Mugabe takes farm from white ally

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President Robert Mugabe has turned against a former white ally, John Bredenkamp, the 33rd richest man in Britain, and listed his Zimbabwe farm for compulsory seizure.

Mr Bredenkamp had joined a movement by some farmers to co-operate with Mr Mugabe in his land settlement programme in the hope of escaping violent land seizures.

Mr Bredenkamp, who has a fortune of £720m and a home in Berkshire, sponsored talks last year on a plan for white farmers to surrender a million hectares (about 2.5 million acres) in exchange for an orderly resettlement process.

Under the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative (ZJRI), the white farmers involved would also drop all court cases against compulsory seizures.

Mr Bredenkamp publicly supported the President during the June 2000 parliamentary election and 9-11 March presidential election and is understood to have donated campaign money to the ruling party, Zanu-PF.

But Mr Mugabe has ordered the listing and seizure of Mr Bredenkamp's 1,300-hectare Thetford Estate in the Mazowe Valley north of Harare, the Zimbabwe Independent, the leading business weekly, reported.

He has also ordered the listing of Avalon Farm in Mashonaland West, which is owned by Nick Swanepoel, a former Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) president. Mr Bredenkamp and Mr Swanepoel broke ranks with whites who wanted to adopt a tough line against Mr Mugabe.

Sources in the Ministry of Agriculture said they had not received an instruction to take the farms of Bredenkamp and Swanepoel off the list, meaning they would proceed with subdividing them into plots for redistribution to blacks.

A spokesman for Mr Bredenkamp confirmed that the farm had been listed for compulsory seizure. He also said that at one stage it had been invaded by government-aligned war veterans who had since left the property.

Jerry Grant, the deputy director of the CFU, reportedly said last week that the government had not accepted any of the 700 farms offered by white farmers under the ZJRI.

* Zimbabwe's ruling party is suing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and media organisations over reports last month claiming his supporters beheaded a woman in front of her children, the local Sunday Mail reported.