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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Black Zimbabweans told to take land
White farmers paying bail at Bindura magistrates' court
Bail conditions have the same effect as eviction orders
The Zimbabwe Government has urged black settlers to begin working on land being left by white farmers.

The call comes as many white farmers, who were arrested for refusing to give up their land, pack their bags as part of bail conditions which order them off the farms.

President Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe's land reform

  • 1890-1980: Black peasants are moved to less fertile areas during the colonial era
  • 2000: 4,000 whites own 60% of prime land
  • March 2000: "War veterans" occupy white-owned farms
  • 2000-2002: Several white farmers and black workers are killed during violence
  • 9 August 2002: 3,000 white farmers must leave their homes

  • A white farmers' leader told BBC News Online that the bail conditions being imposed by magistrates were "grossly unfair" because the farmers' legal objections were being ignored.

    Around 2,900 white farmers had to leave their land by 8 August but most of them stayed put, risking fines and jail terms of up to two years.

    President Robert Mugabe has said that he wants to finish his programme to redistribute land from whites to blacks this month.

    "Those who have been allocated land should move to the farms and utilise it," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa was quoted as saying in the state-owned Herald newspaper.

    He said that they should have moved when an earlier deadline for farmers to stop farming expired 45 days ago.

    'Ethnic cleansing'

    Some 207 white farmers have been arrested since last Thursday, a police spokesman told the French news agency, AFP. Some spent the weekend in custody.

    People are loading up their assets to move out

    Ben Freeth, Farmers' Union
    Many of them have appealed against their eviction orders and have been released on bail.

    But the bail conditions imposed on some of those who have been to court stipulate that they must leave their farms within a day or two.

    Others have been allowed time to wind up their affairs before leaving.

    Colin Shand, who has been writing a diary for BBC News Online, was told by the courts on Monday he had until Tuesday afternoon to leave his home .

    Click here to read Colin Shand's diary

    David Hasluck, director of the white-dominated Commercial Farmers' Union, said the bail conditions had the same effect as the original eviction orders.

    "This is very wrong when the facts of the matter have not been argued," he said.

    Mr Mugabe has repeatedly said that white farmers will be allowed to keep one farm each.

    But farmers say this is not happening on the ground and this is the basis for some of the legal objections being lodged.

    "It is a desperately sad situation. People are loading up their assets to move out. Many have nowhere to go and are looking for places to stay," CFU official Ben Freeth told the Associated Press news agency.

    "Ethnic cleansing is exactly what it is. There's no other term for it," he said.


    The evictions come as millions of Zimbabweans are facing famine after poor rains were compounded by disruption to the agricultural sector.

    People queuing for food in Zimbabwe
    Zimbabwe faces mass starvation, according to international aid agencies

    The United States has condemned the arrests of white farmers and says it has nothing to do with genuine land reform.

    "We're certainly appalled... that at a time when 6 to 8 million Zimbabweans are facing the real possibility of famine that the Mugabe government continues its senseless campaign to evict commercial farmers and farm workers," said US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker.

    "Many of the farms seized thus far appear to have been distributed to ruling party officials and to regime insiders and not to the landless peasants whose interest Mr Mugabe pretends to represent," he said.

    The BBC's Sue Lloyd-Roberts
    "The government is distributing food, but only to those who are considered politically acceptable"

    Key stories





    See also:

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