Zimbabwe's main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party led by Morgan Tsvangirai has castigated President Robert Mugabe over his recent threats to embark on fresh land grabs targeting the few remaining white commercial farmers in the southern African country.
Mugabe, 93, on Friday said that white commercial farmers who still remained on the farms should be removed from their properties because most Zimbabweans were in need of land.
The nonagenarian said this while addressing thousands of his ruling Zanu-PF party supporters in the farming town of Marondera, about 80km east of the capital Harare.
"We told (former British premier) Tony Blair to keep his England and we keep our Zimbabwe because land is our heritage. We have discovered that in Mashonaland East province alone where Ray Kaukonde was the resident minister, there are 73 white commercial farmers who are still occupying some farms when our people do not have land," said Mugabe speaking in the local Shona language.
But the MDC said Mugabe's plans to target the few remaining "productive white farmers" would worsen the country's already battered economy.
Resettled black farmers
"The resolution to take away all farms that are presently owned by the few whites who are engaged in commercial agriculture is absolutely nonsensical, racist, primitive and retrogressive," said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu.
For his part, Mugabe alleged that the MDC was a puppet of the West and was bent on trying to reverse his government's controversial land reform programme.
"We should focus more on capacitating the resettled black farmers instead of grabbing the farms that belong to the few white people who are still on their farms," said Gutu.
Meanwhile, one of Tsvangirai's deputies, Nelson Chamisa, told News24 that Mugabe's remarks were an indication that Zanu-PF party was "descending down a very dangerous slippery slope".
Said Chamisa: "Mugabe's remarks are a final nail in the coffin of the already dead Zimbabwean economy. Mugabe is out of turn, out of purpose, out of time and out of relevance. He has lost his original revolutionary progressive sense of purpose and direction. It is clear that he has reduced the once great Zimbabwe to a Zimbabwe ruins if not a complete rubble."
The Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union says more than 4000 white farmers were affected during the land invasions embarked on by Mugabe's administration in 2000.Some of the white farmers that were kicked out of their properties during the agrarian reforms have now set base in neighbouring countries such as Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.