Windhoek — Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday said his government was unapologetic about how it went about taking land from mainly white farmers, saying land was central to his country's liberation struggle.
He was speaking in Windhoek where he paid a one-day courtesy visit on President Hage Geingob, who is deputy chairperson of SADC.
Zimbabwe embarked on a painful land reform at the turn of the century, often characterized by forced removals of white farmers from their farms.
The process was often marked by violence, leading to widespread condemnation by the international community. The Zimbabwean government, then led by Robert Mugabe as president, argued that land was forcefully taken away from blacks by white settlers and that such land needed to be given back to its original owners.
Relentless in its pursuit of restorative justice, Zimbabwe was eventually slapped with economic sanctions to force the government to change its approach - but to no avail.
Land remains a thorny issue in Namibia, with a national land conference postponed twice in the past two years - to the chagrin of the landless masses.
Commenting on the issue of land, Mnangagwa yesterday told Namibians that there is no singular formula to follow in distributing land.
"There is not textbook like in English or mathematics to see how you take your land [back]. Take and see how you have re-done it. That's what we have done in Zimbabwe," he said.
"We didn't look for lessons elsewhere. We made a decision on the concrete situation of Zimbabwe. We had no land and we took it back. We went to war to gain our land from those who took it. There is no text of how to get the land back. If land is yours then you take it back," Mnangagwa reacted to questions on how he would advise Namibia on the land question.
Mnangagwa assured African nations that he would continue to respect and preserve the legacy of Zimbabwe's former leader Mugabe, who resigned as head of state late last year.
With that assurance, it looked as though the government's approach to land would not radically change, as anticipated by many, especially in the West.
"As is our African culture, we will look after him. Give him all the security and comfort possible. He is our founding father of the nation and an icon in African politics and of the region as well as the revolution. That legacy, we are determined to preserve," Mnangagwa said at State House yesterday.
He said he would strive to revive the agricultural sector of Zimbabwe, a country that was once christened Africa's breadbasket.
He stressed that he aims to focus on exports of products such as maize, tobacco, cotton and fruits to African countries.
Geingob and Mnangagwa have vowed to continue strengthening the existing bilateral relations that exist between Namibia and Zimbabwe.
"It's a great day for me that our brother from Zimbabwe came here immediately after assuming power to share his views and tell us how peace and how well organized the process was," Geingob said.
Further, Geingob applauded regional bodies such as SADC, as well as the African Union (AU), for having recognised and endorsed Mnangagwa's presidency without international bodies' interference.
"Thank God we are matured people in Africa. We can solve our own problems especially in SADC and the AU. Today, it's SADC and the AU that decide about the governments - whether we recognize them or not. So, I am glad that my brother is here. We are just continuing. Namibia and Zimbabwe are very close friends. We will maintain our principle positions and that's how we are discussing to re-establish and re-connect at different levels and see how we can continue excellent relations that are there," he noted.
Mnangagwa said Geingob was one of the three presidents who called him to comfort him when he was exiled in South Africa after he was removed as ZANU-PF vice-resident late last year.
According to him, that has now come to pass and therefore he came to brief Geingob that the political transition in Zimbabwe was "very smooth" when he took over the presidency.