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Monday, 12 August, 2002, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Mugabe orders white farmers to leave
White farmer [archive photo]
The speech had little in it to cheer white farmers
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has given a stern warning to white farmers that his government will stick to its policy of removing them from their land.

"We set ourselves an August deadline for the redistribution of land and that deadline stands," he said in a keynote speech, the first since an eviction order for thousands of white farmers came into effect late last week.

We, the principled people of Zimbabwe, we, the true owners of this land, shall not budge, the land is ours

President Mugabe
Nearly 3,000 farmers have been told to leave their properties, and Mr Mugabe warned those who refuse to comply that they will face the consequences.

He said the August deadline would allow new owners of the land enough time to prepare and plant for the new crop season in October.

President Robert Mugabe
Land reform is Mugabe's main policy

He also rejected allegations that international food aid has been diverted away from opposition supporters into the mouths of his own followers.

"We shall feed all," he said. "Even the stooges and puppets will have enough."

"No Zimbabwean should die of hunger."

Mr Mugabe's speech was to mark Heroes' Day - which celebrates victory over the old white regime.

He also took the opportunity in his address to attack former colonial power Britain and Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom he said was a "gangster" who had "gone insane".

Mild relief

The farmers have been anxiously awaiting a response from the president since they defied the order for them to leave by last Thursday.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead, in neighbouring South Africa, says there was little sign of optimism for them in the speech.

Click here to read Colin Shand's diary

However, Commercial Farmers' Union spokesman Ben Zietsman said that despite some remaining uncertainty Mr Mugabe had toned down his remarks.

"There is some relief that it seems there won't be a mass avalanche of evictions," he said.

Farmer packing to leave
Zimbabwe's land reform

  • 2000: 4,000 whites own 70% of prime land
  • 1890-1980: Black peasants were moved to less fertile areas during the colonial area
  • 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

  • The president said that farmers who co-operated with the government would be able to continue farming.

    "All genuine and well-meaning white farmers who wish to pursue a farming career as loyal citizens of this country have land to do so," he said, adding that "no farmer need go without land".

    Mr Mugabe has promised to allow each farmer to keep one farm, but some have said all their land has been earmarked for acquisition.

    "We would be much happier if words were met with action on the ground," Jenni Williams, spokeswoman for the Justice for Agriculture pressure group, said in response to the speech.

    "Words don't feed people, farmers do."

    Ms Williams said about 60% of farmers had decided to defy the eviction order, but that there had been no violence or police action against farmers since the deadline.

    Farmers would keep on knocking at the door of the judiciary to uphold their rights, she added.

    Jail threat

    About 2,900 white farmers were told to vacate their properties by last Thursday, but so far only about 500 have left.

    Those remaining on the land could be fined and jailed for up to two years for ignoring the eviction order.

    President Mugabe's two-year campaign to transfer white-owned farms to black Zimbabweans has drawn international criticism because of its often violent nature.

    Critics blame food shortages in Zimbabwe partly on the disruption to farming caused by the drive - which the government says is aimed at correcting colonial-era inequities.

    The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
    "For President Robert Mugabe, a chance to tell his supporters what they want to hear"
    President Robert Mugabe
    "Zimbabwe is not for sale"

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    See also:

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