Zimbabwe

Time to end farm invasions for good

Twenty years after the fast-track land reform programme was launched, farm invasions are still destabilising the agricultural sector.

‘Henceforth, no more land invasions in whatever form, place or by whomsoever! Be warned!” This was a chilling warning by the Deputy Chief Secretary in charge of Presidential Communications George Charamba via his social media handle on Twitter on Tuesday morning.

Interestingly, the warning shots were fired a few days after this publication exposed Zanu PF functionaries who invaded an expansive 5 000 hectare ranch in Chiredzi where they took over a flourishing 120 hectares of sugar cane plantation and 200 herd of Brahman cattle. The ranch, known as Oscro Farm, belongs to an Italian national Tony Sarpo. Oscro is protected under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) signed between Zimbabwe and Italy in April 1999.

Government’s warning against continued farm invasions comes many years after the land reform programme of 2000. Not that the land redistribution exercise was expected to be a day’s event but two decades without solving the question speaks embarrassing tales of the calibre of those in power. In fact, Zimbabwe has grappled with the land question since 1980 — almost 41 years after independence from British colonial rule. It remains unresolved.

Acquisition of land for redistribution to correct historical injustices is a noble idea. What raises a stink is the chaotic and violent fashion adopted by Zanu PF. The Bippa farm in Chiredzi, was as late as 22 January, 2021, invaded by gun-toting and machete wielding Zanu PF functionaries. This shows lack of respect for property rights and investors frown at such given that Sarpo used private capital to buy the farm in 1987.

Farm grabs dent Zimbabwe’s image regardless of rigorous effort by Harare to court western governments following decades of being a pariah. The economy is seriously battered. External debt has shot over the roof in excess of US$10 billion. A lot needs to be done to rebuild such a battered economy.

Part of the problem that damaged this once prosperous nation, now reduced to a basket case is the chaotic land reform which drove away 4 000 former white commercial farmers. However, efforts are underway to compensate the farmers through a US$3, 5 billion kitty for developments on land. Thus, it was timely for government to make bold policy pronouncement around the land question.

The economy is agro-based and fresh disturbances on the few productive farms is unhelpful. It’s like the proverbial adding salt to the wound! The white minority, under colonialism controlled vast tracts of arable land. They owned the means of production, if we are to go by German philosopher Karl Marx’s perspective.

Colonial land ownership was a clear picture of capitalism which was replaced by socialism and communism by black nationalists. But the post-independence black bourgeois that took over the land proved to be clueless peasants who failed to meaningfully utilize the land. Now government is forced to sheepishly downsize the big farms.

Not that agrarian policies have to treat blacks as less important but those who get the land should produce optimally. Those without capacity should stay away — without flagging the race card.

Fresh farm invasions are bad for production and diplomatic relations. It is needless for Zanu PF charlatans to grab land they can hardly use. – The Zimbabwe Independent.

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