THE two new deputy ministers of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development have called for a stop to renewed illegal farm invasions, saying the country was now a laughing stock for failing to produce enough food for its people.
Paddy Zhanda and Davis Marapira told farmers in Matabeleland at a meeting in Bulawayo last week that illegal farm occupiers were disturbing agricultural productivity and contributing to food insecurity.
Zhanda said some people were invading productive dairy farms at a time when the country was failing to produce enough milk for domestic consumption.
"If you walk into a supermarket today, it's very sad that you find a lot of goods which we don't manufacture ourselves. You will find different milk products, such as yoghurt which is coming from South Africa, yet we have dairy farmers whom we want to emulate from," he said.
"We have dairy farmers who are being threatened every day. Can we go back and revisit, and see if that is the correct way of doing things."
Zhanda said he visited a commercial dairy farmer outside Bulawayo who was producing lot of milk on a small piece of land.
"The farmer is producing milk on a small piece of land, yet we have plenty of unutilised land but we deny him land. Is that correct procedure? Zimbabwe is so big that we can all share this country and make it productive," said a fuming Zhanda.
"If we don't do things correctly, it's only us Zimbabweans who are going to be a shame to other countries. We now don't walk with our heads held high because firstly, we can't even feed ourselves as we are importing maize... it's embarrassing."
He said land redistribution should be done in an orderly manner.
"Someone may say Zhanda does not want the land reform, but I want it in a fashionable way. We should realise where we have gone wrong," said the deputy minister.
New invasions have been reported in different parts of the country, including in Mashonaland Central where some politicians attempted to eject the few remaining white farmers.
But the government has moved in to remove some of the illegal occupiers of farms, some of whom are protected under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Act.
Zimbabwe's agricultural productivity plummeted after the government embarked on a chaotic fast-track land reform programme in 2000, which displaced the 4 500 white farmers and replaced them with thousands of new black farmers.
'LAND INVASIONS ARE AGAINST GOVT POLICY'
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development co-deputy minister Davis Marapira condemned illegal farm seizures.
He said it was embarrassing that the country was importing maize.
"Land invasions are against government policy. We are not doing anything for the government and for ourselves," said Marapira.
He said Zimbabwe was now begging for food and forced to import maize from Zambia and cover a huge deficit due to lack of production.
"We are importing because we are creating problems for ourselves by not following government policy especially on land," said Marapira.
"There is only one person who is responsible for allocating land in Zimbabwe, and that person is the minister of lands and resettlement and no one else."