Zim's white farmers in limbo

2007-02-04 16:43
Harare - White Zimbabwean farmers faced uncertainty about their future after the elapse on Saturday of 45-day eviction notices.

Emily Crookes, spokesperson for the white-run Commercial Farmers' Union, said: "Because of the contradictions, some farmers are a bit anxious about what the future is going to be... it's of great concern to us," .

"About 100 farmers have received eviction notices in the past four or five months," she said.

"Most of the notices gave the farmers 45 days from December 20 (2006) to vacate their properties and the expiry of the notices is today (Saturday).

'Willing to toe the line'

"But, from discussions we had with the permanent secretary in the ministry of lands, farmers will be allowed to harvest their crop and most farmers finish harvesting in May or early June."

To add to the confusion, lands and resettlement minister Didymus Mutasa said last month the government would give back land to white farmers who had good relations with the government and were willing to toe the line.

Because of these contradictions, farmers were uncertain what the future would hold, said Crookes.

She said only a handful of members of her union had received 99-year leases, giving them title to continue farming.

"About 700 farmers have applied to secure the 99-year leases but only a few have so far received them. We are still waiting for the government to respond to the applications."

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe launched controversial land reforms seven years ago, seizing land from white commercial farmers to resettle thousands of landless blacks.

Mugabe, now 82 years old, argues that the land reforms were a correction of historical imbalances in which a white minority occupied the majority of the fertile land.

Below poverty threshold

Critics say the land reforms compromises agricultural production in what was southern Africa's breadbasket.

Up to 4 000 white farmers have been forcibly evicted from their properties.

A further 600 still remain in Zimbabwe, which is now facing economic crisis, with four-digit inflation, mass unemployment and at least 80% of the population living below the poverty threshold.

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