Seized farms set to be given to Mugabe loyalists

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The Independent Online

The Zimbabwe government published the first list of names yesterday of some 100,000 blacks scheduled to receive land seized from white farmers.

The names included members of parliament and loyalists to President Robert Mugabe.

The majority of Zimbabwe's commercial farmland has been in the hands of whites, who make up less than 0.5 per cent of the country's population. But human rights groups have said the government is less interested in correcting Zimbabwe's unfair land allocation than in wooing political supporters in time for presidential elections in March.

The list released yesterday identifies Zimbabweans who applied under a government programme offering parcels of land for commercial farming, and does not include squatters who have already resettled on former white-owned farmland.

About 20 million acres – some 95 per cent of the farms owned by 4,000 white farmers – are being nationalised.

Included in the list of recipients is Tony Gara, a former deputy government minister who owns a chemicals business and a chain of hair salons. Mr Gara was censured by churches in Zimbabwe for comparing Mr Mugabe to Jesus.

Several MPs, a government research scientist, two former broadcasters with the state radio station, an athlete from the police force and six senior journalists with the state-run Herald newspaper were also among those on the list. The government says applications were granted to those committed to retaining the productivity of seized land.