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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Farmers wary of Zimbabwe's offer
White farmer with his workers
The land seizures have caused food shortages, critics say
A government offer to compensate white Zimbabwean farmers evicted from their land should be treated cautiously, farmers' organisations have said.

Zimbabwe's Land Reform Minister John Nkomo has invited former farmers to claim money for improvements made to the land during their tenure.

The Justice for Agriculture group called the move a "scam", but urged farmers to see what is being offered.

Thousands of farmers have lost their land in the past five years.

The government has always offered to compensate farmers for buildings and any improvements made on their land, but not for the land itself.

It says the UK should pay for the land, as it was the colonial power when laws were passed restricting black ownership of land.

'Ridiculous'

The government now says compensation has been decided for some 822 farms and urges the former owners to contact the authorities "as a matter of urgency".

"We want to remain committed to what was agreed that we would acquire the land and compensate the farmers for improvements," Mr Nkomo told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

But David Connolly, a farmer who lost his land and a former chairman of Justice for Agriculture (Jag), said it was not being estimated at the true market rate.

"The terms of payment are ridiculous - paying 25% down and the rest over a four year period, especially with inflation running at anything up to 500%," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Jag advises farmers to keep their title deeds in case they are ever able to lodge legal appeals against their eviction.

Criticised

Just 600 white farmers remain on their land of the 4,000 who owned much of Zimbabwe's most fertile farms five years ago.

Their land has been given to some 200,000 black farmers, the government says, although critics say officials have grabbed most of the best farms.

The land reform programme has been criticised for disrupting food supplies in what was a food exporter.

The government blames food shortages on drought and economic sabotage by western countries, led by the UK, opposed to land reform.


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