The socialist former president Robert Mugabe launched controversial land reforms in 2000 in an effort to more equitably distribute land. But as his government forcibly removed the white farmers — without compensation — and gave the farms to Blacks, tensions arose and many owners and their farm workers were killed.
The concept may not have been without its merits but in a corrupt government, many of Mugabe’s close allies ended up with more than one farm and 250,000 farmers remain on the wait list. By 2013, every white-owned farm in Zimbabwe had been either expropriated or confirmed for future redistribution.
A Black Marxist, Mugabe slowly established one-party rule after his election to the presidency in 1987 and turned increasingly repressive. He ruled for some three decades, the last of which saw strife and unrest over the 100,000 per cent inflation, institutional violence and widespread poverty. Guerilla fighters became a radical power, confronting white farmers and their families and workers.
Because many of the 50,000 households who originally received confiscated land had little training or support, large areas were left fallow and became derelict — and Zimbabwe, a country once heralded as a breadbasket in Southern Africa with abundant sugarcane, coffee, cotton, tobacco and maize, began to suffer from chronic food shortages. Roughly 45 per cent of the population is malnourished. The country has long depended on food donations.
Today, farmers whose land lies idle and those who own multiple farms will lose land, Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka told AFP. It will be given to Black farmers left without from earlier rounds of reform, he said.
“We have allocated 99 percent of the land,” Masuka said, “and the land I am currently allocating to those on the waiting list is land I am taking from Blacks, allocating to Blacks.”
The government will not repossess productive farms, he added.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Vangelis Haritatos told AFP that government will allow former white commercial farmers to return to some farms through joint ventures. And some 1,000 white farmers have already returned to the fields.
“We don’t have a set criterion as government,” he said. “What we want is fairness for everyone.”