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Zimbabwe's agricultural landscape changes - again

30/12/2016 00:00:00
by Peta Thornycroft I IOL
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa

HARARE: Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa says there should be no more farm invasions as they scare off investors.

President Robert Mugabe agreed to allow invasions of white-owned farms from 2000 which quickly crashed the economy which was heavily dependent on agricultural exports.

Several times in recent years, various members of the government said that farm occupations should end, but they continued, at a much slower rate, and often took place when local polititicans went after certain pieces of land in their home area.

No white person can, in effect, own agricultural land in Zimbabwe. So far 3,000 white farmers who owned seven million hactares of land were evicted and have claimed compensation from the government for improvements to the land they bought, mostly since 1980 independence.

During presentation of the recent budget, Chinamasa said that farmers should increase production and should not take any more land: “With the Fast Track Land Reform having been concluded, there is need to cease further farm invasions to allow existing farmers to focus on production.”

Continuous land invasions threaten existing farmers and scare away potential on-farm investment Chinamasa said, and claimed that invasions “undermined the restoration of the country’s breadbasket status. “There is disappointment on non-utilisation of the vast tracts of land under most Government institutions, which requires urgent attention, given food security concerns.”

President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace invaded and took over more formerly white-owned farms than any other family.

All previously white-owned land, including that taken by the first family was nationalised in 2005. Chinamasa said that the government was encouraging “joint ventures,” to ensure maximum utilisation of the land.”

Unusual joint ventures

Several unusual farm joint ventures or parternerships emerged in 2016.

A major Zimbabwe commercial bank asked several evicted white farmers to go to a farm which was previously handed to a senior Zanu PF official to try to get it going again.

The “new farmer” borrowed money from the bank to run the farm but failed to produce and then abandoned it and returned to his former life in Harare.

The bank, which lent substantially to many “new farmers” post 2000, is trying to recover some of its loans, in this case, using a former farmer, who happens to be white, and who wanted to return to the land.


“We have no security of tenure,” the white farmer said this week.

“I am doing this because I want to farm. I love it. So, I have returned to Zimbabwe, and I don’t know where this is going, but we are giving it our best," he said.

The farm he took over was one of the richest in the country but is desolate now.

In another part of the country about 200 mostly younger relatives or friends of evicted white farmers are now working chunks of formerly white-owned land and are growing crops including large tracts of maize this season when most farmers are choosing to grow more profitable tobacco.

This group of farmers began returning to the land in the last three years.

“They are not investing, and are not making homes out there,” said one white farmer who has managed to remain on his land throughout the invasion period.


"They are just farming. More or less, as mercenaries and are doing ok, and the locals are helping them a lot. In fact, it is going very well.

"Some of them are paying a small rental to the white farmer who was kicked off as well as the Zanu PF ‘beneficiary’ of the land.”

He asked not to be identified as his farm is partially occupied by some Zanu PF heavyweights.

Chinamasa, who took and abandoned at least two farms beforre settling on the one now used by his family, said agricultural production required long-term investment which was compensated for by long pay-back periods.

Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is a successful farmer over many years, has protected some white farmers in his home area in central Zimbabwe.

Many analysts believe he, should he succeed Mugabe, would like to see some white farmers, or their sons, return to the land as tenants of state land and help restart the agricultural economy which is presently dependent on destructive tobacco production.

Zimbabwe, once a food exporter has not been able to feed itself since the land invasions began.

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