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Zimbabwe 'to prosecute 140 white farmers'

Zimbabwe will prosecute 140 white landowners on charges of failing to vacate their farms under the country's controversial 2000 land reform programme, state media reported.

The government ordered the white owners to leave by September 30 to make way for resettlement by landless blacks. 278 farms owned by 13 countries would be spared from government seizure and prosecution under a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements (BIPAs).

Lack of skills
Under President Robert Mugabe's programme, at least 4,000 properties formerly run by white farmers have been seized for redistribution to blacks, the majority of whom lacked the skills and means to farm.

The chaotic programme is held largely responsible for the country's economic crisis, which has saddled Zimbabwe with the world's highest inflation rate and left nearly half the population in need of aid.

Mugabe, however, blames the food crisis on successive droughts and Zimbabwe's economic woes on Western-backed sanctions slapped on him and his aides for allegedly rigging his re-election in 2002.

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