President Mugabe is questioned by Trevor Gifford of CFU over land grabs

robert_mugabeThere was rare public questioning for President Mugabe over his land-grab programme yesterday during an investment conference and his answer did not exactly reassure visiting foreign businessmen.

He told the conference, which was convened to raise finance to rebuild the economy after the past ten years of misrule, that not necessarily every white farm would be seized.

Mr Mugabe also asserted, to much incredulity, that Zimbabwe had paid white farmers compensation for developments and improvements, adding that compensation should be paid by the British Government.

The false assertion came in answer to an unexpected question from Trevor Gifford, the president of the predominantly white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU). Mr Gifford wanted to know who was going to compensate white farmers and why they were denied the right to own and farm land.

About 12,000 farms have been seized, most of them violently, since the land grab began, the CFU says. No one has received full compensation. By eliminating nearly all white commercial farming, Mr Mugabe set off the collapse of one of the most prosperous African nations. Zimbabwe was classified last month as the most aid-dependent country in the world.

Mr Mugabes last encounter with the CFU was in April 2000, soon after his revolutionary land reform began. Union officials pleaded with him to assert the rule of law after the first white farmer was murdered. The delegation of farmers was threatened with violence and the next day Mr Mugabe declared on state radio that white farmers are enemies of the state.

Arthur Mutambara, the Deputy Prime Minister and head of the lesser faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, contradicted Mr Mugabe yesterday. He told the would-be investors that Zimbabwe needed property rights and security of tenure to be restored. He said Zimbabwe cant keep pushing the blame for its failures on to former colonial powers.

The Times (UK)

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