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Candid comment

Wish they were all like VP Mujuru

By Joram Nyathi

ONE cannot help but admire Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s stamina and the passion with which she has assumed her controversial role as vice-president.

I think in the short period she has been VP, she has seen more of Zimbabwe than has President Mugabe in 26 years. I am talking about seeing the country with her own eyes. The few occasions when Mugabe has been known to travel to far-flung rural areas, it has been to address rallies or lately, to donate computers. That does not allow you time to see the world with your own eyes, and the real problems that people are facing.

On the other hand, Mujuru has been launching or inspecting a number of developmental projects from Chipinge to Matabeleland North and across from Mt Darwin to Matabeleland South.

There is another difference between Mujuru and Mugabe in addition to her hands-on approach. During her tour of the country we have been spared the usual angry rhetoric about the British and the MDC and the empty threats against multiple-farmowners.

Where Mugabe would use threats, so far Mujuru has been appealing to the conscience of those who have seized farms that they are not using. Most of them have dared Mugabe to carry out his threats by simply ignoring him since July 2003 and nothing has happened.

I doubt that Mujuru will achieve much in her efforts to encourage greater land utilisation but at least she is talking to the people rather talking at them. It will take time to fight the spirit of greed that the whole land reform programme has nurtured in the past seven years. And Mujuru is part of a government where rhetoric is never matched by action.

This is in part because everyone involved in the land grab orgy is so badly compromised none has the moral authority to call the other a thief.

I was therefore amazed when Mujuru made a passionate appeal last week for an end to all farming disruptions. She told a National Economic Consultative Forum conference in Harare: “For the avoidance of doubt, a policy of zero tolerance of farm disturbances will be implemented by law enforcement agencies. Zimbabwe has sufficient legal institutions and legal remedies to deal with any outstanding land ownership or utilisation disputes without disruptions.”

But that is not the problem.

Zimbabwe has more than enough land for everyone who is genuinely interested in farming. What is lacking is a clear government policy for law enforcement agents to follow. This first became evident way back in 2002 when war veterans occupied a very productive farm in Mashonaland West.

VP Joseph Msika who was then acting president ordered the “rogue elements” out. Before the order could be executed President Mugabe returned to declare that he would not use force against his own people who needed land. He said the British had refused to use force to stop Ian Smith’s UDI.

From then on was born a new crime called “political” which was not covered in our statutes and therefore was beyond the power of the police. From then on one only needed the right connections in Zanu PF and the land would be yours.

That explains why nothing of substance has materialised from more than seven land audits that have been carried out since the destruction of commercial agriculture began in 1999.

Mujuru should have been alerted to this lack of government policy from the pleas Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono has been making to the authorities on the need for order on the farms to boost production and restore investor confidence. They have fallen on deaf ears. There are widespread disruptions at Triangle and Hippo Valley estates despite the shortage of sugar in the country. Foreign currency earning Kondozi Estate was ruined despite loud protests by VP Msika against “immoral little boys” who looted farm and irrigation equipment and motor vehicles in broad daylight.

Mujuru has been given the names of some of the “looters” but there has been no action.

I am also happy that Mujuru is confirming for herself what we have been saying over the years, that most of the so-called beneficiaries of the land reform have absolutely no interest in farming. They went in there for the farm houses or what had already been planted. Once the harvest was over, they moved on to another property to plunder while the nation begs for food.

Speaking in the Midlands Province this week, Mujuru said those who were not interested in farming “should quit to make way for real farmers”. As if to undermine that call, Didymus Mutasa, the minister responsible for resettlement and security, was saying the exact opposite. Newsnet quoted him in the same bulletin as Mujuru on Monday saying government would continue issuing offer letters.

He said those with offer letters “should be patient” if they find that the person on the farm has a crop. He should be allowed to harvest and then “move away”.

Which is exactly what I mean by lack of a clear government policy which is creating confusion among law enforcement agencies. Why chase away somebody who is productive simply because he does not have an offer letter or a party card to make way for a person with no track record in farming? How do the police enforce the law when new offer letters are being issued at random six years down the line?

Until there is a clear policy and people feel that there are sufficient guarantees for investment in farming, we can kiss goodbye to food security. The risks to investors are too great. Even those who got the land for free don’t feel secure to invest their own money. Hence the endless appeals to government to provide assistance. If Mujuru’s presidential stamina could be directed towards a solid uniform policy perhaps we could start talking of agricultural recovery.

People like Mutasa are not giving any hint of such certainty. On the contrary, they are at the vortex of the chaos that bedevils a formerly productive nation.

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