State moves to take over 120 white-owned farms immediately

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — At least 120 white-owned farms will be immediately taken over and given to black peasants who do not own land, the government announced Thursday.
The farms will be evenly distributed around Zimbabwe, as part of a government plan to transfer about 1,500 farms, mostly owned by the descendants of British and South African settlers, to landless peasants.
Agriculture Minister Kumbirai Kangai said the farms being immediately transferred were among those owned by 170 farmers who did not object to the seizure.
“The intention is to ensure at least 15 farms are made available for resettlement immediately” in each of the southern African nation’s eight provinces, Kangai said.
The government will pay owners for improvements like irrigations systems but not for the land itself, contending there is no obligation to pay for property that whites seized from blacks without paying them.
In November, the government released a list of mostly white-owned properties targeted for seizure. Farmers were given until Dec. 28 to lodge objections.
Foreigners who invested in land with the approval of the official Zimbabwe Investment Center and some black farmers who operate on a large scale will be removed from the list.
White-owned estates may be removed if they include blacks as partners in future expansion plans. Church and mission farms will be considered on a case-by-case basis, Kangai said.
Critics say President Robert Mugabe is using land seizure to court political support in rural areas at a time when his government is besieged with protests over high taxes and soaring prices.
On Thursday, the southern African nation was recovering from a two-day strike that shut down its economy.
In Zimbabwe, a nation of 12 million people, about one-third of the land is owned by about 4,000 whites. Eight million peasants live on another third. The rest is wilderness and uninhabited mountain terrain.