The Zimbabwe government says that commercial farmers whose properties have been identified for final seizure by the government have to stop all operations immediately and leave their homes by the end of January. The Commercial Farmers Union says this could mean the end of commercial farming in the country.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa told a news conference Monday that, under a decree issued last week by President Robert Mugabe, the government becomes the immediate owner of a farm property once the final seizure notice has been sent out.
The Commercial Farmers' Union says 800 farmers - and 120,000 farm workers and their families - will be immediately affected by the decree.
A senior official of the farmers' union says the new decree means that affected farmers have been stripped of any ownership rights and can no longer appeal to the courts to get their land returned.
According to the farmers' union, the government has listed 4,000 of Zimbabwe's 5,000 commercial farms for seizure. Analysts say this will eventually mean the forced removal of more than one million workers and their families.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made, who appeared at the news conference along with the justice minister, said that all the listed farms will fall under the presidential decree, but he gave no indication of how long it will be before all the seizure notices are issued.