- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

HARARE, Zimbabwe — For the second time in less than a year, Zimbabwe’s justice minister has seized a farm after forcing its white owners to leave.

In February, Patrick Chinamasa, the minister of justice, legal and parliamentary affairs, sent the police to arrest Peter Baker, a white farmer. Mr. Baker had refused to vacate his farm, Rocklands, after successfully challenging its seizure in court.

He went into hiding for two months as police searched for him, although no charges were ever leveled.

Eight months after the seizure, the farm’s water supply has been squandered, undermining its future productivity and that of the neighboring farms.

“Having taken and destroyed my farm, the minister was obviously looking for a new property,” Mr. Baker said.

During the weekend, Richard and Cally Yates of Lawrencedale 3 Farm, 95 miles east of Harare, fell victim to the justice minister.

Although there were no legal grounds for Mr. Chinamasa to seize the farm, Mr. Yates was powerless to resist, having been told by the police that if the minister wanted it, the couple must leave.

In July last year, Mr. Yates had accepted a government offer to subdivide his farm between himself and state-appointed “settlers,” in return for being able to continue operating.

“I had a good working relationship with the settlers on my farm and we all managed to produce a successful harvest,” Mr. Yates said.

He believed that having made this compromise his future as a farmer in Zimbabwe was secure. But three months ago he was told that his farm had been allocated to Mr. Chinamasa.

The minister says that he has been justly allocated the farm by the state under the land-reform program.

He told the Daily Telegraph that the Rocklands farm had been allocated to his wife. She had subsequently relinquished it, and it had since been re-allocated by the government.

The minister said farmers who resisted the acquisition of their properties by taking legal action had “been encouraged to adopt a path of confrontation by the British government.”

He added: “The courts should rule only on matters of compensation and not on the process of acquisition.”

For the past six weeks Mr. Chinamasa’s wife, Monica, has been living in the farm cottage, less than 30 yards from the Yates family’s home. She has ensured that they did not take any equipment or household fittings that the Chinamasas wanted to keep.

On more than one occasion she and her “security agents” physically threatened the couple.

While the Zimbabwe government says that its fast-track land redistribution program ended in August, the past two months have seen the continued eviction of white farmers. Their farms are either taken by political heavyweights or left vacant, producing nothing but weeds.

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