World Bank 'to pay off' evicted white farmers

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The Independent Online

The Zimbabwe government will press ahead with plans to acquire five million hectares of farmland for resettlement, and whites "should be grateful" that it has not nationalised the agriculture sector wholesale, President Robert Mugabe's spin doctor said.

The Zimbabwe government will press ahead with plans to acquire five million hectares of farmland for resettlement, and whites "should be grateful" that it has not nationalised the agriculture sector wholesale, President Robert Mugabe's spin doctor said.

Professor Jonathan Moyo, the information minister, said the government was in talks with the World Bank over how to complete its "fast-track" programme, aimed at resettling 500,000 families.

He denied that a presidential amnesty, revealed on Tuesday, for perpetrators of pre-election political violence excluding murder and rape, would set back the country's chances of receiving international assistance for the land programme. "The pardon is lawful. It is within the president's powers. We are a reconciling people and that is the reason for the pardon. We do not discharge the rule of the law to please the international community," he said.

He welcomed Britain's recent reluctance to comment on Zimbabwean issues. "If the British had been this cautious earlier in the year, we would not have gone to such lengths... Instead they used the media to demonise us and showed themselves partial to a minority group.

"We are committed to a constructive relationship with Britain," he said but stressed that Zimbabwe still expected compensation for white farmers to come from Britain. "If Britain does not want to pay and the international community comes instead, then fine. We do not see it as our role to negotiate on behalf of white commercial farmers. As far as I am concerned they are not true Zimbabweans if they do not show some social responsibility."

He said he hoped the World Bank would take a "lead role in handling the land issue". Other sources confirmed that, despite Zimbabwe's poor-payer status, the World Bank is in discussions with the government. The body could, potentially, provide a discreet conduit for compensation and resettlement grants from outside.

Prof Moyo said the priority was the acquisition of land and that agrarian reform would come in time. "We will start with maize and cotton crops this year and we will look at toolage later. The priority is getting the land and we are doing this through a legal process. You should be grateful that we are not just declaring that the state owns the land, like so many other African countries."

He reconfirmed Zimbabwe's commitment to supporting President Laurent Kabila in his two-year war in the Congo and claimed - in contradiction to a recent parliamentary answer by Simba Makoni, Zimbabwe's finance minister - that the intervention costs no more than keeping the soldiers in barracks. It was partly motivated by "energy, mining and agricultural interests" in the Congo, he added.

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