HARARE – Unproductive resettled farmers, mainly Zanu PF bigwigs, risk losing their farms, deputy minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Davis Marapira has warned.
Speaking during the launch of new Pioneer Seed hybrids in Mazowe recently, Marapira said many beneficiaries of the land distribution exercise had turned their farms into “braai spots.”
“When I was at the (Zimbabwe International) Trade Fair (in Bulawayo), I was told most of our farmers who benefitted from the land distribution programme were only using these farms as braai spots over weekends,” Marapira said
“They are using these farms for leisure. I want to warn these farmers, we are not afraid to take away these farms.
“We will not hesitate as government to repossess the farms that are not being utilised. “Those who want to turn farms into braai spots, we are coming after you.”
Marapira was also concerned with land beneficiaries who are selling machinery and equipment availed by government.
More than 14 million hectares of farmland was seized from whites in the last 16 years and was distributed to more than 300 000 families.
About 4 000 white farmers lost their homes, land, and even personal possessions — without compensation — during the sometimes violent invasions, and the economy, so dependent on commercial agriculture, crashed after agricultural exports dried up.
Since the advent of land reform, four audits have been instituted by President Robert Mugabe to assess the utilisation of land by farmers.
First was the Charles Utete (ex-secretary to the President and Cabinet) audit, which was split into two parts; then came the Flora Buka (then minister of State, Lands, and Land Reform) audit that was eventually followed by the Didymus Mutasa (same ministry) audit, which all proved underutilisation of the seized land.
The government has issued licences to private millers to import grain while organisations such as the United Nations’ World Food Programme are feeding 1 million people. Government is importing 700 000 tonnes of the staple maize grain to plug the food deficit.
“The president asked us to work with the private sector so that we produce two million tonnes so that we don’t have to keep embarrassing ourselves by looking for grain from countries like Zambia which we once sold to,” Marapira said.
The deputy minister called on smallholder farmers to turn to hybrid seeds in the face of the ravaging effects of the El Nino drought and climate change.
According to Pioneer country manager Temba Nkatazo, P3883W and PHNB 30G21 maize seed varieties, will help farmers meet targets.
“The former’s yield under good management exceeds 12 tonnes a hectare, with good tolerance to cob rots, and taking 135-145 days to maturity,” Nkatazo said.