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White Farmers Face Final Deadline to Leave Their Homes

Many of Zimbabwe's few hundred white farmers, who have managed to remain on their land or in their homes since President Robert Mugabe's supporters began evicting them in 2000, are now being arrested or forced to leave. As Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA, the final deadline for all white farmers to leave their homes and businesses was September 30.

Ten white farmers who produce food in central Zimbabwe were in court last week and pleaded not guilty to charges that they defied land laws that nationalized all white-owned land last year.

They are accused of remaining on the land and continuing to farm after the deadline.

Senior political personalities in the ruling Zanu PF are named as beneficiaries of some of the 10 farms, including speaker of the legislature Edna Madzongwe and former information minister Nathan Shamuyarira.

The farmers' lawyer, David Drury, asked for their case to be referred to the Supreme Court. He said he asked for the referral, because one of the 10 farmers now in court lodged a case with the Supreme Court in March in which he claimed the land laws were unconstitutional. One of the constitutional arguments in that case is that he and other white farmers were being dispossessed because of their race.

Magistrate Ndokera told the 10 farmers he will deliver judgment on their application to have their cases referred to the Supreme Court, this week.

Drury says all the farmers he is representing produce food and have previously given two thirds of their land to the government for resettlement.

Several lawyers in Harare, who asked not to be named, said many court orders are ignored around Zimbabwe.

A farmer from eastern Zimbabwe, Charles Lock, also recently went to the Harare High Court. He was seeking contempt of court charges to be carried out against an army general who had been ordered by the Harare High Court not to force Lock off his farm.

"We were as forced off the farm at gun point. I was forced to pay off workers, when I paid them off, they went through workers quarters and drove off 158 people there. There are barely a dozen left, in the space of 24 hours, they have vanished, they have probably left the province, they have been are too harassed and too scared to stay," he said. "There is a primary school there with 350 pupils, there are barely 50 left and the teachers have asked to be transferred."

Minister of Lands Didymus Mutasa was not available for comment. He said in June this year that all white farmers would be forced to leave whether there was a food shortage or not.

The United Nations says Zimbabwe is chronically short of food and has begun an emergency feeding program in south and eastern Zimbabwe. The United Nations says about 4.2 million people, or a third of the population will need food aid before the next harvest in April.