Starving Zimbabweans want farmers to stay

By Time of article published Aug 8, 2002

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By Basildon Peta

Zimbabwean farmers are bracing themselves for possible eviction from their homes after the government there failed to give them any indication of a reprieve.

The situation on farms across the country remained tense as farmers prepared for any eventuality as Saturday's deadline ticked nearer.

Jenni Williams, speaking for many of the farmers, said they had at this stage had no signal from the government that they would be allowed to stay on their properties beyond the deadline of August 10.

Civil rights groups and hunger-stricken Zimbabweans have rallied behind white farmers ordered to vacate their farms and homes to make way for President Robert Mugabe's forced land re-settlement programme.

Black civic group leaders urged farmers to defy the order, saying their constitutional rights were being violated by Mugabe's confiscation of their land at a time when six million people in Zimbabwe were faced with starvation and shortages of basic commodities.

"They shouldn't leave their farms. It's high time they confronted Mugabe head on.... They have been persecuted enough," said Professor Masipula Sithole, chairman of the Mass Public Opinion Institute, an independent opinion-monitoring body.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), urged farmers to fight on and go to the courts.

"We need land reform, but this should be done properly. Unfortunately, the disaster created by Mugabe in this country will be with us for a long time," said Tsvangirai.

Reports showed that ordinary Zimbabweans suffering food shortages did not support the idea of the wholesale eviction of farmers.

The black leaders spoke as heads of white farming organisations urged their members to defy the order to vacate their farms. But many of the three-thousand plus white farmers affected by the order appeared to be balking, possibly afraid of the consequences of continuing to resist Mugabe.

Justice for Agriculture (Jag), a newly formed pressure group of white farmers and black farm workers, urged farmers to resist the eviction orders by peaceful means.

The mainly white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) urged its members to remain defiant.

If the evictions go ahead, Mugabe will have seized 95 percent of all white-owned farmland in Zimbabwe for his resettlement policies. The move will mark the end of an era for white farmers who had carved a name for Zimbabwe as the bread basket of southern Africa until Mugabe began his land seizures in February 2000.

Since then agricultural output has plunged by 60 percent, threatening some six million Zimbabweans with dire hunger or starvation.

- Fewer than seven South African farmers in Zimbabwe have approached SA's High Commission in Harare for help, says the presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo. He was reacting to a DA statement that it had the names of 46 South African farmers whose livelihood was illegally being taken away by the Zimbabwean government. - Independent Foreign Service, Sapa and Sapa-AFP

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