The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), the main ecumenical organization in this southern African country, has urged the government of President Robert Mugabe to move swiftly to distribute land—mostly owned by white farmers—to thousands of peasants, under a comprehensive land-reform program.The call follows the invasion in recent weeks of more than 300 commercial farms by thousands of former guerrillas who fought in Zimbabwe's war of independence, which brought white rule to an end in 1980. The war was fought under the banner of "land for all," and the unequal distribution of land was one of the major reasons that spurred Zimbabweans to war.Zimbabwe's president, Dr Robert Mugabe, has said that those who occupied the farms should remain on the land. However, the ZCC said that land redistribution should be undertaken by the government in a "systematic, just and transparent manner" rather than left to the "acquisitiveness of individuals" and has called on the war veterans to be patient.The issue of the white-owned farms is highly controversial both in Zimbabwe and abroad, as the government refuses to pay compensation to the white farmers who are losing their property. In 1995 government amended the constitution and gave itself powers to forcibly acquire land, but giving owners an option to contest the acquisition in a court of law.According to the London Independent newspaper's Africa correspondent, after Zimbabwe became independent, the former colonial power, Great Britain, paid compensation to some commercial farmers who gave up their land. Britain "later froze its payments after Zimbabwe's redistribution program fell short of its target, and a number of prime properties were given to ministers and members of the ruling Zanu-PF ...1
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