Zimbabwe deadline expires

White farmers have faced intimidation - even death - since Mugabe announced the new land policy Keystone Archive

A new ultimatum for Zimbabwe's white farmers - including thirteen Swiss - to leave their land has expired without any reports of fresh arrests.

This content was published on September 8, 2002 - 21:17

Dozens of farmers hurriedly left their properties as the Sunday lunchtime deadline approached, but would soon return, a farm lobby group said.

"I am sure a lot of them will be going back to their farms (on Monday). We also had a lot of farmers on their properties who haven't been arrested," said John Worswick, vice chairman of Justice for Agriculture.

"The threat was very real ... but it hasn't happened. We are looking at a situation of a damp squib, it was an empty threat if you like," he added.

President Robert Mugabe has ordered 2,900 commercial white farmers to evacuate their land without compensation under a programme to seize the farms and redistribute them to landless blacks.

Swiss farmers fearful

Thirteen Swiss farmers are facing eviction orders, according to the Swiss foreign ministry.

Two of them have already quit their properties "under threat" - one recently and another earlier this year.

"We faced systematic intimidation, harassment, death threats, verbal abuse, and interrogation over a two-year period - against myself, against my family and also against my employees," Swiss farmer Peter Ziegler, told swissinfo.

He abandoned his award-winning tobacco farm west of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, in May.

"Basically they were telling us we were not welcome to continue farming on our property.

"We decided for our own safety, that of my wife and two children and also our employees, to shut up shop and move into Harare."

Ziegler is fighting for government compensation and is considering whether to move to Europe.

Uncertain future

The Swiss foreign ministry said that it would take a few days to assess the effects of the latest eviction order.

For those who decide to defy the government, the future remains uncertain.

Talk out of Harare remains resolute to resolve a colonial-era imbalance during which whites held 70 per cent of the best farmland.

"Those [who are defiant] do not deserve to be in Zimbabwe and we shall take steps to ensure that they are not entitled to our land," Mugabe said on his return trip from the Earth summit in South Africa.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has ordered 2,900 white commercial farmers to leave their properties without compensation.
It is part of a programme to redistribute white-owned land to blacks.
Since February 2000, pro-government militants have invaded white-owned farms, forcing many off their land.

End of insertion
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