Zimbabwean Vice President Joseph Msika is speaking up for the country's remaining white farmers, declaring that if the government evicts or bars them from working the land as some hardliners propose, it would be "shooting (itself) in the foot."
Leading the hardline faction is Security and Land Reform Minister Didymus Mutasa, who suggested last week that white farmers should be barred from the land because they continue to lodge court challenges of farm evictions despite a 2005 amendment to the constitution that nationalized all farm land and swept aside legal appeals.
Only about 600 white farmers remain in Zimbabwe of an original group of 4,000. Most were driven off their farms by land reform, often carried out through armed invasions by veterans of the 1970s liberation struggle or those purporting to be such.
The Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe is welcoming Msika's moderate stance on the place in the country of its experienced white farmers, some of whom are hoping to at least work the land if not own it outright. But an official of the organization said it is watching to see if the government will match such rhetoric with concrete action.
Union Vice President Trevor Gifford told reporter Chinedu Offor of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his group remains optimistic its members can get back on the land.
Reporter Offor also spoke with senior researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, who argued that despite the policy conflict between Msika and Mutasa, harare realizes that it made mistakes in land reform.