White farmers in Zimbabwe receive eviction notices despite Mugabe pledge
The Zimbabwe government is reneging on a pledge to invite exiled white farmers back to work the land and is moving to evict the few hundred who survived President Robert Mugabe's six-year ethnic purge.
Scores of eviction notices were either delivered or were on their way to productive white farmers last week. The farmers will have 90 days to leave their homes and abandon their businesses.
In an indication that the government is launching a final push against the farmers, Didymus Mutasa, the lands and security minister, told Western diplomats this week that he did not care if Zimbabwe's land remained unproductive "as long we [blacks] own it".
Four months ago Mr Mugabe asked white farmers to stay. It was a spectacular admission that his 20 million-acre land grab had failed and that the expulsion of more than 4,000 white farmers had wrecked the economy.
"Productivity must return to the land," Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said at the time.
Mr Mugabe even invited some who had fled their farms to return home and apply for 99-year leases for their properties, which were all nationalised last year.
About 900 existing and former white farmers applied for leases, half of them through the Commercial Farmers' Union, but none has been processed.
"We were hopeful this would kick-start better production" said Trevor Gifford, a CFU official. "What is happening now is very disappointing."
David Drury, a Harare solicitor, is preparing to go to court to challenge a batch of flimsy eviction notices.
"This is demonstrably an abuse of process, from a policy point of view and a legal point of view," he said. But his hopes cannot be high.
The last time eviction notices were flowing was three years ago in the heat of the land invasions when white farmers were being killed or beaten up and imprisoned for refusing to abandon their homes.
Many remaining white farmers, trying to keep a low profile, are still regularly tormented by gangs and are often humiliated by the police when they beg for help.
"It is extremely painful. I don't know how we endure this, but we have nowhere to go and no other way of earning our living," said a farmer who had been under pressure from thugs who have surrounded his homestead for the last two weeks on behalf of a ruling Zanu PF heavyweight.
John Worsley-Worswick, spokesman for the pressure group Justice for Agriculture, said: "It is torture for farmers still out there. When they are evicted, they, their families and thousands of skilled farm workers and their families will be destitute."
Most surviving white farmers, who have been forced to donate two thirds of their properties to the state, are tutoring the "new farmers" who were allocated their land.
Few "new farmers" have equipment or any agricultural skills. "It is in my interests that they are successful and want me around," said one farmer.
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