Oct. 20 (GIN) – President Robert Mugabe’s land reform initiative turned lives upside down in the year 2000 and now upside down again as the settlers who moved onto lands that white farmers once owned now find themselves facing eviction by the same government.

About 8 million hectares of farmland owned by 3,000 white farmers in 1999 are now legally state-owned, according to the Valuation Consortium, a private, Harare-based body that collects information from evicted white farmers.  According to the constitution, leases cannot be given to new owners until the dispossessed white farmers are compensated.

In the meantime, many of the new Black beneficiaries have neither security of tenure or legal protection afforded to tenants and can be evicted at will.

This spring, the government announced a crackdown on settlers without proper ownership documents. “Those who settled themselves will be evicted,” said Douglas Mombeshora, minister of lands and rural resettlement. “Those farmers who have been staying for about 10 years should have their settlements formalized.”

Faber Chidarikire, minister of Mashonaland West, added: “People have been illegally occupying land and sometimes invading land which is not suitable for farming… Some people have settled on pastures, while others have invaded other people’s farms. We are going to evict these people.”

Settlers in some of the targeted districts cried foul, saying they had been waiting for ownership papers but received eviction notices instead. Some had their houses burned down. In Mazowe, some farmers said the evictions arrived as they were about to harvest their crops.

Meanwhile, with Pres. Mugabe approaching the advanced age of 91, his wife Grace has moved to center spot, using her bully pulpit to attack the incumbent vice president, Joyce Mujuru, prior to the upcoming party congress in December.

Speaking at Chipadze Stadium in the heart of the Vice President’s Mashonaland Central stronghold, Mrs Mugabe came out swinging, and warned her rival:  “If the President does not dump you, we are personally going to dump you.”

Party insiders say a secret ballot at the December meeting may be called to sweep Mrs. Mugabe into power or an amendment attached to the constitution to enable Mr. Mugabe to appoint senior officials, including vice presidents, so he can appoint his wife and leave out Mujuru. w/pix of G. Mugabe

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