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Zimbabwe Government, White Farmers Edge Toward Compromise

The Zimbabwean government has begun to process some 200 applications from white commercial farmers who are hoping to continue – or resume – agricultural activity.

An official with an organization representing the farmers said that the understanding of the Commercial Farmers Union is that state approval of an application will be followed by the granting of a 99-year lease on the farming property in question. But Harare has not promulgated or even explicitly stated a new agricultural land use policy.

A senior Agriculture Ministry official, declining to be named, said the first applications to be processed will be for horticultural farms that produce flowers for export, bringing in foreign exchange which has been in extremely short supply for many months.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made declined to comment, referring all questions to State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, who is also in charge of land reform. Mutasa said the issuance of leases is strictly a Zimbabwean matter and also declined to comment.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked Commercial Farmers Union President Douglas Taylor-Freeme what he understood to be the new policy.

Though some farmers saw hope in these developments, Justice for Agriculture, which represents about 4,000 dispossessed white farmers, says the 99-year leases are not a viable solution as they would neither serve as collateral and or be transferable.

Justice for Agriculture for Vice Chairman John Worsely-Worswick told reporter Carole Gombakomba that in contemplating such agreements with Harare, the CFU is failing to recognize the disadvantages of long-term leases compared with traditional tenure.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...