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Zimbabwe vows to defy land ruling

A farmer surveys damage to his farmhouse north of Harare in 2001
Militants backed up the government land seizures

Zimbabwe's government will not comply with a regional court ruling against land seizures, a minister has said.

"They [the tribunal] are day-dreaming because we are not going to reverse the land reform exercise," Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa told state media.

A southern African court on Friday ruled that Zimbabwe's land seizures were discriminatory.

All but a handful of Zimbabwe's white farmers have lost their land under the government's land reform programme.

More than 70 white farmers who faced expropriation under Zimbabwe's land reform programme took their case to the Southern African Development Community court, which sits in Namibia.

Farmers should be allowed to return to their farms unhindered, the court said.

'Correcting imbalances'

"We will take more farms. It's not discrimination against farmers, but correcting land imbalances," Mr Mutasa told the state-owned Herald newspaper.

Land reform is one of President Robert Mugabe's central policies but his critics say it has helped destroy the country's economy.

Under colonial rule, whites seized much of Zimbabwe's best land, forcing black farmers to less fertile areas.

Reversing this was one of the main reason for Zimbabweans taking up arms in the 1970s to end white minority rule.

But 20 years after independence in 1980, just 4,400 white farmers still held a third of Zimbabwe's land.

One million black peasant farmers scratched a living on about the same area.

Since then the government has seized the majority of white-owned land.

But agriculture was at the heart of Zimbabwe's economy, which has since collapsed.

The latest annual inflation figures are 231,000,000% and just one adult in five is believed to have a regular job.

The health and sanitation systems have collapsed, fuelling an outbreak of cholera, which has left at least 425 people dead since August.

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