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Mugabe to Go Ahead with Land Distribution Program - 2002-06-26

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, says he plans to press ahead with the government's land-distribution program, despite the opposition of white farmers whose land has been seized. Mr. Mugabe made the comments to the African Human Rights Commission, which is investigating allegations of widespread human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Mugabe denied that the majority of Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers would be left landless. He said all farmers would be allowed a piece of land. He said Zimbabweans had paid dearly in the fight against colonialism, and that land was at the core of that struggle.

Mr. Mugabe's statement on Zimbabwe's land reform program comes as nearly 3,000 white commercial farmers are supposed, by law, to have stopped farming and be preparing to leave their land and their homes in the beginning of August.

However, most farmers have defied the law. Spokesman for the Commercial Farmers' Union Jenni Williams said farmers have livestock to feed and crops to harvest.

A police spokesman said police would be ready by the August deadline to evict those farmers who have not have moved off the land.

Mr. Mugabe's remarks to the African Human Rights Commission were published Wednesday in the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

The president's statement was published the same day as a privately owned newspaper, The Daily News, warned that the seizure of land from commercial farmers could have devastating consequences for Zimbabwe.

The paper said it would take decades for people resettled on land seized from white farmers to acquire the expertise to grow enough food for Zimbabwe.

The United Nations' World Food Program said earlier this month that the major cause of the food shortage in Zimbabwe was Mr. Mugabe's disruption of commercial agriculture.