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Following Investigation of Farm Takeovers, Zimbabwe Government Moots Land Audit

A top aide to Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the government will press on with a land audit that it hopes will provide a framework for the evolution of a national land policy and bring a halt to farm takeovers that are increasingly politically divisive.

Minister of State Gorden Moyo, attached to Mr. Tsvangirai's office. said the cabinet decided to move ahead with a land audit after reviewing a report from a fact-finding mission of ministers and other officials that visited farms which have been invaded in the name of land reform.

Mr. Tsvangirai named the working group after failing to make headway with President Robert Mugabe on the farm takeovers, which the president has endorsed as necessary to complete the land reform he launched in 2000. But Mr. Tsvangirai has urged a halt to such invasions, which he said signal to international donors that the rule of law has not been restored.

The fact-finding mission was led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, head of a rival formation of Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, and included the MDC and ZANU-PF politicians who share control of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

While declining to divulge the contents of the panel's report, which he said was classified, or when the land audit would begin, Moyo told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the cabinet sees the audit as the key to resolving the land question.

But Commercial Farmers Union President Trevor Gifford said nothing has changed on the farms under siege since the ministerial panel carried out its mission.

Gifford said that since the mission toured farms under siege, more farmers have been taken to court by authorities for refusing to leave their land, adding that a moratorium on farm takeovers must be declared if the proposed audit is to have any effect.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...