Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Year-ender 2002 - Chronology of ''fast-track'' land reform

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JOHANNESBURG, 20 January (IRIN) - The following is a chronology of events during 2002 in Zimbabwe's controversial "fast-track" land reform programme.

Under the government's original plan, five million hectares of commercial land was ear-marked for resettlement to redress historical imbalances in landownership. This, however, doubled under the government's accelerated programme, which was accompanied by violence and intimidation by pro-government "war veterans" against farmers and their workers.

January 2002: According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), 4,874 commercial farms comprising a total of 9.23 million hectares are listed for acquisition by the government. The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) says about 1,000 commercial farms have stopped working.

21 January - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo says progress on the Abuja agreement is slow. Under the Obasanjo-brokered Abuja accord of September 2001, Zimbabwe agreed to uphold the rule of law, end violence on farms and end government-backed farm occupations.

23 January - The World Food Programme sends its first consignment of food aid to Zimbabwe in the face of food shortages brought on by drought and disruptions to farming caused by the land reform programme.

14 February - The UN Development Programme says the "fast-track" programme is the cause of much of the economic, political and social instability in the country. The report says UNDP shares the "wide-spread concern" that the policy-making process could have been more participatory, with the involvement of rural communities, and more transparent. It recommends the creation of an independent land commission and the development of a trust fund to help resettled farmers.

18 February - The European Union imposes sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and certain government ministers due to human rights violations.

19 February - The United States also imposes sanctions.

17 March - Mugabe takes his oath of office after being re-elected and pledges to accelerate land reform.

17 April - According to the CFU, 5,069 farms totalling 10 million hectares are listed for acquisition.

20 April - The government gazettes a law which would enable it to set up an Agricultural Employees' Compensation Committee to determine benefits and entitlements for farm workers whose employers' farms have been earmarked for resettlement.

23 April - The Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe's (FCTZ) supplementary feeding programme in the rural areas hopes to reach at least 10,000 children whose farm worker parents have lost their jobs in the land acquisitions. Up 100,000 farm workers are thought to be affected by the acquisitions. Many are second or third generation immigrants and have no other place to settle. Farmers' associations warn of diminished crops due to disruptions.

26 April - Zimbabwe declares a national drought disaster.

10 May - A special session of Zimbabwe's parliament passes amendments to the Land Acquisition Amendment Act. Acquisition orders, including all those served before 10 May, transfer ownership of the land to the state immediately and constitute a notice to stop farming after 45 days and to vacate the homestead within 90 days. To exceed either of the time limits is a criminal offence.

31 May - Rights monitors the Amani Trust releases a report on violence, intimidation, theft of belongings and destruction of homes against farm workers. Many are punished for continuing to work on white-owned farms, perceived as supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. An FCTZ study finds that about 50 percent of farm workers in Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West have lost their jobs.

6 June - The government announces it is to investigate allegations that cabinet ministers, officials from the ruling ZANU-PF party and war veterans have taken money from commercial farmers trying to avoid eviction or to harvest their crops. At the World Economic Forum in Durban, Finance Minister Simba Makoni says the country's critical food shortage has been worsened by the land reform programme.

7 June - The CFU says that taking into account delistings and relistings, 5,872 farms totalling 10,481,733 hectares are listed for acquisition.

25 June - Farmers who have received a Section 8, a final notice to cease farming, have 45 days to leave their land.

4 July - Four commercial farmers are formally charged with disobeying a ban on farming activity on land targeted for redistribution, and another 11 are warned and cautioned.

16 July - The Norwegian Refugee Council urges NGOs to consider farm workers who no longer have cash to buy food and the number of children and elderly people being forced to run households. There is also concern over people who were encouraged to invade farms but who now face eviction by the new owners.

23 July - The General Agriculture and Plantation Workers' Union of Zimbabwe urges the government to include farm workers in the land reform programme. There is also concern over the education of their children as about 500 farm schools are closed. Analysts fear early pregnancy for the girls and forced labour for the boys.

8 August - Final exit deadline for half of about 4,500 farmers who received a Section 8 notice.

15 August - Up to seven commercial farmers, who had ignored the government deadline, are served with notices to appear in court. About 60 percent who were meant to leave their properties are waiting to see if the government will enforce the order. Farmers' rights group Justice for Agriculture, a breakaway group from the CFU, say that since February 2000, 13 farmers and about 40 farm workers have been murdered.

19 August - One hundred farmers appear in courts around the country to challenge the order that they stop farming. The outcomes range from farmers being fined and allowed to return to farming, to farmers being told they must leave.

22 August - Calls are made for government assistance for almost 300,000 farm workers and an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 casual labourers who have no income and no food.

28 August - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says: "There can be no lasting solution to the current problems unless the government of Zimbabwe implements a phased and fully funded land-reform programme. It should be one that is run according to the rule of law, that allows for proper training and adequate support to new small farmers and compensation to displaced farm workers and commercial farmers."

2 September - Mugabe tells delegates to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa that the land issue had pitted the black majority against an "obdurate and internationally well-connected racial minority".

5 September - Mugabe denies that the country's land reform policy has contributed to food shortages affecting over six million people.

10 September - Ten commercial farmers in Zimbabwe win a court challenge against their eviction, setting a precedent for farmers arrested for refusing to leave their land.

11 September - South Africa says it will not protect South African farmers arrested for defying orders to leave farms they own in Zimbabwe, sticking to its oft-criticised policy of refusing to become involved in Zimbabwe's problems.

19 September - The government amends its land laws to close a loophole that gave a brief reprieve to some farmers on the grounds that the bondholding bank had not been notified by the government of the acquisition. Under the amendment, the government's failure to do so would not render the eviction notices invalid.

1 October - The government's input support programme has not started delivering seed and fertiliser to smallholder farmers in communal and resettlement areas, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network says, raising concerns about next year's crops.

21 October - Confirming fears of more farming disruptions, IRIN reports District Development Fund statistics as showing that only half of the 600 tractors available for the national tillage programme are working due to a lack of foreign exchange to buy spare parts. The CFU says the situation is worsened by insufficient draught power as the national herd has been reduced from 1.1 million to between 20,000 and 40,000 head of cattle.

29 October - About 300 commercial farmers evicted from their land are banned from moving their equipment to neighbouring countries where they have been allocated new land to farm.

31 October - Youth, Gender and Employment Creation Minister Elliot Manyika tells the state-run Herald newspaper that farmers should "make sure they are members of ZANU-PF or risk losing land".

3 November - Mugabe says soldiers returning from the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo will get preferential treatment in land allocation.

4 November - Minister of Land Reform Flora Buka says a land audit will be implemented amid allegations of cronyism and corruption in farm allocations.

4 December - IRIN reports that women have only received 16 percent of land up for redistribution. Eighty percent of Zimbabwean women live in communal areas, where they constitute 61 percent of the farmers.

[ENDS]

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