Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday took a swipe at some beneficiaries of the Land Reform Programme, including some traditional leaders who are leasing out farms to former white farmers describing them as sellouts who are betraying the liberation struggle.
He said the practice should stop forthwith. Officially opening the Annual National Chiefs’ Conference at the Large City Hall in Bulawayo, President Mugabe said people should use the land instead of being cajoled into dubious arrangements. The President said beneficiaries of the agrarian reform who enter into such arrangements risked having their farms repossessed.
“We hear that there are some former white farmers who are coming back via the back door, offering you tractors, centre pivots saying they just want to help you. They tell you to stay in town while they farm for you, harvest then share the yield. We say no to such. Never should we allow our land to be repossessed by whites. Some got land when they are not able to use it. They are working in cities letting white farmers work on the land. If you don’t want to use the land, tell us openly not to clandestinely enter into arrangements with former white farmers coming from Johannesburg (South Africa).
We will chase both you and your white farmer from that land. This land was fought for,” he said.
President Mugabe said no former white farmer was welcome back into Zimbabwe.
“These whites are coming back here pretending to be humble as if they have no blemish and coax you into these arrangements. No, we don’t want that.
They should stay there in Johannesburg,” he said.
The President added that the land was sacred and indigenous Zimbabweans should jealously protect it from being repossessed by the former commercial farmers.
“Those that got farms should not think that they own the land. The land is sacred. You were only given that land to work on it and produce food. When you die you will leave the land for your family and those that will come after you. In our culture chiefs are the custodians of the land. People are the owners of the land, in so far as they use it when they die they leave that land for others,” he said.
The President said he was surprised to hear that some traditional leaders were yet to benefit from the Land Reform Programme.
He said the Government would also look into the issue. Some chiefs had earlier, during the conference, raised the issue with Minister of Lands, and Rural Resettlement Dr Douglas Mombeshora. President Mugabe said he would discuss with the Ministry of Lands and Rural Settlement to ensure that some of the chiefs’ subjects who are yet to benefit from the land redistribution programme get land.
“I was surprised to hear that some chiefs don’t have farms. Everywhere where Government repossessed farms we made sure that chiefs were involved. If that was not done we would want to hear why. However, there are some chiefs who are greedy and want more than one farm. We can’t have that. We also want to ensure that those people in your areas who don’t have land are allocated land. We will be talking to the Minister of Lands to see how we can get these people land,” he said.
President Mugabe denounced some greedy beneficiaries who are holding on to large tracts of land while other people did not have land. He said the Government was carrying out a land audit that would be looking at resizing large farms and redistributing the land to other landless Zimbabweans.
“We have those that have farms as big as 500 hectares, 1 000 hectares and so on. Some even have farms as big as 2 000 hectares where they say they are into cattle ranching. It’s being greedy and selfish. We say to them, why don’t you farm grass for your cattle?. So now we are looking at these big farms to cut them and give others. The greediness should end,” he decreed.
President Mugabe also thanked traditional leaders for supporting the Command Agriculture Programme which he described as a success.
He said with such support into the beckoning summer cropping season coupled with promising good rains, the country was set for another bumper harvest to shame nay-saying former white farmers who were now based in neighbouring countries.
“We also thank you for supporting Command Agriculture. Others were saying it won’t work but we proved them wrong. There are former white farmers now based in Zambia who thought our programme would fail. Now this year we want to shut them up. We want to record another bumper harvest,” he said.
President Mugabe said he had been informed by the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Dr Joseph Made that the rainy season would start in earnest in the next few days and urged farmers to be prepared. The Annual National Chiefs’ Conference was held under the theme “Promoting traditional leadership practices that safeguard culture and heritage for sustainable rural development in line with the Zim Asset blueprint.” Vice-Presidents Cdes Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko as well as several Government ministers and other officials attended the official opening of the conference.