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Mugabe Endorses Military Seizure of White-Owned Farms - 2002-08-13

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe Tuesday formally endorsed seizure of white owned farms by members of the military. At the annual Zimbabwe Defense Forces parade, Mr. Mugabe said members of the security forces would continue to be rewarded with land.

White farmers were hoping Mr. Mugabe would provide more clarity about their situation after his statement Monday, that the August 8 deadline for them to leave still stands.

Hundreds have defied the order and have remained on their farms. Mr. Mugabe provided no new information when he addressed the Zimbabwe Defense Forces other than to say that the confiscation of white-owned land would continue.

He said distribution of white-owned land would be completed by the end of the month and that more land would be given to members of the security forces, who he said had fought bravely in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Without giving any deadline, Mr. Mugabe said Zimbabwe's troops would be withdrawn following the recent peace deal between Rwanda and Congo.

No action has yet been taken against those who have defied the government order to quit their farms and remained in their homesteads.

However, there have been sporadic incidents of violence. A white farmer and his workers in the Banket area, 80 kilometers north of Harare, are reported to have been shot at by a Harare businessman who claims to have been awarded the farm.

No one was injured. Police did not intervene to disarm the man who said he wanted the farmer to leave the property so he could occupy the farm. The white farmer is one of the very few who has not been served with an eviction order.

Tens of thousands of people who have been awarded land have been given until August 23 to take up residence. The government says if they are not in place they will lose the land to others.

There are fears the August 23 deadline will bring more violence as those awarded the property try to take possession of farms still occupied by white farmers.

Many farmers have already endured more than 30 months of intense physical and mental pressure from Mr. Mugabe's supporters.

Hundreds of farmers were forced off their land in the last five months. And half of the approximately 3,000 farmers who remain on their land have been physically prevented from growing crops.