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Zimbabwe Minister Urges Black Farmers to Ignore Courts, Move onto White-Owned Land

Zimbabwe's justice minister says black farmers due to be resettled on white-owned farms should ignore court rulings and move onto the land. Scores of white farmers have succeeded in having seizure notices for their land overturned in court.

The deadline for new black farmers to move onto white-owned land is Friday.

The government has said that people not physically occupying plots allocated to them by then, or at the latest by the end of the month, will find their land given to someone else.

Only about one-half of those allocated larger pieces of land on white-owned farms had taken up occupation by last week.

President Robert Mugabe told a meeting of black farmers last week that he is worried by the failure of so many to take possession of their land. He and others in the government blame white farmers for obstructing the land reform program by remaining on their farms.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa was quoted in the state-controlled Herald newspaper as saying that blacks who have been allocated farms should move onto the land and use it; even though many white farmers have won court rulings declaring the forfeiture of the farms to be invalid.

The court gave the farmers the right to return to their properties and continue producing crops after they were forcibly evicted. But none of the court orders has been enforced by police, and none of the farmers was allowed to continue farming.

Some analysts who have followed the land reform program say Justice Minister Chinamasa's statement about ignoring court orders only reflects what is already happening.

President Mugabe says he is confiscating 95 percent of white-owned forms to redress colonial-era policies, which stripped blacks of most of the country's best land.