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Farm Eviction Deadline Passes Peacefully in Zimbabwe - 2002-08-09

The Thursday midnight deadline for thousands of white Zimbabwe farmers to leave their homesteads has passed peacefully. Although hundreds of white farmers ignored the deadline no action has been taken against them.

Zimbabwe police say the situation around the commercial farming areas is quiet. A spokesman said no special units had been sent to evict farmers but added the government will soon issue a major statement regarding those who have remained at home in defiance of the law.

According to legislation passed in May, nearly 3,000 white farmers had to stop farming in June and were required to be out of their homesteads by midnight August 8.

Farmers remaining at home, in defiance of the law that carries a penalty of up to two years in prison, say they are tense.

They say the situation is unpredictable and they are worried about local reactions to their continued presence on their farms.

All this week state controlled electronic media have carried reports from ministers and government supporters claiming that white farmers are sabotaging the farms by poisoning the water and the land.

Minister Ignatius Chombo, who heads the government's land task force, speculated that it might take several years for white farmers' poison to show up in the soil.

Commercial farmers say they fear that these unsubstantiated reports could stir up racial hatred against them ahead of Heroes day on Monday.

Heroes Day is an annual commemoration for those who died in Zimbabwe's war for independence. In a Heroes Day speech last year Mr. Mugabe shocked white farmers when he accused them of being enemies of the state.