MDC slams Mugabe's fresh land grab threat

HARARE - Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC has slammed President Robert Mugabe’s threats to the few remaining white farmers to quit their land and make way for landless black youths.

Mugabe has ordered 400 remaining commercial farmers to leave their land without compensation under a controversial programme to seize white-owned farms and hand them over to the black majority.

The doddering nonagenarian told thousands of his ruling Zanu PF party supporters in the farming town of Marondera last month that white commercial farmers who still remain on the farms should be removed from their properties.

“We are going to take those farms and re-distribute them to our youths, some of whom did not benefit from the land reform programme but the land would not be enough for everybody. We are also going to take away the land from small-scale purchase farmers who are not utilising those farms for re-distribution,” Mugabe said.

At a Zanu PF youth interface rally in Masvingo last weekend,  Zanu PF youth leader Kudzanai Chipanga also urged Mugabe to expropriate farms in the province and give at least five hectares to the youth.

Mugabe and his allies have seized nearly three quarters of the country’s commercial farms in a land grab widely blamed for economic collapse.

In power since independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe claims his land drive is aimed at correcting colonial injustice, which left 70 percent of the country’s best land in the hands of whites who made up less than one percent of the population.

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said the MDC was “extremely concerned by the retrogressive and blatantly racist call for the compulsory acquisition of all farms that are still being occupied by the few remaining white farmers”.

“The fact of the matter is that a lot of commercial farm land is lying idle right now and if a transparent land reform audit would be undertaken by the government, a lot of farms can be made available for resettlement by all those deserving Zimbabweans who have applied for land,” Gutu said yesterday.

Critics say Mugabe has bought the loyalty of Cabinet ministers, senior army and government officials and judges with nearly 5m hectares or 12,5m acres of agricultural land, including wildlife conservancies and plantations.

Human Rights Watch director Dewa Mavhinga said: “The land was taken in the name of redressing colonial injustices but also what has been happening are systematic and latent processes of self-enrichment exercises by Zimbabwe’s ruling elite.”

Government documents and audit reports show the biggest beneficiaries of land reform were Zanu PF members and supporters, security service chiefs and officers and traditional chiefs who have openly sided with Mugabe and senior government officials and judges.

Gutu said: “We would like the land reform programme to be streamlined and rationalised to ensure that a person will only be allocated one farm and thus, do away with the corrupt scourge of multiple farm ownership that is rampant among the ruling elite.

“We would also like to assure all resettled farmers that an MDC government will not take away their land. If anything, we will capacitate resettled farmers and offer them security of tenure so that land immediately ceases to be used as a tool for political patronage.”

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