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Mnangagwa admits to land reform errors

Emmerson Mnangagwa has admitted that the haphazard land reform programme caused a serious dip in farm productivity.

Zimbabwe went through a chaotic land redistribution in the early 2000s, which was meant to correct past historical imbalances.

This resulted in former white commercial farmers losing their farms to mostly the elite in Zanu-PF.

While admitting that the exercise robbed Zimbabwe of its breadbasket status, Mnangagwa told the white community during a gathering at Borrowdale Racecourse in Harare yesterday that whatever happened now belongs in the past.

"In 1999 and 2000, we left the Commonwealth after quarrelling with Britain. As Zanu-PF, we met with (then) president Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja, Nigeria.

"At that time, it was said we should stop the land reform if we wanted to remain in the Commonwealth because it was chaotic and would disrupt the economy," he said.

"I was minister of Justice at the time and I was able to advise my president (Robert Mugabe) at a Masvingo conference and we were in total agreement.

"We chose to leave the Commonwealth and pursue the land reform. Whether that was right or wrong, that is history.

"We corrected the land imbalance in the country. Now it is behind us.

"The critical thing is that during land reform, productivity collapsed totally, we moved from self-sufficiency to an insecure nation. We began importing — we became a beggar," Mnangagwa said.

According to the Commercial Farmers Union, an estimated 250 000 herd of cattle were forcibly destocked as a result of the invasions that occurred during the land reform.

About 1,6 million hectares of grazing land were burnt out and commercial maize planting dropped to 45 000 hectares from 150 000 hectares by December 2001.

By February 2002, Zimbabwe which was once an exporter of grain received its first consignment of donated maize and emergency food distribution from the World Food Programme.

Mnangagwa said the task ahead for Zimbabwe was to make the land productive again as it was before the land reform.

He said the idea was to invite skilled personnel who are well-versed in new technologies currently being used in modern agricultural economies to help increase productivity.

The president also emphasised that there will be no new farm invasions or discrimination based on race in terms of who gets land.

"I met farmers and assured them that they should feel secure and invest because of the 99-year leases.

"The lease is renewable and everything possible has been done to make it tradable.

"This issue of new invasions is a thing of the past. I have told the leadership in the provinces that the rule of law must now apply.

"Some chefs were running down farms. Some are even on their fourth farm. They see a farm which is productive and seize it. That time is done. Many of us sitting here have acquired multiple farms.

"Everyone who has many farms should only have one.

"That must apply to everyone including myself and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga.

"No one should have a farm for his wife, children and grandchildren.

"We are downsizing the farms. We want to do away with the animal farm mentality," Mnangagwa said.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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