Ian Smith's farm seized in Zimbabwe

Johannesburg - Zimbabwe has seized a farm belonging to Ian Smith, ex-leader of the former white-minority Rhodesia government, the farm manager said on Saturday.

Government officials in September issued a verbal order to take over the 592ha farm in central Zimbabwe with plans to hand it over to a state-run university.

The farm was originally listed for acquisition at the height of a violent land grab campaign but the plan was never acted upon until 10 weeks ago when government officials visited the farm.

"On the 24th of September we were notified by the Ministry of Lands that the farm was to be taken," Gwenoro farm manager Owen Jarman told AFP.

Smith died in 2007 and his ashes were scattered on the farm.

Jarman said he is negotiating with officials of the nearby Midlands State University on dates to vacate the farm where 500 headsof cattle are being bred for beef and 25ha of land used to grow citrus trees.

"We are not contesting it [the seizure]. We are abiding by the law and we are making plans to sell all the livestock and pay off our staff," said Jarman.

Up to 50 workers - 35 of them permanent - are employed at the farm which is around 30km from Gweru where President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party loyalists are meeting for their annual conference this weekend.

Mugabe launched a land reform programme in 2000 which saw the seizure of more than 3 000 white-owned farms by militant supporters of the Zanu-PF party.

The argument was that the land reforms were needed to correct colonial-era imbalances which favoured white farmers.

Smith made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from Britain in 1965, pushing the nation toward a brutal civil war that ended with the change to majority rule in 1980.

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