PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s government has offered an olive branch to the remaining beleaguered white commercial farmers, calling for collective effort to resuscitate the ailing agricultural sector, following years of acrimony.
Thousands of white farmers were forced off their land under the land reform programme.
In his keynote address to the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) congress in Harare yesterday, read by Clifford Sibanda, the Minister of State in the Office of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the VP said the government was committed to supporting the agricultural sector to ensure full recovery.
Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had gone beyond the land redistribution exercise as a strategy to realise the full potential of the agriculture of the country.
“To that end, the agricultural focus of ZimAsset, which was given impetus by the 10-Point Plan, is to develop sustainable agricultural production, productivity, access to markets and competitiveness through multi-stakeholder, multi-sector, multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional development. Collectively, therefore, we hold the future of Zimbabwe’s agriculture in our hands,” he said.
Mnangagwa said the government was aware that farmers were operating under very difficult socio-economic conditions.
“But I would like to encourage union leadership to strive to find lasting solutions to the challenges faced by farmers. It is through representative bodies like the CFU and your other farmers’ union colleagues that these challenges will be addressed.
“As government, we will continue supporting the improvement of the viability of the agricultural industry and look forward to receiving your recommendations on how government can assist in solving some of our farmers’ challenges,” he said.
There has been continued disruption of agricultural activities and invasion of remaining farms 15 years after the programme of land redistribution started. Farmers complained that government officials had skirted the issue of security on farms as well as the lawlessness.
CFU director, Hendrick Olivier said his organisation was working hard to establish a good working relationship with government.
“We are working hard and the fact that we have government officials attending our congress after a long time shows that our efforts are bearing fruit. We need to keep this door open and continue to work towards a sustainable solution to all our problems,” he said.
It is the first time in over a decade that senior government officials has graced a CFU gathering, an indication of the thawing of relations between the two.
Mnangagwa also took the chance to respond to media reports that officials from his office and his political hangers-on have been abusing his name to solicit for bribes from vulnerable farmers is afraid to lose their land.
“May I at this stage unreservedly condemn those who ask for bribes in the discharge of their public duties and in equal measure those who pay such bribes,” he said.
“We must shun all forms of corruption and galvanise ourselves to realise the potential we have as a nation, which potential we must develop through increasing agricultural production.”
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, John Mangudya said the government was working on a programme to valuate all improvements on expropriated land with a view to finding a proper methodology to compensate farmers.