Govt yet to learn from land chaos

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Joel Biggie Matiza

The torturous economic ruin that followed the chaotic land reform programme seems to have taught the government nothing.

According to a report we carried last Saturday, a thriving flower farm near Goromonzi has fallen victim to the madness that has gone unabated for the past 15 years.

One hundred and fifty workers are on the verge of losing their jobs after a suspected Central Intelligence Organisation official Timothy Muyambo reportedly declared himself the new owner of Little Flower Farm a week ago.

Muyambo has forced the owner of the property to flee as he fears for his life and has thrown the future of farm workers into uncertainty.

The owner of the farmer, Mathew Hopgood, believes dependants of employees on the verge of losing their jobs are around 225.

However, what is more disconcerting is that the farm that is being forcibly taken over is an exporter of horticulture products and already processing of exports has been put on hold.

Zimbabwe is battling to find solutions to the worsening decline of exports precipitated by the collapse of industry and the falling production on farms yet it cannot deal with the root cause of the malaise.

The loss of exports from Little Flower Farm is not likely to be compensated because Western buyers of the flowers who constitute the majority are sensitive to issues of human rights violations.

Little Flower Farm exports 180 boxes of flowers weekly and close to two tonnes of peas and by no means, that was no small operation.

It goes without saying that the buyers would not want to be associated with Little Flower Farm and its “new owners”. The biggest loser would be Zimbabwe, which would relinquish yet another important export market.

The government has been at pains to explain that property rights are respected in Zimbabwe, but in the end, it is actions that would tell the true story.

Muyambo’s takeover of the property is not a testament to a respect for the rule of law.

Hopgood was reportedly assured by Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister Biggie Matiza that his farm would not be seized and the farm owner went on to plant crops on the strength of that ministerial undertaking.

The invasion was reportedly aided by police officers, according to witnesses, and this can only signal the collapse of the rule of law.

At a time the top government official was invading the farm, the government was busy seizing land from those who were given vast tracts of land, but are not able to utilise it.

President Robert Mugabe is on record bemoaning the fact that the majority of people given land are not putting it to proper use hence the perpetual decline in food production.

The country’s unsustainable import bill continues to balloon because the agriculture sector mainly is not performing to expectations yet the government appears intent on continuing on a destructive path of allowing the chaos to persist.

Any hopes that the government has realised the error of its ways with the unplanned land reform programme would be shattered with the developments at Little Flower Farm.