THE Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) will not give government a platform to speak at its congress next week to avert another clash over land acquisition a
nd violent evictions.
CFU president Colin Cloete told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that Agriculture minister Joseph Made and ministry officials had been invited as a matter of protocol but were not on the programme as speakers.
“We have sent them invitations but they haven’t responded,” Cloete said.
“The minister and his officials could come and listen to the proceedings or could even make a speech if they like but they are not part of the programme.”
Last year’s congress turned into political mudslinging over land acquisition and forced evictions of former white commercial farmers. The keynote speech at last year’s congress by Agri-SA director Jack Raath rapped government for mismanaging the country’s economy. Vice-President Joseph Msika, who was guest of honour, responded by threatening to descend on defiant farmers refusing to vacate their farms.
This year’s guest speaker will be Professor Mark Jury, a climatologist based in South Africa.
Cloete said this year’s congress would focus on climatic changes and trying to map a survival strategy for commercial agriculture in the country.
“There is no way we can stop our guests and members from talking about their day-to-day problems. Several issues will be raised including continued evictions,” Cloete said.
Officials at CFU said confrontation looked inevitable at the 60th congress scheduled for Wednesday next week because of farmers who were recently evicted from their properties.
“A clash is inevitable because the government has not stuck to its own criteria and policy on land acquisition,” a CFU official said. “People are still being evicted up to today. We need an end to the fast track programme to restore confidence in the farming sector.”
Cloete was recently reported as saying 50 farmers had been kicked off their land in a fresh wave of evictions. He told Presidential Land Review Committee chairman Charles Utete that farmers needed law and order on the farms. He said a predictable and stable environment was necessary for the remaining farmers to continue their operations.