Zimbabwe land talks "collapse"

JOHANNESBURG, 27 September (IRIN) - Land talks between the Zimbabwean government and the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) collapsed on Wednesday, news reports quoted both sides as saying.
Representatives from the CFU met Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa after the Zimbabwean Supreme Court on Friday ordered the two sides to meet and find a solution themselves. The government had asked the court to overturn a November ruling which declared the land reform programme unconstitutional and which ordered the police to evict supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party who had invaded white commercial farms.

"There is a divide that cannot be bridged," state attorney Bharat Patel was quoted as saying after the two sides met and returned to the Supreme Court. Adrian de Bourbon, attorney for the CFU, told the Supreme Court: "In light of the attitude of the minister of justice, it is regretted no progress was made at all and the door has been closed to approaches to others in government."

CFU officials said they had hoped to reach agreement on how the Commonwealth-brokered deal reached in Abuja last month could be implemented. Under the Abuja agreement, Britain agreed to fund land reform to correct historical imbalances in land ownership while Zimbabwe committed itself to implementing a lawful land reform programme and "to take firm action against violence and intimidation". Earlier this week Zimbabwe government spokesman Jonathan Moyo said that the deal had not committed the government to ending violence in farming districts.

The Supreme Court is expected to make its decision within the next few days. Analysts said it was "more than likely" that the decision would be in favour of the government. President Robert Mugabe last month appointed Godfrey Chidyausiku, a government supporter, as chief justice. He replaced Anthony Gubbay who was forced to take early retirement earlier this year. Chidyausiku expanded the court from five to eight judges and named two other government supporters to the five-member panel that is hearing the land case.

'The Financial Gazette' said on Thursday that the Zimbabwean government had served notices to seize nearly 1,200 commercial farms. It quoted justice officials as saying that the government's seizure of more farms after 1 July, following the Supreme Court ruling, was unlawful and in contempt of the highest court in the land. "Government clearly acted in contempt of the Supreme Court interdict," one official said, referring to the notices which were published in the official media. The CFU said this week that 25 new farms invasions had taken place since the 6 September Abuja deal was signed.

Meanwhile, a coalition of local civic organisations on Wednesday launched a campaign against politically motivated violence and has called on all citizens to work together to find peaceful solutions to the country's numerous problems, news reports said. Andrew Nongogo, the executive director of Transparency International Zimbabwe, a corruption watchdog, was quoted as saying that unrestrained violence was tearing the nation apart. "It is quite obvious that Zimbabweans are of the opinion that action against violence is required urgently. There can be no meaningful development without peace, and no free and fair elections can take place in a violent situation," Nongogo said.


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