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More Farm & Land Takeovers in Zimbabwe Amid New Hunger Warnings

The U.S.-based Famine Early Warning System Network has warned that food stocks will be depleted this month in western Zimbabwe where some 2 million people face hunger - this amid political agitation over a fresh wave of farm invasions and land grabs.

FEWSNET issued a special report saying the availability of food in Zimbabwe could diminish sharply from October to December with only 1.4 million metric tonnes of cereals available compared with the 2 million tonnes needed to meet Zimbabwe’s needs.

Meanwhile, experts warn political bickering and ongoing land invasions could hobble the key agricultural sector for years to come.

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai issued a statement this week accusing senior figures in President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of invading large tracts of privately endowed nature conservancies in Mwenezi and Chiredzi in Masvingo province, among other areas where such grabs have recently occurred.

The MDC said that since the unity government was formed in February, six white farmers have been abducted and 16 have been arrested for allegedly obstructing land reform. The MDC says it is concerned that farmers who won a ruling against the state in the tribunal of the Southern African Development Community are now being targeted for reprisals.

The Namibian-based tribunal last November heard a case brought on behalf of 77 white farmers. The court eventually ruled that land seizures in Zimbabwe since 2000 were discriminatory and violated both Zimbabwean law and regional treaties.

Earlier this month just days before a SADC summit, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Zimbabwe would no longer recognize the authority of the SADC tribunal.

SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao told VOA that Harare’s move to repudiate the tribunal has been referred to the ministers of justice of the regional bloc's member nations who have been asked to provide legal guidance to SADC heads of state.

Commenting on the general state of affairs, ZANU-PF Secretary of Administration Didymus Mutasa, a minister of state in President Mugabe’s office, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that there is no going back on farm seizures.

Deputy Spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo of the Tsvangirai MDC formation called Mutasa’s remarks unfortunate, saying farm disruptions are undermining economic recovery.

Johannesburg-based political analyst Zenzo Nkomo told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the ZANU-PF pursuit of land reform will continue to deter foreign investment in Zimbabwe.

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