94-year-old Mugabe speaks at rallies ahead of next year's elections
President Robert Mugabe has once again warned his supporters to stop leasing out land given to them post the 2000 land reform programme which saw nearly all white farmers evicted from their farms.
He reminded the crowd at a rally about 80 km north of Harare at the weekend that land should not be leased to whites as it belonged to the indigenous people and he warned that other evicted white farmers might return to Zimbabwe.
More then 4 000 white farmers on about 7 m hectares were kicked off their land – sometimes violently – from 2000, after the new opposition the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC emerged and Zanu PF then suffered its first political defeat at a referendum about a new constitution.
“So, how come, I ask, that some of you, who have farms have allowed whites to come back clandestinely and are farming. They are working on your farms as you spend time, perhaps in Harare.”
Mugabe has sent this message out at each of the five rallies he has addressed in the last couple of months. Mugabe will stand for re-election next year, when he will be 94, and has to finally leave office in 2023.
The largest tobacco grower in Zimbabwe is white and he never owned a farm prior to the post 2000 land grab, but was a farm manager and now leases several pieces of land from senior black Zanu PF members who were given white-owned land. He grows a massive 700 ha of tobacco.
Many white farmers leasing land from black beneficiaries of the land reform programme, commute to their crops weekly. “They accept there will never be a return of white farmers to Zimbabwe. The present situation is a one generation business. There aren’t many of them, maybe 100 or so who are leasing from black beneficiaries and are trying to make enough money to educate their kids.” He said if he made enough in the next few seasons he would hope to leave the country.
Mugabe told this rally that he blamed the British for failing to pay for land to their “kith and kin” after the Lancaster House peace deal in London which took Zimbabwe to independence in 1980.
The Zimbabwe constitution says that the UK must pay white farmers for land taken from them post 2000, and the Zimbabwe government says it must pay for the ‘improvements’ such as family homes, workers accommodation, sheds, fencing, barns, dams etc.
But Zimbabwe has no money to pay white farmers compensation. Less then 10 percent of those evicted post 2000 were paid out a small proportion of what they are owed.
Most former white farmers emigrated after the land grab began, some into other parts of Africa. “Go back to Zimbabwe? We might yearn for our country as we were born there, and loved it, but our kids would never let us leave here,” said a former white farmer who went to Australia 15 years ago.