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‘We Are Coming After You’ – Govt Warns ‘Cell Phone’ Farmers

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By Anna Chibamu recently in Mhangura


RESETTLED farmers not fully utilising their land have been told to surrender their properties or risk losing the farms to other deserving and productive citizens.

The latest threats were issued by Mashonaland West provincial minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka Thursday while touring Mucherengi and Summerhill farms in Mhangura.

The minister said it was time for non-productive farmers to immediately surrender their farms or risk being kicked out of the land.

She said government would usher in new productive farmers as farming was a business venture unsuitable for “cell phone farmers”.

Cell phone farmers is a term coined in Zimbabwe to refer to farmers who are in the habit of managing their farming projects through issuing instructions to workers on the ground using the electronic communication gadget from the comfort of their (farmers) homes in urban areas.

“There are a lot of people sitting on idle land. We cannot leave any land lying idle and having no productivity on that land. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is speaking of productivity, sustainability and profitability. So we are, therefore, supposed to put our plough on the soil to produce,” she said.

“We are aware there are a lot of people with idle land they are hiding. We are coming after you. We cannot afford it in this day and age. If you know that you cannot manage the land you have, give it up.”

The government embarked on a controversial land reform programme in the early 2000s, which benefitted millions of black Zimbabweans after the removal of white farmers.

However, the programme has seen Zimbabwe relying on food imports, and donor support as the majority of the resettled farmers have been unable to fully utilise their land due to lack of resources and finances, coupled with recurrent droughts.

Also on tour of the two farms with Mliswa-Chikoka was the Minister of State in the Office of the President and Cabinet in charge of special agriculture-related programmes, David Marapira.

He also concurred with Mliswa-Chikoka and urged non-productive farmers to immediately surrender their farms.

“You are free to come to the governor’s (provincial minister) office and give up the land and remain with what you can manage so that everyone benefits. This is so because many people are clinging to land that they are not able to use,” said Marapira.

“We as government, we no longer tolerate that. Some are absentee farmers staying in Harare. Stay at your farm.”

Mliswa-Chikoka told guests at the two farms that farming was a “huge business”, and not suitable for “cell phone farmers”.

“We are saying, farming is now a form huge business. So, be there on the farm always. Show a keen interest in this type of business. Please do not label us as a cruel government when we come for you because all we want is productivity in the province and Zimbabwe at large.”

According to the resident minister, most resettled farmers in Mashonaland West had resorted to timber plantations, which are of no benefit to an ordinary food consumer.

“Some of you are putting gumtree plantations. Do we consume gum trees? Why are you having those gum trees? We will relocate you if you cannot use water bodies on your farms. Please tell others who are not here about this new development,” she said.

Meanwhile, Lands Minister Anxious Masuka has issued a notice of intention to withdraw land offers to six beneficiaries in Zvimba district also in Mashonaland West province for failing to take up the offers.

“Notice is hereby given that the Minister of Lands…intends to withdraw the offer of land made to the following beneficiaries; Noko. I, Chikara. T, Mandere. A, Ravenewako, Matibiri. Z, and Musimurimwa. T,” Masuka’s notice reads in part.

He gave the reason for the seizures as; “not take up”.

“The above-listed beneficiaries are invited to make any representations they may have on this matter in writing.”