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The BBC's Grant Ferrett in Harare
"Landless blacks would begin being resettled today"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 July, 2000, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Zimbabwe land grab begins
Zimbabwean farms
Hundreds of farms have been illegally occupied
The government in Zimbabwe has launched the final phase of its controversial plans to take over white-owned farms and redistribute them to black peasant farmers.

At a news conference in the capital Harare, Vice-President Joseph Msika said the restribution programme would begin across the whole country on Saturday.

He said the government will start resettling black farmers on 200 white-owned farms, but gave no details of which farms were involved or how many people will be moved.

But the union that represents most white farmers welcomed the Vice-President's remarks as a step towards ending what it called the uncertainty over land reform.

Fast-track approach


We will move on them today

Vice-President Joseph Msika

"The accelerated land reform and resettlement implementation fast-track approach commences today in all eight provinces of the country," Mr Msika told reporters.

"We will move on them today," he said, referring to farms designated for takeover.

Msika also made clear that so-called war veterans who have already occupied farms that are not part of the government redistribution programme will be moved.

Tim Henwood, president of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) - which represents more than 4,000 white farmers - welcomed Mr Msika's remarks.

He said it would help to end the uncertainty over the land issue.

Volatile

But the BBC correspondent in Harare says that after the violence and intimidation in the run-up to last month's elections and the heightened expectations of government supporters, Zimbabwe remains volatile.

On Friday, Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, said his land distribution plans would not be disturbed and described Saturday's events as "D-Day".

He said his government was responding to the demands of the veterans of the country's 1970s war of liberation.

Robert Mugabe: 'We will tolerate no hindrance'
President Mugabe: Changed the constitution to allow farm seizures

"We will tolerate no impediments, we will listen to no voice from abroad. We will summon our people to take that which is their own," Mr Mugabe said.

The often violent farm invasions which started in February this year, have left four white farmers and at least three farm labourers dead.

Caution

The CFU warned white farmers on Friday to observe "extreme caution" over the coming days.

"We are aware that the war veterans have their own agenda with regard to land reform and that does not necessarily coincide with the government's programme," Mr Henwood said on Friday.

War veterans have subjected many white farmers to progressively more threatening demands, ordering them to leave their homes or be killed.

The government has listed more than 800 farms for eventual acquisition, but in about 600 of these cases, the present owners have launched legal appeals against the government's proposals.

White farmers currently control about 70 % of the country's farmland.

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See also:

26 Apr 00 | Africa
Who owns the land?
01 Jul 00 | Africa
Farm grabs 'stepped up'
06 Jul 00 | Africa
Opposition wants Mugabe impeached
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