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Saturday, November 21, 1998 Published at 00:49 GMT


UK

UK queries Zimbabwe's land grab

Mr Mugabe has threatened to confiscate 12.5m acres of white land

The UK Government is calling for "urgent clarification" from Zimbabwe over threats to expel 841 white farmers from their land and give it to black farmers.

Harare declared on Friday that it was pushing ahead with the plan to take the farms, with compensation to be settled later.

Black peasant villagers have illegally occupied farms around the Zimbabwean capital over the last fortnight after complaining the country's land reform programme was taking too long.


[ image: Blacks complained land reform was taking too long]
Blacks complained land reform was taking too long
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "If the reports of the acquisition orders are true, we are concerned it appears to run counter to the document agreed by parties including the Zimbabwean Government and [aid] donors at the Land Conference in Harare in September.

"Our High Commissioner in Harare is seeking urgent clarification of what it means."

One year ago, President Robert Mugabe's government released a list of 1,471 white-owned farms it wanted to nationalise. The move brought harsh international criticism and caused a severe economic downturn.

At the conference with international donors in September this year, Zimbabwe removed 512 farms from the list and made arrangements to buy 118 others.

The government agreed to wait two years before pursuing the remaining 841 properties.

Farmers' compensation

Earlier on Friday, Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Howard wrote to Foreign Secretary Robin Cook asking what assurances had been sought on the issue of compensation and the recourse farmers may have to the courts.

He also asked: "What is the government's position on the question of tying western aid, and the release of International Monetary Fund funds, to assurances from the Zimbabwe Government that any action they take will fully respect the rule of law and that any acquisition is subject to due legal process and proper compensation?"

The Foreign Office said Mr Cook would reply in due course.



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