Zimbabwe Lets 600 Farmers Keep Land
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Zimbabwe appears to have given a reprieve to at least 600 white farmers whose land was to be confiscated and turned over to poor blacks, a group representing white farmers said Friday.
The Commercial Farmers Union said almost half the 1,471 properties listed for seizure by President Robert Mugabe’s government in November were on a new list of farms withdrawn from seizure orders.
The union’s weekly magazine reported Friday that some owners have already received letters from the Agriculture Ministry notifying them they could stay on.
About 4,000 white farmers own a third of Zimbabwe’s land, and 8 million peasants live on another third. The rest of the country is wilderness. Earlier attempts to resettle landless blacks had been marred by charges of favoritism and corruption.
Nick Swanepoel, the head of the organization, said the group’s leaders were to meet with officials to discuss the new ``delisting.″
Among farms coming off the seizure list were many that were the sole properties of the owner, meeting a government promise that only farmers owning more than one farm would have land confiscated.
``We welcome that,″ Swanepoel said.
Union officials said the list of withdrawals still has to be formally ratified by being published in an official legal notice.
After targeted properties were named in November, farmers were given a month to appeal confiscations.
According to Agriculture Minister Kumbirai Kangai, 170 farmers did not appeal and black families will be resettled to those farms in June.
Kangai last month also said large white-owned agricultural estates and plantations would be reprieved from seizure as long as they admitted blacks in business partnerships.
Further confusing the issue, Kangai on Friday denied media reports that the government had bowed to pressure from Western donors and agreed to pay full compensation for farms to be taken over.
``That was wrong reporting. I did not say anything that was contrary to what we have been saying all along,″ he told the state news agency.
Kangai, however, gave written assurances to donors last month that market value will be paid to farmers after the donors demanded that the government observe ownership and constitutional rights.