul 02 | Africa
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