Ian Smith's farm seized in Zimbabwe as Robert Mugabe eyes election

Ian Smith, 1976 Ian Smith was Rhodesia's prime minister from 1964 until 1979

The farm of former white minority leader Ian Smith has been seized by Zimbabwe's government.

Mr Smith led Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known, when its forces battled Robert Mugabe's guerrillas in the 1970s.

Most white-owned land has been confiscated for redistribution to black farmers since 2000. Mr Smith's farm, known as Gwenoro, had been left alone.

The seizure came as Mr Mugabe addressed thousands of his supporters, ahead of elections expected in 2013.

Zimbabwe's land-reform programme has been widely blamed for its economic collapse in recent years.

BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding says Gwenoro was perhaps the most symbolic of all Zimbabwe's white-owned farms.

It was where Mr Smith bred cattle and lived for most of his adult life, even after he lost power in 1979.

His ashes were scattered there after he died in 2007.

The farm has been handed over to a local technical college - a move some are linking to next year's election.

Foreign firms targeted

Mr Mugabe, 88, is running for another term.

Our correspondent says land ownership remains a highly politicised, emotive issue, and seizing Mr Smith's farm may be seen as a vote-winner.

The AFP news agency also reports that Mr Mugabe on Friday told delegates to his party conference that he wanted to seize full control of foreign-owned companies.

His government has already passed an indigenisation law, which forced companies to cede 51% of shares to Zimbabweans.

"I think now we have done enough of 51%. Let it be 100%," he told thousands of Zanu-PF delegates.

The indigenisation policy is opposed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who will once more run against Mr Mugabe in the election.

The pair agreed to share power after disputes over the last election caused the economy to go into freefall.

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