January 4, 2002

ZIMBABWE: Seized land to politicians and journalists

The Zimbabwean government has published a list of new land owners, including politicians and journalists, who have benefited from President Robert Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms. The list includes dozens of leading personalities, many of them associated with Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.

The government began releasing the names of new land owners who have sought commercial farm plots seized under a controversial programme of redistributing white-owned farms to landless blacks. The list included Agripa Gava, an executive member of the independence war veterans, Transport and Communications Deputy Minister Paul Mangwana, former local government deputy minister Tony Gara, four ZANU-PF members of parliament and Paul Madzore, a parliamentarian from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. It also named seven journalists working for state media, a prominent musician and a town mayor. Agriculture Minister Joseph Made says the lists of names would show the world that land reform enjoyed national support and was not merely for cronies of government leaders.

The land drive began in February 2000 when self-styled war veterans invaded hundreds of white-owned farms. Two months later, the government began listing farms targeted for seizure under the "fast-track resettlement" programme. So far, nearly 5,000 farms have been listed under the plan.

Meanwhile, Mugabe, who is the commander-in-chief of Zimbabwe’s defence forces, personally sanctioned a 100 percent pay increase for all uniformed forces this year. This concerns members of the army, of the airforce, of the police and prison services as well as members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, who are now controlled by the Ministry of Defence. The rest of the workers in the public service will be awarded a paltry 55 percent pay increase this year, far below Zimbabwe’s annual November inflation of 103.8 percent.

Critics accuse Mugabe of trying to buy the loyalty of the uniformed forces and of using the land issue to win votes ahead of presidential elections scheduled for March which most analysts and opinion polls indicate he is likely to lose. (Financial Gazette / The Namibian)

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