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Zimbabwe To Seize Land Without Compensation - 2001-08-02

The government of Zimbabwe has officially told commercial farmers that almost all of their land will be seized without compensation. The country's agriculture minister says there will be no let up in nationalization of land to resettle poor people.

Zimbabwe's Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told a subdued annual meeting of Zimbabwe's more than 4,000, mainly white, commercial farmers that a minimum of 8.3 million hectares will be taken.

The Commercial Farmers Union says this is more than 90 percent of the total land owned by white farmers.

In an uncompromising speech in Harare, the capital, the agriculture minister said there will be no evictions of any of the thousands of what he termed "land-hungry" people who already have invaded commercial farms. A dozen farmers and workers have been killed in the ensuing violence and thousands of workers have been left homeless.

The mainly white commercial farmers repeatedly asked the agriculture minister what is being done to restore law and order. Mr. Made said the police will take action against people who cause violence. This remark was met with loud murmurs of disbelief from the farmers.

The agriculture minister said Zimbabwe's land seizure policy is being undertaken from what he termed "a moral and political point of view."

"We went to war over land," he said, in reference to the guerilla war against the previous white-dominated government of Rhodesia. The government says that most of the farm invaders are former guerilla fighters.

Mr. Made blamed much of the farm violence on what he termed "impostors" pretending to be guerillas.

The minister singled out South Africa's Oppenheimer family, who control the de Beers diamond corporation, as one of the main examples of people owning too much land in Zimbabwe. The Oppenheimers have made personal visits to President Robert Mugabe to ask for their ranches to be left alone.

Zimbabwe's agriculture minister said, "You cannot tell me there is any farmer in this country who cannot afford to give up some land."

Mr. Made said the government is prepared to work with the farmers to solve the problem of fair land distribution.