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Zimbabwe Court Rules Wheat Grower Can Continue Farming Despite Ban - 2002-07-05

A court in Zimbabwe has ruled that a farmer who was supposed to stop farming on June 24 may continue growing food. The government has 10 days to reply to the ruling, or the court order becomes final.

A major wheat grower in northern Zimbabwe, George Quinnell, was supposed to stop operating under provisions of a law passed by parliament in May.

The law gave nearly 3,000 white farmers 45 days notice to stop farming and another 45 days to leave their property.

Mr. Quinell, backed by hundreds of farmers who contributed to his legal fees, challenged the law in court. And the court has agreed with his assertion that the measure is racist because it applies only to white farmers.

The ruling gives Mr. Quinell the go-ahead to continue farming about 180 hectares of wheat and barley, which he planted in April, before the new law was passed.

Lawyers say the court ruling means that thousands of orders issued to stop other white farmers from growing crops are suspended, at least for now.

The ruling also may affect the fate of 15 white sugar cane farmers in southern Zimbabwe. Four of them were charged this week for farming illegally after the deadline set in the new law. The 11 others were ordered to report to police so they can be charged.

The farmers are being charged under the stop-farming law because they were harvesting their sugar cane. Zimbabwe is suffering through a severe shortage of food, including sugar.