Harare, Zimbabwe

Linda Masarira, leader of the  Labour Economists and Afrikan Democats (LEAD), opposition party, has slammed the country’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, for initiating the land compensation program to some white commercial farmers who were dispossessed of their farms more than a decade ago, during the land reform program under the stewardship of the late former President, Robert Mugabe.

“The land question is the most important issue that caused our ancestors to engage in the first Chimurenga, the second Chimurenga was fought on the same issue of the land question. The government is trying to gain favor from the western world by reversing the land reform, they are betraying and spitting on those who sacrificed their lives to regain our land back. Our leadership failed to play their part in educating the new farmers that farming is a business, they failed to have a close monitoring and evaluation system to motivate new farmers to produce and feed the nation. The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) at some point failed to pay farmers for the grains they had delivered, that created some negative minds in the new farmers.

Our government failed to have proper follow up mechanisms of all inputs that they distributed to new farmers neither did they audit the inputs. There were no proper frameworks to monitor if inputs being distributed were being put to correct use, farming fuel was sold on black market, and fertilizer was being sold and taken to Zambia and Malawi. All that happened under the same leadership that wants to do a land reform reversal today.

The proposed land reform reversal by government is a reversal of the gains of the independence struggle. We believe that government is being unfair to native Zimbabweans who were displaced to region five areas by the same people who are being compensated today. Our grandmothers and grandfathers were removed from arable to hot, unproductive land yet our own government has never even discussed on how they were going to be compensated.

I beg you all to revisit the main objectives of the second Chimurenga and the main sticking points agreed upon at the Lancaster House Conference. The notion our land, our heritage, is not a joke, even if we are underutiliing it. Issues of this nature take time, which when done right will allow for true commercial farmers to arise from the current stock of resettled farmers or the next generation.

Those who say this isn’t a reversal please give us the appropriate wording which corresponds to a reversal and differentiate from the ones we have. This is pure reversal. If the land reform was done properly from the start we wouldn’t be witnessing all these problems. Land should have been given to those who have the capacity and knowledge to utilize it. This didn’t happen, land was given on basis of political affiliation and what we got as a result is chaos cronyism, resettled farmers were set up to fail without access to finance. Populist strategies are rarely well thought out but this is probably the only country where if you go into business you pretty much pay everything out of pocket another way of seeing it is, where are the financial institutions?

Even though the distribution of land was of poor methodology, we must remember that land as an economic tool is different from land as a tool for empowerment. The same people who are being accused of underutilizing it will one day give rise to true commercial farmers, if they are supported by government. These people also faced the challenge of non-existent support for their farming activities especially considering market for their produce especially maize and distribution channels. Had these things been tin place thus, financing, distribution, pricing, marketing; then the farming business would be thriving by now, sadly bad politics was and has always been in the way. Command agriculture would delay releasing outputs then many farmers would drop out from the farming season but you would still find US$3 billion being claimed to have been availed towards the project.

This is subterfuge to the second Chimurenga, Josiah Tongogara, Joshua Nkomo, Hebert Chitepo, and all fallen heroes and heroines. Land was supposed to be returned to land owners in 1980. People took it by force in 2000 even though they were not the rightful owners. It didn’t really matter as it was a chance and we could have rectified it. This move now negates any attempt to redistribute the land equitably to the children of Zimbabwe. It creates a web of legalities that makes it difficult to reverse.

These white farmers will own rights to that land while most of us are limited to salary jobs, which will never create wealth! They are Zimbabwean by virtue of a legal system they brought with them, within borders they created to confine us and govern us. What of our ancestors? What would their system of governance say is the lawful thing to do? Before colonization, we had our own legal system. What does it say with regards to land ownership and the whte settlers?

Hiding behind section 295 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe is the biggest betrayal to Zimbabweans who were forced to vote yes for the new constitution by both MDC and ZANU-PF yet they had not even read the draft and its contents. Large pieces of underutilized land could have been identified and allocated to capable and willing indigenous citizens, without disturbing those who were already economic players.

As LEAD, we do hereby question the Minister of Agriculture what the justification of giving back land to white farmers yet in Zimbabwe when we have learned colleagues in the agricultural sector. Why not give our own black people with an agricultural background a chance to utilize those farms? Land belongs to the people so why should we sell it to them if they already own it? Make laws that push for productivity. Create an environment that encourages production. Not a system where people get paid for their maize a year later.

The redistribution was not meant to destroy, but our government destroyed through poor policy and a lack of support structures. Had there been proper support including extension workers who were well equipped then Zimbabwe’s agriculture would have suffered for only a few seasons. Talking of grid network of water supply to all farm land and improved dam networks for water management then we would have had more than 80 percent of arable land in Zimbabwe under irrigation by now and not discussing drought years and poor harvest. With financing, only serious farmers would have remained in the fields. To say whites should have retained land at the expense of a number of us is taking land for granted. If you own a property definitely someone else cannot be justified to take it from you because they can run it better than you. Land belonged to us the blacks and still does, simple as that. We want better livelihoods, that’s a fact and the two must not be confused! Wanting a better life should not strip me off my heritage and my land. As LEAD we are very worried as to why the government is rushing to return land to the former white farmers before they publish the land auditor’s report. Why are they running away from solving multiple farm ownership?

Zimbabwe is not the first country to embark on this land reform process, Brazil did it, Cuba did it and also Venezuela did it. Sanctions will never be removed because of reversing the land reform program! It’s our duty as citizens to demand that accountability. Only a fool can condemn themselves to infinity and so we must acknowledge failure and thrive to improve,” said Linda Masarira, leader of LEAD.

@danielItai_zw

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