Zim: More white farms listed

2003-08-14 09:54

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe - While the Zimbabwe government says it has successfully completed its controversial fast-track land reforms, white-owned farms continue to be listed regularly for compulsory acquisition.

This week the latest list of 152 properties which the government intends to acquire was published in the state media.

The new list came out after it was revealed at an annual congress of a small group of embattled white farmers still remaining in the country - that agricultural production levels have fallen by over 50% in Zimbabwe over the last few years.

The Zimbabwe government embarked on its fast-track land reform exercise three years ago, taking land from whites and giving it to landless blacks as a way of correcting colonial imbalances which left 4 500 white farmers owning some 70% of the country's best farmland.

To date, government says it has resettled 210 000 peasant farmers and 14 880 commercial farmers on 11 million haof formerly white-owned land.

The eviction of white farmers has been partly blamed by aid agencies and critics for Zimbabwe's worst famine in living memory which left about two thirds of the 11.6 million people facing severe food shortages.

The government blamed the food shortages on the drought which hit the region last year.

This year, while other countries in the region have harvested enough food to export some of it, at least half of the Zimbabwe population still need humanitarian assistance to stave off hunger this year.

Last month the government launched an international appeal for more than 700 000 tonnes of food aid.

Among the farms listed to seizure this week were six properties belonging to one of the wealthiest and most powerful business empires in Africa, the Oppeinheimer family.

The Oppeinheimer family controls two of Africa's richest companies, the Anglo American Corporation and De Beers, the continent's diamond mining giant.

In Zimbabwe they are believed to have owned the largest tracts of land by a single family or company.

Two years ago in 2001, the government forcibly acquired over 35 000ha of land from the Oppeinheimer-owned Debshan ranch.

Officials said the Oppeinheimer family owned land in Zimbabwe that is almost the size of Belgium.

The family has disputed the allegations arguing that its owns only 137 314ha of land in Zimbabwe, when Belgium's total area is 3 051 900ha.

The latest listing of the Oppeinheimer farms comes after President Mugabe announced that his government had completed the land reform in the country in August last year.

So far the government has acquired more than three-quarters of the farms owned by the 4 500 white commercial farmers. White farming officials say fewer than 300 white commercial farmers remain on their farms.

Some of the farmers have relocated to neighbouring countries while others have emigrated overseas.

Many of the white farmers have taken legal action against the government but still await judgement on their cases.