20 June 2002

Land reforms to displace two million

About two million Zimbabweans living on commercial farms will be displaced countrywide at the expiry of eviction orders being served on white farmers by the government this year, according to a survey by the Zimbabwe Community Development Trust (ZCDT). More than 4.000 of Zimbabwe’s white farmers have been issued with eviction notices under Section 8 of the Land Acquisition Act, requiring them to cease farming and vacate their properties within three months. The commercial farming industry employs about 350.000 workers, each of whom on average has a family of five. Most of these workers will be displaced, although the government says it will resettle them. Most of the eviction notices expire at the end of August, which is also supposed to be the end of the government’s often violent land reforms under which more than 90% of white-owned farms have been targeted for seizure to resettle landless black peasants. Bigson Gumbeze, the ZCDT project manager, said his organisation’s survey was conducted in Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces and found that about two million people would be displaced after the expiry of the Section 8 notices. "Most of the workers will be stranded as they have no communal homes and some of them are of foreign origin. Most of their children have been going for months without going to school," he told the Financial Gazette. "Out of a total of two million people who are going to be affected by the displacement, our organisation can only afford to provide mental and physical help for 90 000 people and the other people have to get help from somewhere else."

The farm workers and their families will join more than 50.000 other Zimbabweans who have been displaced by political violence and the seizure of farms by ruling Zanu PF supporters since February 2000. Most of the internal refugees have fled to cities, especially Harare, where non-governmental organisations are battling to assist them by providing food and shelter. However, their plight is expected to worsen in the next few months as food shortages bite in Zimbabwe, where at least six million people need emergency food aid because of drought and the havoc in agriculture caused by the farm occupations. The ZCDT said in its survey report: "Since farm worker displacement has affected all provinces, there is urgent need of food assistance to curb poverty. Not only should this assistance be of food but also of shelter, especially for those farm workers who have been physically displaced and have nowhere to go because of their ethnic background. However, in offering any form of humanitarian assistance, there should be a break point and a movement towards a developmental approach. Therefore there is need to assist these farm workers on a short-term basis with a long-term plan. Somewhere along the line, there is need to create a means for these people to use their skills or least equip them with new skills of self-reliance and self-sustenance." (Financial Gazette)

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