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Zimbabwe Parliament Closes Loopholes for White Farmers - 2002-09-19

Zimbabwe's parliament has taken the final steps to dramatically change the country's farming system. The parliament suspended its rules to give quick approval to a law that will force remaining white farmers from their land.

The new laws close loopholes farmers had used to prevent eviction from their homes and farms. One rule required advance notification of their banks, and several farmers had used that rule to avoid eviction.

Hours before parliament began to pass the new laws, Zimbabwe's High Court said seven farmers could return to their homes, because their banks had not been notified.

Those seven farmers, and dozens more, will immediately be served with new eviction orders and will have seven days to leave their homes. Previously, farmers were given 90 days to conclude their businesses and pack up their homes.

According to lawyers representing farmers who went to court in the last few months, most have already fled from their homes in fear of their lives.

The legislation brings to an end 32 months of violent struggle on Zimbabwe's white-owned farms. More than 3,000 white farmers and up to 1.2 million workers and their families have been forced to leave the farms.

Now, a new breed of commercial farmer is waiting to try to rebuild the destruction of Zimbabwe's agricultural sector, which accounts for more than 40 percent of annual foreign currency earnings.

While legislation was being passed in parliament, two streets away, black and white business owners launched a multi-million dollar initiative to finance and empower new black farmers.