Zero Reform in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe once fed much of southern Africa. Now it can't feed its own people. A long drought is partly to blame, but most of the responsibility rests with President Robert Mugabe.

Mr. Mugabe, a hero of his country's struggle to end white minority rule, has decided for the past two years to refight that battle in Zimbabwe's fertile, and once very productive, countryside.

His campaign to forcibly remove white farmers and redistribute their land to blacks has populist appeal. British settlers at the end of the 19th century seized the best land, and whites still farm half that land. It's an injustice overdue for adjustment.

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But Mugabe's way of addressing it is bringing chaos, not justice. Police are now starting to round up hundreds of farmers who ignored the government's Aug. 8 deadline to leave.

The time is ripe for international and regional pressures to be concentrated on Mugabe, to keep him from deepening the crisis. Zimbabwe's neighbors, particularly South Africa, need to break out of their silent tolerance of Mugabe's authoritarian ways and push for a negotiated settlement of the land issue. Plans to compensate farmers must be worked out.

A quieting of the situation might partially revive Zimbabwe's agricultural sector – something that would benefit the country's people much more than Mugabe's botched, politically motivated "land reform."

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