CFU moratorium ruling set for month-end

farmers_preparing_tobaccoHARARE Zimbabwes Supreme Court is expected to pass judgment at the end of September on an application by the countrys beleaguered white farmers for a moratorium on ongoing farm evictions and persecution of those refusing to vacate properties targeted for compulsory acquisition.

The Commercial Farmers Union said the Supreme Court would make a ruling on an application the union made earlier this year for order suspending further punitive prosecutions and evictions of the few remaining productive farmers in Zimbabwe until such time that President Robert Mugabes controversial land reform programme has been properly examined and addressed more transparently. A hearing date has been set for 30 September 2010, the union said last week.

The CFU is seeking an order suspending ongoing prosecutions and criminal proceedings against several of its members accused of allegedly contravening Section 3(3) of the Gazetted Land Act by refusing to vacate farms illegally occupied by Mugabes supporters. The union contends that the prosecutions are invalid and of no force and violate the constitutional rights of the farmers.

The Attorney Generals Office has in recent months stepped up prosecution of white farmers it claims are refusing to vacate land acquired by the government for purposes of redistribution to land less blacks. This is despite the fact that the Southern African Development (SADC) Tribunal ruled in 2008 that the governments land reform programme is discriminatory and illegal under the SADC Treaty to which Zimbabwe is signatory.

Hordes of Zanu (PF) supporters, so-called war veterans and members of the army and police stepped up farm invasions almost immediately after the formation of the inclusive government in February 2009. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has ordered the arrest and prosecution of the farm invaders but his word is largely ignored with farmers reporting continuing invasions of their properties and disruption of farming activities.

Western donors have on top of other conditions made it clear that they would not consider giving aid to the Harare government while farm invasion continue. Zimbabwe has since the start of the land reforms in 2000 relied on food imports and handouts from international food agencies mainly due to failure by resettled black peasants to maintain production on former white farms.

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