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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 February, 2003, 12:19 GMT
Mugabe cronies 'get farms'
Poor farmers
Land reform was supposed to help landless farmers
Ministers, senior officials and President Robert Mugabe's sister have been accused of grabbing land meant for landless blacks, according to a leaked audit carried out for the Zimbabwe Government.

The audit was carried out following complaints by those who thought they would benefit from Mr Mugabe's controversial land reform programme, according to a London-based newsletter, Africa Confidential.

Prominent figures mentioned include air force commander Perence Shiri, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, President Mugabe's sister, Sabina, and Defence Minister Sydney Sekeremayi.

Some of those named have reportedly seized more than one farm, including farms larger than the newly stipulated maximum size.

In the worst case, Air Marshal Shiri is accused of having three farms - one three times the maximum size.

He is reportedly trying to evict 96 families, who were allocated the farm under the land redistribution programme.

Just 600 white farmers remain on their land, out of some 4,000 two years ago, according to farmers' organisation.

'Factionalism'

Mr Mugabe says that he is addressing an inequitable pattern of land ownership due to racist colonial-era laws.

His critics accuse him of bribing voters with land after a strong opposition party emerged.

MUGABE'S LAND REFORM
President Robert Mugabe
2000: 4,000 whites owned 11m ha of prime land
2000: 1m blacks owned 16m ha, often in drought-prone areas
2000: Land invasions began
2003: 600 white farmers remain

Some of those accused of "land-grabbing" have denied the accusations and told Africa Confidential that their reputations were being deliberately tarnished by rival factions within the ruling Zanu-PF party.

The audit was carried out by Vice-President Joseph Msika's office.

Mr Mugabe has promised to act on its findings but correspondents say it will be difficult for him to take on political heavyweights at a time when he needs all the allies he can get.

But not acting might mean alienating those very voters, whose support he was hoping to win by giving them land.

Following previous allegations of corruption in the land redistribution exercise, the government has responded that it has two programmes: one for landless blacks and another to encourage blacks with money to enter commercial farming.

Up to half of Zimbabwe's population, some six million people are currently in need of food aid.

Mr Mugabe blames poor rains but donors say that the agricultural disruption caused by the land reform programme has worsened the situation.





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