UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ZIMBABWE: Government to begin land redistribution soon, official says
JOHANNESBURG, 23 June 1998 (IRIN) - The Zimbabwean government will begin the controversial resettling of land-hungry blacks on formerly white-owned farms within months, Reuters reported a senior official as saying on Monday.
Provincial governor David Karimanzira said the government already had 104 farms available and landless blacks would be moved onto them before the start of the next agricultural season.
Karimanzira was speaking after hundreds of villagers moved illegally onto four white-owned farms in his Mashonaland East province last week, complaining of delays in the government's promised land reforms, Reuters said.
The squatters agreed to move off the land after intervention by a government delegation led by Lands and Agriculture Minister Kumbirai Kangai.
President Robert Mugabe has said the government plans to take five million hectares from white farmers - 4,000 of whom own around 30 percent of the country's fertile land - for redistribution to some of the millions of blacks who live in overcrowded and barren communal areas.
Last November nearly 1,500 farms were designated for acquisition, but farming sources say 600 of those have been de-listed for various reasons, Reuters reported. Karimanzira said 104 farms were already available because their owners had not contested the government's decision to take them.
Leonard Maveneka, the coordinator of the Poverty Reduction Forum, claims Karimanzira's announcement was a worried government's response to the occupation of the Mashonaland farms. "But they [the government] haven't determined who is going to be resettled - it's quite inadequate," he told IRIN.
It is also unclear what compensation will be paid to the farmers. Mugabe has said repeatedly that the government will pay only for improvements on designated farms because the land itself was originally stolen from blacks by British colonisers.
However, over the months Mugabe has softened his position in the face of severe criticism from western donors and the white commercial farmers, who charged that his plans threatened the productivity of Zimbabwe's agriculturally-based economy and violated property rights.
The issue of land ownership was at the centre of Zimbabwe's independence struggle. Yet, 18 years later, little progress has been made over redistribution. The inability of Zimbabwe's malfunctioning economy to create formal sector jobs is forcing people back to the land, deepening the land-hunger crisis, analysts say.
Maveneka accuses the government of manipulating the land issue. "When things get politically hot, they raise it," he told IRIN. "But you don't see any programme for the resettlement of people."
"Basically, I don't think the government is really keen on redistribution," he alleged. "The cost is high to train farmers and resettle them."
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Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 12:30:24 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Zimbabwe: Government to begin land redistribution 1998.6.23 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.email@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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