Carrington backs Zimbabwe farmers

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By Andrew Unsworth: London
Sunday 20 Oct 2002

Lord Carrington, who chaired the Lancaster House conference that led to the end of white minority rule in Zimbabwe, has joined in the growing controversy over Prime Minister Tony Blair's government's reluctance to support white farmers who have been evicted from land in Zimbabwe.

In a question tabled in the House of Lords this week, Carrington asked whether the British government was prepared to use money earmarked for land reform more than 20 years ago to help farmers now left destitute.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, he said that funds were available for land redistribution in 1979.

"What we intended to do at the Lancaster House negotiations and subsequently was to help Zimbabwean farmers on a willing buyer-willing seller basis, and to help the Zimbabwean government ... to make more farms available to black farmers," he said this week. "It all fell down because the Zimbabwean government gave farms to their own cronies and the British government of the day decided the money could not be used on that basis."

He said the government's response to this had been to "waffle" . No specific sum was pledged originally, but ?44-million (about R750-million) had been given to Zimbabwe up to 2000.

The Conservative Party has accused the British government of complacency over the plight of people fleeing Zimbabwe, and comparisons have been made with the response to the expulsion of Asians from Uganda by Idi Amin 30 years ago.

Prince Charles recently wrote to Blair pointing out that Zimbabweans arriving in Britain faced difficulties claiming benefits, getting work and finding schools for their children.

The prince has a distant relative who has lost his farm in Zimbabwe: the Queen's second cousin Simon.

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