"The former owners or representatives should contact the ministry of lands, land reform and resettlement as a matter of urgency in connection with their compensation," the minister said.

 

President Mugabe said the campaign to seize lands was aimed at rectifying historical wrongs and imbalances favouring British colonial settlers and other white farmers.

  

He ignored bands of veterans of the country's 1970s liberation war as they led the farm seizures, often occupying them after violent attacks.

 

Lukewarm response

  

Emily Crookes, a spokeswoman for the Commercial Farmers Union [CFU] representing white farmers said on Thursday: "There has not been a big response from our members so far in terms of the published list.

 

"Just one or two have popped in just to have a look at the list. The problem is that most of the farmers are not in the country."

   

Crookes questioned whether the government would compensate the  farmers for the land or structures on it.

  

"I think that the government will only be paying for developments on the land. They have previously stated that payments will only be for developments and not the real value of land," she said.

  

On Thursday last week, Mugabe handed out 99-year land leases to  mostly black farmers and said the former owners should not expect  government compensation.

  

Crookes said some farmers had previously asked the government for individual written compensation notices, but got no response.

  

In October, the CFU said the government had paid out nearly $3.3 million in compensation to dispossessed farmers but most of its members had  rejected the offers as too low.

  

Critics say the fast-track land reforms led to a slide in agricultural production, once the bedrock of the Zimbabwean economy, which is now labouring under four-digit inflation and previously unheard of food shortages.

  

At least 500 white farmers still remain in Zimbabwe while many others have emigrated to other countries in Africa such as Mozambique, Nigeria and Zambia.