Zimbabwe: government lays claim to church-run farm

 The Zimbabwean government has laid claim to the church-run Driefontein farm in Masvingo - in violation of a pledge not to take over farms run by religious organisations. The farm, where one of the country's biggest infectious diseases hospitals, Driefontein Mission Hospital is based, is owned by the Catholic Church. The hospital is the main referral centre for tuberculosis patients in Masvingo, parts of Midlands and Mashonaland east provinces. The government issued a Section 8 order against the farm last Friday. Under the government's Land Acquisition Act, the order is a formal notice on the church to wind up operations and vacate the property within 90 days from the date of issue. Lands Minister Joseph Made, in charge of the land acquisition programme, could not be reached yesterday to establish whether the government also planned to take over the hospital. An official at the Catholic Diocese of Gweru under which Driefontein falls said the church had not yet been officially informed of plans by the state to take over the farm. He said: "We have not been advised of the intention by the government to compulsorily take over the farm. However, we will discuss the matter this coming week and see how we can respond." Before Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, the Catholic Church built schools and hospitals at farms it owned across the country to provide education and health care services to blacks who were marginalised by the country's former white rulers. President Robert Mugabe was educated at the Catholic-run Kutama Mission in his Zvimba rural home. Out of Zimbabwe's 124 mission hospitals, 47 are run by the Catholic Church making it the country's second biggest provider of health care services after the government. Source: ZW News

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