Zimbabwe regime says it will defy land seizure ruling

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Zimbabwe's government will defy a southern Africa tribunal ruling to stop the seizure of white-owned farms and will continue its land reforms, a state-run newspaper on Monday quoted a minister as saying.

A South African Development Community tribunal ruled on Friday that Zimbabwe’s planned seizure of dozens of white-owned farms violated international law and should be halted immediately.

It said Zimbabwe should take all measures to protect the possessions and property of 75 white farmers who challenged the legality of a contested land reform programme, and also ordered other farmers be compensated for land taken.

But Didymus Mutasa, minister of state for national security, lands, land reform and resettlement, was quoted in the Herald newspaper as saying President Robert Mugabe’s government would ignore the judgement.

"They (the tribunal) are day-dreaming because we are not going to reverse the land reform exercise," he said.

"There is nothing special about the 75 farmers and we will take more farms. It’s not discrimination against farmers, but correcting land imbalances," he said.

Critics blame an economic meltdown in Zimbabwe on Mugabe’s policies, including the land reform that started in 2000 and replaced white, commercial farmers with landless blacks.

The move has led to the collapse of the country’s once prosperous agricultural sector, pushing millions to the edge of famine.

Zimbabwe is suffering from an official inflation rate of 231 million percent and chronic shortages of food and fuel.

SADC, a regional grouping of 15 African nations that includes Zimbabwe, has been pressuring Mugabe and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change to move quickly to form a unity government under a September 15 power-sharing deal.

The two sides, however, have reached a deadlock over the control of key ministries in a future cabinet.