9 Dec 2012

Zimbabwe seizes ex-leader's farm

6:04 am on 9 December 2012

Zimbabwe has seized a farm belonging to the late Ian Smith, ex-leader of the former white-minority Rhodesia government.

Government officials in September issued a verbal order to take over the 592-hectare farm in central Zimbabwe with plans to hand it over to a state-run university.

AFP reports the farm was originally listed for acquisition at the height of a land grab campaign in 2000, but the plan was never acted upon until 10 weeks ago when government officials visited the farm.

Smith made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1965, pushing the country toward a civil war that ended with a change to majority rule in 1980. He died in 2007 and his ashes were scattered on the farm.

"On 24 September we were notified by the Ministry of Lands that the farm was to be taken," Gwenoro farm manager Owen Jarman said.

"We are not contesting it (the seizure). We are abiding by the law and we are making plans to sell all the livestock and pay off our staff," said Jarman.

AFP reports up to 50 people - 35 of them permanent - are employed at the farm, which is around 30km from Gweru where the ruling ZANU-PF party is meeting for its annual conference.

President Robert Mugabe launched a land reform programme in 2000 which saw the seizure of more than 3000 white-owned farms by ZANU-PF party officials.

The argument was that the land reforms were needed to correct colonial-era imbalances which favoured whites.