The heads of Roman Catholic orders of priests and nuns in Zimbabwe have expressed concern about political violence here and about hundreds of thousands of workers on white-owned farms who face redundancy through President Robert Mugabe's controversial land resettlement scheme.

In a statement at the weekend, the Conference of Religious Superiors of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, which gathers together 40 heads of religious orders and congregations (nuns and priests), both black and white, said they were "deeply pained" by the suffering of the people in the country. While the clergy recognized the need for the land reform—in which white-owned land is being given to black Zimbabweans—the exercise was now part of a "political power game," the Catholic leaders said.

Mugabe's government is pressing ahead with the scheme under a fast-track resettlement program that the Supreme Court has ruled illegal.

The program casts doubt on the future of more than 450,000 farm workers employed by whites. Most of the workers are from neighboring Mozambique, Zambia, and Malawi.

The Catholic leaders said: "We are in agreement that our people should possess more productive land, that the land be shared among our people in a more equitable way. Yet we are very concerned that the fast-track land distribution inflicts untold misery on the farm laborers and their families who are made redundant."

The government intends to acquire at least 3,000 white-owned farms as part of the resettlement scheme. However, the program has been criticized for failing to provide training and title deeds to the resettled black farmers, another point raised by the Catholic leaders.

Since July last year, the government has resettled about 70,000 poor black families on three ...

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