Zimbabwe to Nationalize Farmland
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - President Robert Mugabe's government announced plans Tuesday to nationalize all Zimbabwean farmland after forcing more than 5,000 white farmers off their properties in an often-violent redistribution program.
Title deeds to all productive land will be canceled and replaced with 99-year state-issued leases, the state-run Herald newspaper reported.
``In the end all land shall be state land and there shall be no such thing as private land,'' Land Reform Minister John Nkomo was quoted as saying.
Since 2000, the government has been seizing white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans. The controversial program, combined with erratic rains, has crippled the country's agriculture-based economy and sparked political clashes.
Zimbabwe, once a regional breadbasket, now suffers acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline and other imports. United Nations crop forecasters predict the country will produce only half its food needs this year.
Mugabe, however, argues redistribution is needed to redress British colonial injustices, when much of the best farmland was settled by whites.
About 200,000 black families have been allocated land under the government program, most for small-scale farming. Hundreds of others have bought commercial farms.
The government did not intend to ``waste time and money'' in disputes with farmers whose land had been seized, regardless of what legal documents they held, Nkomo was quoted as saying in the article.
``Ultimately all land shall be resettled as state property,'' he said.
Nkomo gave no timeframe for the nationalization program, but said a National Land Board would be set up to supervise the process and ensure the effective use of land.
He asked current land owners and occupiers to come forward for vetting to qualify for state leases.
Critics of the redistribution program say much of the best farmland has been allocated to Mugabe's supporters and is currently underutilized or lying fallow.
Production on many other farms has dropped sharply because their new owners lack financial resources, seed, fertilizer, fuel and farm machinery.
Nkomo said the state-issued leases would be sufficient collateral for farmers to secure loans to purchase the material and equipment they need.
Independent Harare economist John Robertson disagreed.
``It doesn't work that way,'' he said. ``You can't borrow on the strength of something you don't own.'' http://www.africana.com/newswire/homepage_article.asp?ID=434