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Zimbabwean Farmers Condemn Remarks

January 14, 1998

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Remarks by a government minister that black peasants were ready to kill whites for land were ``inflammatory and irresponsible,″ a farmers’ group said Wednesday.

Information Minister Chen Chimutengwende said last week that the government’s plan to nationalize 1,500 farms, mostly owned by the descendants of British and South African settlers, was designed to protect whites who otherwise would be killed by frustrated landless peasants.

``If the government does not take the land, then the people will,″ he said.

Nick Swanepoel, president of the mostly white Commercial Farmers’ Union, said the statement threatened to derail negotiations on the land reform between farmers, the government and Western donors.

``The Minister’s statement was inflammatory and irresponsible in Zimbabwe, which to date prides itself on being a peaceful and stable nation,″ Swanepoel said.

In November, President Robert Mugabe’s government issued a list of properties targeted for takeover in the southern African nation that was formerly called Rhodesia. It said it would pay only for buildings and improvements on the farmland, not for the land itself.

In Zimbabwe, a nation of 11 million people, about one-third of the land is owned by about 4,000 whites. The government wants to resettle tens of thousands of black peasants on the properties.

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