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Zimbabwe / Land - 2002-06-03

Zimbabwe's minister of agriculture says the government has completed its seizures of white-owned farms for the land resettlement program. The minister, Joe Made, recently (Saturday) told tens of thousands of people, who have been allocated land on farms that once belonged to whites, to begin work for the upcoming summer season.

According to statistics published in the state-controlled newspapers, in the last two years, 87 percent of the farms owned by whites in Zimbabwe have been expropriated for resettlement.

This represents about six-thousand farms. In earlier years, before the launching of the resettlement program, white-owned farms produced most of the food consumed domestically, and earned Zimbabwe about 40 percent of its annual foreign currency.

Official statistics show that agricultural production has slumped since the resettlement program began; economists say it will take decades for Zimbabwe's agriculture to recover.

Statistics released recently by the World Food Program show that more people, mainly commercial farm workers, have been displaced in the land reform program than were resettled.

By law, white farmers whose farms have been expropriated by the government were not to be compensated for their land, but they were to be compensated for capital improvements they had made, such as equipment they had purchased for the farm.

Last month, however, Agricultural Minister Joe Made said the government had stopped paying compensation and that all equipment must remain on the farms.

Many white farmers are now growing crops for politicians in return for being able to stay on a portion of their land. However, it is unlikely they will be able to remain for long. Most of the farmers have to be off their land by August 10th or face up to two years in jail.

Mr. Made has criticized the private arrangements between the white farmers and politicians and urged people allocated land to tell white farmers to leave immediately.