70% is nonsense

EDITOR - I read again and again on e-mails from various quarters, articles by journalists, foreign news reports etc that deal with the so-called "Land Reform Programme" in Zimbabwe, that prior to this exercise being carried out, white commercial farmers owned, "70% of the agricultural land in Zimbabwe", or sometimes "70% of the arable land in Zimbabwe" or "70% of the best land in Zimbabwe" etc.

So much so that this “70%” appears to have become entrenched as fact in the minds of the public in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa, Africa and the world in general as an absolute fact! This huge, often stated and incorrect percentage appears to be taken as justification for the whole sorry fiasco!

This “70%” figure is of course a complete nonsense figure, as anyone with even the most superficial knowledge of the land of Zimbabwe, its agricultural productive potential and ownership patterns would and should be able to tell. For a start, “family-owned” and operated commercial farms, the targets of the programme (as opposed to “corporate owned operations” like the large sugar estates etc), comprised only somewhere around 27 – 29% of the land surface of Zimbabwe. Not even close to this mythical 70% figure!

Furthemore, and here’s the punch line which no one seems to ever mention:

The land and soil of Zimbabwe is fundamentally fairly infertile. Much of our soils are highly leached, fairly acidic and sandy. Particularly on the Highveld where the evil whites “stole all the best land”. That the soils are more productive on formerly white owned farms is entirely a result of assiduous fertilization, particularly improving the naturally highly deficient phosphate status, careful husbandry, soil conservation measures, correct stocking, etc., over a period of time. Notwithstanding some variations in topography (perhaps), but how are, for example, the Communal areas of Chiweshe, Zvimba – Chirau, Mhondoro, Svosve, Madziwa any different from the former Large Scale Commercial areas adjacent to them? IAN BROWN, by e-mail

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