By Nunurai Jena
White commercial farmers in Mashonaland West said they were last week ordered by Zanu PF provincial chairman, Temba Mliswa to vacate their farms by May 15 this year or risk unspecified action.
The farmers alleged that Mliswa issued the ultimatum last Friday at Chinhoyi Training Centre at a meeting attended by at least 50 commercial farmers.
But Mliswa yesterday denied that he issued such an ultimatum, saying the farmers came up with that date themselves. The farmers said the meeting was also attended by the minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Faber Chidarikire, who could not be reached for comment.
One of the farmers, Pieter Zwanikken — who was at the meeting — said Mliswa told them that the directive was in line with Zanu PF’s land policy.
He said they were told in a no-holds-barred meeting that by May 15 this year every white farmer without an offer letter should leave his or her farm.
“He told us that we were at the farms at Zanu PF’s mercy and that come May 15 this year we should wind up activities and leave our farms whether one’s farm is protected by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement or not,” Zwanikken claimed.
Another farmer, who refused to be identified, said even those white commercial farmers who had links with senior Zanu PF members in the province would not be spared.
Mliswa, they said, also warned them against entering into farming arrangements with A2 farmers as the practice was illegal.
He has been at loggerheads with some of his colleagues in Zanu PF whom he accused of applying the party’s land policy selectively by favouring other white farmers ahead of others.
Mashonaland West Affirmative Action Group (AAG) chairman, Clifford Hlupeko said they supported Mliswa’s stance, saying the white farmers had delayed the land reform process by going to the courts.
“Some black farmers with offer letters have not been able to move onto their farms because of the white farmers who had taken the issue to court,” he said.
Hlupeko was however quick to point out that this was not a racial issue as there were white farmers with offer letters in the province.
He urged the government to capacitate new farmers so that the land reform programme would not provide “detractors” with an opportunity to rubbish the exercise.
Mliswa refuted allegations that he gave the farmers an ultimatum.
“We have 74 white farmers in the province and 41 of them were recommended to stay put, meaning the rest should leave,” said Mliswa.
“Those who were not recommended to remain on the farms are the ones that came up with this date.”
He however could not explain the criteria used to recommend those who have been allowed to stay on the farms. Mliswa also said Zanu PF was not discriminatory as 11 white farmers were given offer letters while four were given 99-year leases.
Since the land invasions in 2000 that displaced hundreds of white commercial farmers, Zimbabwe has been unable to produce enough food to meet national requirements.
The country has been relying on grain imported by government, aid agencies and the private sector to cover the deficit. Zimbabwe Standard