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Zimbabwe Ruling Party Endorses Land Plan - 2001-09-18

The ruling party in Zimbabwe has endorsed a Nigeria-brokered deal aimed at ending the Zimbabwean land crisis. The ruling still needs approval from the cabinet.

According to state media, leaders of the ruling ZANU-PF party unanimously backed the deal, which aims to end an impasse over Zimbabwe's land-reform program.

Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial power, has agreed to compensate white farmers for their land, as long as the redistribution is done in line with the Zimbabwean constitution and laws.

Commonwealth foreign ministers brokered the deal earlier this month in Abuja, Nigeria.

Having won the ruling party's approval, it needs only to be endorsed by the Zimbabwean cabinet. That is considered a formality, since the agreement has the backing of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who accepted it last week.

The Commercial Farmers Union and Zimbabwe's main opposition party have both backed the Abuja deal.

But observers question whether it will really change the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe. War veterans spearheading the occupations of hundreds of white-owned farms say they will not leave the land. Farmers say there has been no let-up in attacks against them.

Several courts have ruled the government-sponsored seizures of land to be illegal and unconstitutional, but so far those court rulings have been ignored.

The government says its land reform program is aimed at correcting imbalances in land ownership in Zimbabwe. It says 70 percent of the best commercial farmland is owned by whites who make up less than one percent of the population.

Meanwhile, a white farmer and more than 20 of his employees face murder charges in connection with the deaths of two farm occupiers on Saturday.

State media say the two black occupiers were beaten to death on a farm near the town of Wedza, 100 kilometers east of Harare. But, according to the Commercial Farmers Union, farmer John Bibby denies the charges and says the men were run over after they fell out of a truck. Newspaper reporters from the independent Daily News were assaulted Monday when they visited the area.