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Zimbabwe Plans Farm Takeovers, Report Says

October 23, 2000|From Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe — The Zimbabwean government intends to resettle landless blacks on at least 2,000 white-owned properties by year's end, a state newspaper said Sunday, amid reports that authorities were moving poor blacks onto white-owned farms.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said a "fast track" resettlement program begun in June will be completed in 10 weeks, reported the Sunday Mail, a prominent government paper.

Made's statement came as white farm owners reported convoys of government vehicles escorting black families onto farms across the country in the past week.

Some owners had not received official notices that their properties were targeted for confiscation, the Commercial Farmers' Union said.

Since February, 1,700 white-owned farms have been illegally occupied by ruling-party militants and mobs of squatters.

President Robert Mugabe has backed the occupations, describing them as a justified protest against disproportionate ownership of farmland by a few thousand whites, mostly the descendants of British and South African colonial-era settlers.

In the aftermath of three days of food riots in Harare, the capital, farmers warned Friday that disruptions in the agriculture-based economy will slash production of corn, the staple food, by at least one-third.

As Zimbabwe faces its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, banks have frozen loans to commercial farms facing confiscation and farms where production has been disrupted by illegal occupations.

Opponents accuse Mugabe of using land to buttress flagging support for his ruling party, which only narrowly won June parliamentary elections after two decades of unchallenged rule.

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