Government refutes reports of white farmers’ return

Tendai Mukandi


SERIOUS disagreements have emerged among white farmers after government this week refuted earlier claims by the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) that the organisation was collaborating with the state to bring back

some of the farmers who lost their properties since the start of the land reform programme six years ago.


The CFU had claimed that it had changed its stance towards government’s land reform initiative and submitted up to 200 applications on behalf of its members for consideration as A2 farmers.


The claim by CFU president Doug Taylor-Freeme and his deputy Trevor Gifford has attracted serious criticism from some of the affected farmers, who have said it was a “great betrayal to all the people who have suffered, died and been murdered in the past six years”.


Ministers of Lands and Agriculture Joseph Made, State Security, Lands and Land Resettlement, Didymus Mutasa and Special Affairs Responsible for Land, Flora Bhuka, have been widely quoted in recent media reports as confirming that farmers would be invited back.


But Mutasa this week denied ever issuing such a statement on the issue.


Vanondinyepera (They are lying) I have never spoken to any foreign journalist and all their claims are wrong.” Mutasa said.


“No white farmer is being invited back. And why should we offer them such long leases?”


Mutasa said all government was doing was rationalising the sizes of properties still occupied by the remaining white farmers.


If the state considers that the farm is too big then it is going to be reduced, Mutasa said.


“For instance farmers in Region 1 such as those in Nyanga will have slightly smaller farms than those in Region 2 and farmers in Region 3 will also have slightly smaller farms than those in Region 4. The biggest farms are expected to be in Region 5.”


Mutasa said the remaining white commercial farmers were expected to stay on the property long enough to satisfy government of their commitment and may, after getting offer letters, be invited to apply for leases later.


“That is what is happening. All the other claims that you heard are wrong.”


Bhuka was quoted by the state media as saying: “So far about 500 of the remaining 927 white farmers have applied and their applications are being considered.”


Similarly, Mutasa reportedly said: “We hope that these white farmers will refrain from doing agriculture in a political way, they must just be farmers and desist from politics on the farms.”


Mutasa’s denial throws the CFU into a quandary as other farmer representative organisations have distanced themselves from the initiative.


Last week, Mac Crawford, president of the Southern Africa Commercial Farmers Alliance lashed out at the CFU labelling the organisation a “Zanu PF puppet” for failing to protect the interests of the remaining farmers.