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Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean farmers shouldn’t be evicted because of party politics: opposition

Zimbabwean farmer digs out weeds from a maize crop.
Zimbabwean farmer digs out weeds from a maize crop. Photo: Howard Burditt/Reuters

Zimbabwe's main opposition party has opposed the eviction of smallholder Zimbabwean farmers from their land, even though they voted for ruling party Zanu-PF. The authorities in Indiva area are reported to be planning to kick out more than 800 families and the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) has slammed the plan.

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“The land question has always been used as a political weapon in Zimbabwe,” says Douglas Mwonzora the party's secretary general. He says this in reaction to reports that the families who were resettled in Indiva must leave by the end of May. Indiva is a rural area in the centre of the country, roughly halfway between the cities of Harare and Bulawayo.

Mwonzora stressed that MDC-T believes in protecting the rights of Zimbabweans, regardless of their political affiliation.

“We condemn it as the MDC and we call upon the international community to realise that Zanu-PF is back to the abrogation of the rule of law, abrogation of human rights.”

The Indiva families were originally given plots of land in 2008 as a way to sweeten the deal to vote Zanu-PF.

Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, says that Zanu-PF is being pragmatic by ensuring that only very productive farmers will be able to get land in Zimbabwe. By restoring Zimbabwe once again as an economic agricultural power, direct foreign investment will follow.

Ruhanya, head of the independent think-tank, says they feel that they can do what they want because they hold all the power in Zimbabwe.

“Zanu-PF has regained power and status with a Zanu-PF majority in the lower and upper house. This government thinks it’s now legitimate,” he says. “It has no challenge.”

Mugabe himself has admitted that his land reform programme was not well thought out.

"I think the farms we gave to people are too large. They can't manage them," he said in a February interview with the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

“You find that most of them are just using one third of the land,” he added.

Mugabe came to power in 1980, but did not start his controversial land reforms until 20 years later, when he embarked on a violent campaign to evict white commercial farmers from their land, redistributing it to black Zimbabweans. The most lucrative farms went to Zanu-PF cronies.

“Slowly they’re beginning to realize the folly of their haphazard program,” says Moses Chamboko, the interim secretary general of pro-democracy group Zimbabweans United for Democracy (Zunde).

“Imagine a country like Zimbabwe importing grain from Malawi, from Zambia. We used to feed the entire southern African region, now we look to the region to feed us. And who is growing that grain that we are now importing from Zambia? It’s the same white farmers we chased away from Zimbabwe. That’s a shame.”

A proper land reform program is needed, says Chamboko. “What has happened so far is criminality, polity, patronage, madness,” he says.

Zimbabwe needs “a land reform program that focuses on the maximum utilisation of land, focusing on equitable distribution of land, that doesn’t discriminate against anybody based on their colour, on their race or their dialect,” he adds.

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