THE Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) this week called on government to honour its obligations to compensate commercial farmers who lost properties during Zanu PF’s chaotic fast-track land reforms as the first step in restoring normalcy and full production in the under-performing agricultural sector.
By Staff Writer
Speaking to the Zimbabwe Independent in Harare on Monday, CFU president Charles Taffs and his deputy Peter Steyl dismissed as “falsehoods” stories alleging the organisation had made a dramatic U-turn on its opposition to the chaotic land reform and now wanted to be considered for land re-distribution by government.
“Contrary to claims that we never applied for the land, the truth is that we applied to be considered as well,” said Taffs.
“Over a thousand applications (were sent) to (Agriculture) Minister (Joseph) Made, but we did not get even a single response; not even an acknowledgement letter.”
The CFU lamented the collapse of the once productive agricultural sector which was triggered by various factors attributable to the wholesale expropriation of land without compensation.
They said their organisation had always accepted the need for land reform, but stressed the need to fully compensate dispossessed land owners instead of nationalisation and mass expropriation that took place.
“Fourteen years after the start of the fast-track (land reform) programme, people have access to land, but they cannot raise the capital to farm. Production has consequently fallen and many farms lie idle,” said Taffs.
“There can be a skills transfer and co-operation between the current land owners and the former owners, but the starting point is an acknowledgement by government that there is a conflict over the land,” he said.
Taffs called for a resolution to the conflict between beneficiaries of the programme and CFU members who lost land, but still retain title deeds.
“Those people with the land are in a trap because the lack of secure tenure prevents them from raising capital. Instead of achieving viability many of these farmers have now become contract farmers beholden to those who give them inputs and also set prices for their produce,” said Taffs.
He said authorities were aware of the problems in the agricultural sector and CFU’s proposals to tackle them, but meaningful progress is being hampered by political posturing ahead of this year’s crucial general elections.