9 February 2018

Zimbabwe: 'Land Reform Irreversible'

Land reform is irreversible as it is one of the legacies that former President Cde Robert Mugabe left for Zimbabweans, Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) board chairperson Mr Basil Nyabadza has said.

Refuting private media reports that he had described the agrarian reform as a "great mistake, which drove away white commercial farmers and crippled the agriculture sector", Mr Nyabadza said the programme was ideal as it benefited hundreds of thousands of landless Zimbabweans.

"I cannot lead Arda while I have misgivings with the land reform programme," he said. "If anything, my responsibility is to ensure that land is fully utilised and there is evidence of that throughout the country. Land reform is irreversible and it's a done deal.

"The legacy left by the former President is land and education, which he invested for the entire nation. I did not meet the (NewsDay) journalist in question last week as he implied. I regard myself as a foot soldier within the agriculture sector, so to me this is an intention to injure my name, to cast doubt on my principals or pursuance of a hidden agenda by the writer."

Mr Nyabadza said white commercial farmers were welcome as long as they conformed to the country's dictates.

"We welcome those who want to extract value from the land with Zimbabweans and conforming to the rules and regulations of our country," he said.

"We, Zimbabweans retain capacity as ably demonstrated by the Command Agriculture programme where we attained 2,5 million tonnes of maize last season. This confirms that we have the resources, skills and intent to be food secure as a nation.

"Naturally, we are now open for business, meaning those who want to invest are welcome, but must conform to the minimum positions of our statutes. We are working well in the agriculture sector and despite the weather we are still assured of a good harvest."

Government has directed that all remaining white commercial farmers be issued with 99-year leases, a marked policy shift from the previous arrangement where they could only get five-year leases.

The directive is in line with President Mnangagwa's policy position as enunciated in his inauguration address on November 24 last year when he called for the restoration of confidence in the agricultural sector.

There are approximately 200 white commercial farmers still farming countrywide.

President Mnangagwa has since pronounced that white former commercial farmers willing to come back were free to do so, but had to apply for land like anyone else.

While the new administration has reiterated the need to compensate white former commercial farmers, it has also moved in to enforce a ban on new illegal farm occupations.


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