Zimbabwe’s highest court ruled the government can seize tractors and equipment white farmers put into storage when they were thrown off their land.

In the ruling made Monday and made available by court officials Tuesday, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku cited land reform laws passed by the ruling-party dominated Parliament in 2002 that permitted equipment seizures “for the benefit of the public and for the purposes of furthering the land reform program.”The ruling was on an appeal by a group of former farmers contesting attempts to seize equipment they took away during often violent farm seizures that began in 2000. Some had had farm machinery in warehouses and storage lots for as long as five years, the Justice for Agriculture group said.”This is another way of looting what little ex-farmers have got left. Most of it is up for sale anyway,” said John Worsely-Worswick, head of the group.The land seizures threw the agriculture-based economy in the former regional breadbasket into disarray. The disruptions led to acute shortages of food and hard currency for imports of gasoline and other essential goods.The government maintains its land seizures program was completed more than a year ago, but some 300 white farmers still on their land have reported a wave of new intimidation and seizures ahead of national presidential and Parliamentary elections scheduled in March.Nine white farmers from the Chegutu district, 70 miles southwest of Harare, were scheduled to reappear in court later this month on charges they ignored eviction orders and refused to leave their properties by Sept. 30. They face up to two years in jail. Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.