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Black Settlers Evicted from Zimbabwe Farms  - 2004-09-17


Zimbabwe's government has evicted thousands of black settlers from formerly white-owned farms that were seized by the government four years ago as part of its land redistribution plan. The government says the people settled on the farms illegally.

A half-hour drive north of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, groups of people huddle on the side of the road. They say they are homeless after police burned down their houses earlier this week.

They say they are supporters of President Robert Mugabe, and moved onto white-owned farms four years ago, after the president began his campaign to confiscate thousands of white-owned farms for resettlement.

Over the past four years, Zimbabwe's government has forced several thousand white commercial farmers off their land under a controversial program to redistribute farmland to blacks.

On Wednesday and Thursday, riot police from Harare moved onto farms in the Trelawney district to evict the black settlers, leaving burned huts and smoke visible from the road.

Seventy-one-year-old Reuben Mashanda says he is angry to find himself homeless, after he settled on a former cattle farm, called Little England. He says he does not have money to go anywhere, and asks for help.

"I should think the best thing you could do [for us here] is to get in touch with the president, and talk to him through the phone," he said. "Tell him people in Little England farm have been told to evacuate from there. Their homes were burned, and they are now along the road."

Another man, who was sitting on a double bed in the middle of the bush, close to his burned-out home, says he does not know what he should do, or where he should go.

"Well, the problem is, I can't do anything, if I don't get transport," he said. "I could stay here. We were promised to stay here forever. If they could take us somewhere else, that would be sensible, instead of dumping us."

He says he had been a long-time supporter of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

"I am very cross," he said. "I was a big supporter. They don't even care about that. It's better to change."

Police Spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said Friday the eviction orders came from the Ministry of Lands, because the settlers did not have authority to be on the farms.

A member of parliament for the area, Sabina Mugabe, who is also the president's sister, denies she had anything to do with the evictions. She says the people were illegal settlers on land that is suitable for cattle ranching, not growing crops.

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