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Harare Eyes Anglo-American in New Land Reform Push

Zimbabwe’s ruling party is internally divided over the latest round of nationalizations in the land reform process which has been under way since the start of the decade, say sources in the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF.

A number of properties targeted for acquisition are owned by global commodities giant Anglo-American Corporation, based in South Africa, raising the stakes given the risk of more seriously alienating international investors, economists and analysts say.

Documents obtained by VOA indicate that Justice Minister Patrick Chinimasa and State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa – also heading land reform – want the state to take over timber, tea and sugar plantations in Manicaland and the Lowveld region.

Mr. Chinimasa states in the cabinet document that this will be a “mopping up exercise with those farms which (earlier) escaped the net being accounted for and gazetted for acquisition” by the state. The Anglo-American properties fall into this category.

Anglo-American recently sent a notice to shareholders saying its Hippo Valley Estates, a large sugar plantation in the southeast of Zimbabwe near Mozambique, continue to be listed for state acquisition despite corporate legal objections to the listing.

First Vice President Joseph Msika and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, fearing the economic consequences of expropriating corporate property, are said to have asked President Robert Mugabe to veto the Hippo Valley acquisition.

Anglo-American's Triangle Sugar Estates and Mkwasine Estate are similarly listed for compulsory acquisition by the state. The three plantations produce all of Zimbabwe's sugar output, which in 2004 totaled 236,000 metric tons worth some $91 million, much exported to neighboring countries and an important source of foreign exchange.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with research and risk analysis chief Walter Dewit of Pan-African Advisory Services, Johannesburg, about Harare's latest land reform push and what this could mean for the economy.

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