The ZANU PF provincial leadership in Mashonaland West is reported to have given an ultimatum to white commercial farmers "operating illegally" by leasing land from black farmers. They have been told to end their lease arrangements and shut down by May 15th.
According to the state-run Herald newspaper, the ultimatum was issued to 50 white farmers at a meeting with ZANU-PF's provincial leaders, which took place in Chinhoyi last Friday. Black farmers leasing out their land illegally also stand to lose their allocations.
The Herald said the ultimatum applies to white farmers "operating illegally on land acquired by the State for resettlement purposes" in Mashonaland West province.
The May 15th deadline was reportedly decided on at an earlier meeting Thursday, attended by ZANU PF provincial leaders only, and chaired by Faber Chidarikire, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs. That date is said to have been picked to allow the white farmers time to harvest their current crop, the Herald said.
But John Worsley-Worswick of Justice for Agriculture (JAG) described the development as a political move by ZANU PF to remove all white farmers still operating in Mashonaland West province, which the party views as their last political stronghold.
"Mashonaland West has always been a hot spot and one of the ZANU PF strongholds in terms of farming areas. White farmers who were kicked off have entered into arrangements with black farmers who have not been able to make a success of their properties. This has been a real thorn in the side of ZANU PF," Worswick said.
He added that ZANU PF provincial chefs are also grabbing properties with some urgency, given that very few properties are left and succession battles within the party are intensifying. They see the province as the last frontier for looting.
"It's a combination of the election last year that gave them total control and enables them to do it. They are also trying to get the farmers to get off this way, rather than by way of jambanja, which attracts bad publicity and they can no longer afford to pay thugs to take the farms," Worswick explained.
According to The Herald, Vice chairman of the provincial lands committee Temba Mliswa said, "some white farmers have been recommended to stay by the communities they operate in".
But Worswick saw this differently. He said resettled farmers with no farming expertise and who have done nothing with the land allocated to them, have been negotiating lease agreements with white commercial farmers who use the land profitably. The black farmers do not want these arrangements terminated.