September 27, 2004

Eviction of settlers on former commercial farms continues

The Zimbabwe government has continued a campaign against illegal settlers on former commercial farms with the eviction of about 200 families from a property 10 km north of Bulawayo, the country's second city. Similar evictions have taken place at several farms on the outskirts of the capital, Harare, in the past few weeks, with soldiers and police tearing down the homes of people who answered the government's call in 2000 to occupy commercial farms. Scores of villagers, evicted from Mfazimithi farm outside Bulawayo, are now camped by the roadside along the Bulawayo-Nkayi highway, where they have put up makeshift plastic shacks. "Most people blame the government for taking us for a ride during farm invasions as we were encouraged to stay put, but I think we are also to blame for failing to read between the lines and see our future was uncertain when the government had achieved whatever it wanted to achieve. It was purely political, and now it has dawned on everyone as we are being driven out of the farms. This is sad, sad indeed," said Methuseli Sibanda, one of the evictees, as he gathered his belongings.
The government has defended its actions, saying it had warned the settlers against erecting permanent structures on the farms they had occupied under the land redistribution programme. It pointed out that a rationalisation exercise was needed, as many did not have the skills to exploit the potential of the commercial farms they had taken over. Lands minister Joseph Made said that, despite the outcry by the evicted families and civil society groups, the evictions would continue: "We are certainly not going back. It's an ongoing process."


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