With a February eviction deadline hanging over them, Zimbabwe's few remaining white farmers are asking the Harare government for a few months' reprieve to allow them to harvest the crops they have put in the ground this planting season.
Members of the Commercial Farmers Union have told the Ministry of Lands that they will sustain large losses if Harare proceeds with plans to evict them by the Feb. 3 deadline, as it is not possible for them to harvest their crops by that date.
But Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa is adamant that the farmers must leave, saying in a statement issued to the press that only “genuine” farmers will receive letters of offer that will allow them to continue their farming operations. Only 30 white farmers have received the letters of offer - a first step in obtaining a 99-year farm lease.
Chief economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute said prospects for economic recovery are being hampered by the government's insistence on pursuing its land reform program to the bitter end.
Chitambara said Zimbabwe stands to lose much needed foreign exchange earnings as the "new farmers" installed on properties seized from white farmers since 2000 may fail to bring in the tobacco, grain and other crops planted by the white farmers.
Commercial Farmers Union Executive Director Hendrik Olivier told reporter Blessing Zulu that Harare must give the white farmers time enough to harvest their crops.