Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday in effect thrown down the gantlet to President Robert Mugabe over the charged issue of land reform in declaring in a public forum that those who invade white-owned farms will be arrested and prosecuted.
Correspondent Fazila Mahomed of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare that Tsvangirai told a gathering of civil society activists that those behind the latest round of farm takeovers were committing "acts of theft" and would be brought before the courts.
President Mugabe launched an often chaotic and violent land redistribution program in 2,000, transferring more than 4,000 white-owned commercial farms to black Zimbabweans - though in practice the beneficiaries were ministers or officials of his ruling ZANU-PF party.
The latest round of farm takeovers began shortly before the formation of the national unity government led by Mr. Tsvangirai was formed, and President Mugabe has publicly endorsed such seizures, often carried out with the backing of local police and security forces.
The government has brushed aside a ruling by a Southern African Development Community tribunal finding for white farmers who successfully argued they were denied due process when they were ordered off their farms by the government.
Co-Minister of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi of ZANU-PF (control of the key ministry is shared by ZANU-PF and Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change) said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the pledge by the prime minister.
Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Herbert Murerwa said it is too early to comment on the disturbances on the farms.
National Constitutional Assembly Director Earnest Mudzengi says it will not be easy for Mr. Tsvangirai to implement the policy on farm takeovers he has enunciated.
Elsewhere, Jacob Zuma, head of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, said Friday that Western nations are attaching stringent conditions to aid to Zimbabwe because they are unhappy with President Mugabe's continued presence as head of state.
But London-based political analyst Last Moyo told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Zuma's comments were misplaced