First white farmer charged with defying Zim government in court

A Zimbabwe court yesterday adjourned the trial of the first white farmer to be charged with defying a government eviction order under the country's controversial land reforms.

A Zimbabwe court yesterday adjourned the trial of the first white farmer to be charged with defying a government eviction order under the country's controversial land reforms.

Magistrate Winfielda Tiatara postponed the trial of John Norman Eastwood to December 17 at a hearing in the town of Chegutu after being told by prosecutors that they had not been handed vital documents.

"The trial cannot kick off because the lands office did not supply the state (prosecution) with the necessary papers requested by the defence counsel," prosecutor Allan Chifokoyo told the court.

Eastwood's lawyer David Drury wants the state to justify why his client's Harmony Farm in Chegutu, 100km northwest of Harare, was targeted for expropriation.

He also demanded the identity of government officials on the committee which earmarked the farm for seizure, the list of criteria used to select the farm, and the minutes of the meeting where the decision to take over the property was made.

Eastwood was to become the first of scores of white farmers to be tried across Zimbabwe for remaining on their properties after a September ultimatum to vacate and make way for black farmers.

Earlier this month, Eastwood and 10 other white farmers lost a bid to stay on their farms while appealing the eviction orders at the supreme court.

About 4000 farmers were forced to hand over their land in what was championed as a programme to right the injustices of the colonial era. Many of the farms ended up in the hands of government supporters.

Less than 400 white farmers are believed to be still operating in Zimbabwe. The government's programme has been blamed for food shortages. - Sapa-AFP

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