The government claims to support a one family one farm policy in the wake of a controversial land reform programme that left an irreparable damage on the agriculture sector but the country’s leaders do not seem to practice what they preach.
President Robert Mugabe’s family helped itself to vast tracts of productive land seized from white Zimbabweans and have emerged as one of the biggest land holders post land reform.
First Lady Grace Mugabe often boasts about her seizure of farms in the Mazowe area where she has created her own little empire.
The government has been speaking about a land audit to root out multiple farm owners and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently hinted that some of his Cabinet colleagues would be exposed by the investigation.
However, the country cannot waste millions of dollars on an investigation when the culprits are known and the government openly encourages them to acquire more land.
Lands and Land Reform minister, Douglas Mombeshora had no shame telling the world that he was prepared to give Mugabe’s family more land because they had proved to be productive farmers who are able to maximise production.
Speaking at a field day at Grace Mugabe Foundation farm in Mazowe on Thursday, Mombeshora said he was not ashamed to parcel out more land to Mugabe’s family as they have proved to be “real farmers” putting their land to maximum usage.
The First Lady in 2013 seized 1 600 hectares of land from a Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed agro producer Interfresh’s Mazoe Citrus Estate to expand her orphanage.
Mombeshora said three farms were combined to make a single property now owned by the First Lady through her orphanage.
Mugabe has in the past admitted that his family owns other farms outside those grabbed by his wife. The fact that the family is productive on the seized farms cannot be used to break the law.
According to the government’s own admissions, the land reform programme did not benefit all deserving Zimbabweans and there are thousands of people with skills and capital who can even produce better than the Mugabe family who have no access to this finite resource.
Zimbabwe churns out hundreds of graduates from agricultural colleges every year who could benefit from the productive land if is distributed fairly. The unfairness of one family hoarding all the productive land cannot be over emphasised.
Mombeshora and other government ministers cannot take pride in assisting the First Family to trash policies they should be promoting. The land grab in Mazowe is contrary to government policies and cannot be justified.
Mugabe’s pretence that he does not support multi farm ownership is a ruse given what his family is doing in Mazowe.
The ministers who are promising him more farms at the expense of companies and other farmers would one day be held accountable for their actions. Mugabe should set an example by relinquishing some of the farms if his lieutenants are to give up the multiple farms they hold for speculative reasons.
The cost of the skewed land reform programme is weighing heavily on Zimbabweans. According to the government, the country would have to import 700 000 tonnes of maize to avert food shortages this year. The poor harvest is largely attributed to drought but the destruction of agriculture infrastructure and the fact that most land is in the hands of people who have no interest in farming compounds the situation.
The first step in correcting the mistake of the past decade would be sticking to the one family one farm policy and there should be no sacred cows.