THE European Union has warned that President Robert Mugabe’s recent threat to kick out the remaining white farmers from their commercial farms could scupper business re-engagements efforts between the Zanu PF government and the EU bloc.
EDGAR GWESHE /SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
This comes amidst fears by the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) that the country’s agricultural production will be further compromised by a fresh wave of farm invasions.
EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Philipe Van Damme told NewsDay that Mugabe’s remarks had sent wrong signals to both domestic and foreign investors and put a damper on government’s economic revival plans.
Addressing guests at his belated 91st birthday celebrations in Victoria Falls last Saturday, Mugabe said government was planning to grab all farmland and safaris still under the control of white farmers throughout the country as it winds up the land reform programme.
Recently, the EU lifted the restrictions on most government officials, but retained Mugabe and his wife Grace on the sanctions list.
The EU envoy, however, warned Mugabe against being vindictive as that would chase away investors and harm the country’s economic revival plans.
“What investors expect, both domestic as well as foreign investors, is a clear, predictable legal framework, security of tenure and respect for the rule of law. This is true for all sectors of the economy including the agricultural sector, regardless of the colour and nationality of those who occupy the land,” Van Damme said.
“Regarding agricultural land in particular, Chapter 16 of the new Constitution overwhelmingly adopted in 2013 by all Zimbabweans across the political divide is very clear and investors expect the charter to be respected, the Zimbabwe Land Commission to be established, rules and procedures to be scrupulously followed and court decisions to be respected and fully implemented.
“Abuse of the rule of law and contempt of court have a disastrous impact on the image of the country and on investment decisions.”
He added: “The EU has never questioned the need for land reform, but it has to be implemented in the interest of all and in strict adherence to the Constitution and the principle of respect for the rule of law.”
The CFU said fresh invasions would throw the country’s already bleeding agriculture sector into worse turmoil.
“The remaining white commercial farmers remain very concerned about their future after the President’s speech. For 15 years we have seen a continued onslaught on the white farmer and we continue to witness this today,” said Hendrik Olivier, the spokesperson for the union.
“It is a reality in Zimbabwe that today you are farming and tomorrow you are living in town looking for another job.”
He said there was need for stability in the agricultural sector.
“And even more, we need to have some form of moratorium on any farm disruptions immediately enforced. One would think that the land reform programme would come to an end, but it is very clear that this exercise continues. When more land is needed, land is taken at the cost of the remaining white commercial farmers,” said Olivier.
He said the current farming season and crop forecasts were not looking good because of the weather pattern.
Olivier said CFU expected fresh farm invasions to start after Mugabe’s speech in Victoria Falls.