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Zimbabwe Farm Takeovers Surge; ZANU-PF Gears Up to Oppose Land Audit

  • Gibbs Dube

Herbert Murerwa Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement

Herbert Murerwa Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement

Former president Trevor Gifford of the Commercial Farmers Union reported a surge in land invasions, saying ZANU-PF hardliners are pushing such takeovers because they want to see the national unity government collapse

Farm invasions continue in Zimbabwe under the banner of land reform with the issuance of some 200 new letters of offer to prospective new owners issued by the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement this month.

Former president Trevor Gifford of the Commercial Farmers Union said there has been a new surge in land invasions around the country, saying hardliners in the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe are pushing such takeovers because they want to see the national unity government collapse.

The Movement for Democratic Change formation headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has urged a stop to farm takeovers arguing that the country must turn to rebuilding rather than eliminating agricultural capacity and that farm takeovers deter foreign investors concerned about the rule of law.

President Mugabe launched land reform about a decade ago on the premise that arable land should be returned to indigenous black Zimbabweans from whom it was seized by mainly British white settlers in the 19th century.

Gifford said nearly all of the country's 4,000 formerly white owned commercial farms are now designated for takeover under the land reform program.

Meanwhile, after after resolving in its recent congress to step up the pace of land redistribution, ZANU-PF is gearing up to block the national land audit that was called for under the September 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing to identify multiple farm owners and fallow fields.

ZANU-PF sources said senior members including top security officers, police and senior officials of the Central Intelligence Organization will resist the audit which they view as an MDC subterfuge to undo land reform.

The sources said most senior party officials have multiple farms that are idle or underutilized and are determined not to let representatives of the unity government conduct audits of the properties they control.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has earmarked US$31 million dollars to fund the audit in 2010.

Political analyst Joshua Mhambi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that it would be difficult to carry out such an audit and that it was also unrealistic to expect that the divisive land reform issue could be resolved any time soon.

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