Land grabs hinder economic revival

HARARE - Government’s continued land grabs will worsen the country’s economic situation by pushing away investors.

Last week, government gazetted 23 white-owned farms for acquisition, but we strongly feel that it’s now time Zimbabwe puts the land reform exercise to bed and politicians must not use land as a political tool at the expense of the economy.

The continued kicking out of the remaining white farmers from their commercial farms does not only scupper business re-engagements efforts between Zimbabwe and the West, but also scares potential investors away from the country.

And this latest wave of farm invasions coming a few days after President Robert Mugabe assured investors of protection once they come into the country, smacks of hypocrisy and policy inconsistency on the part of the Zanu PF-led government.

This is because what investors — both domestic and foreign — expect is a clear, predictable legal framework, security of tenure and respect for the rule of law. This is true for all sectors of the economy including the agricultural sector, regardless of the colour and nationality of those who occupy the land.

While we are not advocating for the reversal of the land reform programme, we feel that Mugabe’s regime should not be allowed to continue abusing land by parcelling it out to cronies at the expense of white farmers.

It is now apparently clear to all and sundry that after 15 years of the chaotic land reform, most of Zimbabwe’s agro-based economy has collapsed as crops can no longer be produced in good quantities by the new farmers that took over the land post-2000.

For instance, interlinkages between the sectors, especially between agriculture and manufacturing, were decimated through the fast track land reform programme, which began a worsening disarticulation of the economy and wrenching structural changes that will have far reaching consequences for recovery.

The largest bumper harvest recorded in Zimbabwe after independence was 2,8 million tonnes of maize in 1981 followed by 2,7 million tonnes in 1985.

Official figures also show that maize production declined sharply following implementation of the land reform programme from 2,1 million tonnes in 2000 to 1,5 million tonnes in 2001 and 500 000 tonnes in 2002.

The highest wheat production was 325 000 tonnes in 1990, but this declined from 2000 due to the displacement of commercial farmers. Large-scale commercial farmers with most of the irrigation infrastructure were the main producers of wheat.

With these statistics and facts at our disposal, there is no need for continued land grabs. In fact we should embrace all productive farmers and learn from them so that Zimbabwe can recover its breadbasket status.

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