HARARE - Government yesterday listed 23 white-owned commercial farms it has targeted for confiscation as government moves to take over all the remaining white-owned farms.
The announcement was made in a State newspaper and listed the identities of the farms earmarked for seizure.
“It is hereby notified that the minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement acquires for and on behalf of the State, the land identified and described in the schedule for purposes of agriculture settlement under Section 72 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” the notice said.
“Further take notice that the ownership of the acquired land with full title therein vested in the State is with effect from the date of publication of this notice in the Government Gazette.”
Officials said the deadline would allow new black owners of the land enough time to prepare and plant for the new crop season, which should start in October.
White farmers defying the order to leave their land face up to two years in jail.
In a speech to supporters of his ruling Zanu PF party, President Robert Mugabe said the government was now looking at the totality of its land.
If others were allowed to own portions of it, he said, it would be out of charity — not as a result of colonial history.
“Don’t be too kind to white farmers,” Mugabe told supporters at a recent Zanu PF rally. “They can own industries and companies, or stay in apartments in our towns but they cannot own land. They must leave the land to blacks.”
This also comes amid reports that names of six Zanu PF-backing white farmers have been handed to central government seeking permission for them to remain on the farms under new laws safeguarding farms “of strategic economic importance”.
Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora said: “We have asked provinces to give us the names of white farmers they want to remain on farms so that we can give them security of tenure documents to enable them to plan their operations properly.”
Zimbabwe’s continuing land reform programme, a trigger for tightening Western sanctions against Mugabe and his top aides, is being driven to a climax amid a worsening food crisis.
Among those targeted for eviction are Brad Herzberg of Maguga in Umzingwane with a farm stretching 303 hectares, African Distillers Ltd for its Springvale Estate in Umzingwane, Timothy Andrew Cherry’s 114ha Woodlands property again in Umzingwane, Michael Lewis Gleman’s 101 ha farm.
Other properties listed for acquisition are Christopher Ladas’s 316ha farm in Umguza, Ismene Ekaterina Plangetis’ 95ha farm in Umquza and another 21ha farm in the same area, MetCargo Pvt Ltd’s 393 ha farm in Umguza, and several properties in Matobo, Mazowe, Marondera and Insiza.
Hendrik Olivier, director of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents interests of thousands of evicted white farmers and the roughly 300 who remain, said some of the property are small-holder properties.
“It amazes that we continue to list properties for acquisition,” Olivier told the Daily News yesterday. “They continue looting these farms but we have not seen any significant compensation. Only 200 farms have been compensated (from over 4 000 farms seized) up to date. We see listings taking place and no compensation taking place, compensation should be paid in a reasonable time, is 15 years a reasonable time? We need to rebuild the agriculture sector.”
The renewed seizures come as Zimbabwe is facing its worst staple food crisis in a decade, with an estimated four million of its 13 million people at risk of starvation, according to the World Food Programme.
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko in June said the new black farmers had gutted commercial agriculture and embarrassed Mugabe.
“It’s true that the resettled farmers have failed us,” Mphoko said. “They have put to shame our president. President Mugabe is being verbally abused everywhere because of the failed land resettlement.
“President Mugabe is now being forced to beg for food from neighbours. We were once the breadbasket of the region, but these farmers have destroyed the agriculture sector.”
Supporters of the president point to Zimbabwe’s colonial history, which left 70 percent of the land owned by the white 5 percent of the population, as justification for the land seizures.
At an international donors conference in 1998, the CFU agreed to sell back 2,5 million acres of land with another 12,4 million to follow in a phased plan. But international funding dried up after donor money was instead lavished on Mugabe’s cronies. Restless for a share of the land, the war veterans launched farm invasions in 2000.
With the 48-year-old David Cameron sweeping to a stunning May 7 election victory in Zimbabwe’s former coloniser Britain forming the first majority Conservative government since John Major’s surprise victory in 1992, Catriona Laing, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe, recently told the Daily News the new government will not support any compensation scheme set up to help evicted white farmers in Zimbabwe. In fact, the demand was met with scorn in Whitehall.
“The UK has never agreed to accept responsibility for compensation but we have always said that we would support a fair, transparent and pro-poor land reform programme as part of an international effort,” Laing said.
“The UK government supports, and will continue to support, the aspirations of the Zimbabwean people for a more democratic, stable and prosperous Zimbabwe.”