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Zimbabwe to Tighten Laws Affecting White Farmers - 2002-08-23

The Zimbabwe government says it will tighten up the laws affecting white farmers to be sure they are evicted swiftly from the land. Some farmers went to court recently and had their eviction notices canceled because banks that had loaned money to some farmers had not been told that their clients' land had been seized.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said Friday he will go to parliament to amend the laws affecting the seizure of 95 percent of white owned farms.

He said farmers who had won a temporary reprieve from leaving their homes and businesses would be served with a new set of seizure notices.

At present farmers have 90 days to stop farming and abandon their homes after they have been served with an eviction notice.

Mr. Chinamasa said new laws would cut that time down to five days.

Scores of farmers have been to court recently and had their eviction notices set aside because the banks, which hold bonds on their farms, had not been informed.

Mr. Chinamasa said the land reform process had been complicated and there had been some oversights in the process of seizing more than 11 million hectares of white-owned land.

He said where deficiencies in the process had been identified they would be cured by starting the process again and again. He said as new farmers needed to be on the land urgently, ahead of the upcoming rainy season, white farmers would have to leave their land quickly.

Hundreds of white farmers were forced off their farms after presidential elections in March. More than 200 were arrested last week for defying the August 8 eviction deadline.

Many of the approximately 3,000 white commercial farmers in Zimbabwe are presently packing up their homes and lives ahead of their departure from their farms.

The United Nations said recently the collapse of commercial agriculture in Zimbabwe had contributed to food shortages, which now affect half the population.