Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
The land issue has nothing to do with race, but deals with the equitable distribution of the finite resource to ensure all people contribute to the economy and well being of the nation, the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Dr Douglas Mombeshora has said .
He said this while addressing farmers at the Zimbabwe Farmers Union 77th annual congress held in Marondera last week.
Dr Mombeshora said Government took land from farmers who had plenty and gave to the landless and this had nothing to do with race.
“We are not racists,” he said. “I went to Washington dealing with issue of white former commercial farmers who had challenged Government in court and they were saying the land reform was racial because land was taken from the whites and given to blacks.
“But the truth is that it was not racial. We could not take away land from the blacks, they did not have the land. We only took from those who had it and those who had the land were white farmers, so it is not a racial issue.”
Dr Mombeshora said this was the reason why there were still some white farmers with land.
“Land reform was actually meant to bring in the previously marginalised population and these are the resettled farmers,” he said. “This is why up to today we have (white) farmers who are still operating here who were operating before independence and we want to work with them. Those who want to work with us are welcome to be with us and we welcome to be with them.
“When we look at the land reform, we want to include as many people as we can in the economy of the country. So ZFU we want to see you including all farmers who are on the ground — black, white and Indian. All those farmers let them be part of your organisation. So that we talk on the same page. We move together with the same agenda for our country to boost its economy.”
Dr Mombeshora said it was the Ministry’s thrust to ensure maximum utilisation of the land and that was the reason why Government had put in place the land commission to help and advise the State in the administration of the land.
He said the ZFU congress had created a platform for discussing a corporate-driven development narrative, advocacy for sustainable use of land resources, strengthening a link among various agricultural value chain actors in addressing the issue of security of tenure and agriculture sector transformation.
He said land should be used profitably by the owners.
“Government has been working hard to create a conducive environment for both local and foreign land investors,” said Dr Mombeshora. “While we are happy to solicit Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) we do cherish that you the farmers are collectively the largest investors in agriculture; and we should never lose focus on that point.
“My Ministry will continue to work to unlock the value in land for equitable wealth creation. Some of these initiatives include land audit, registration and issuance of secure and bankable 99-year lease and permit titles to the farmer.”
The congress was attended by senior Government officials including Mashonaland East Minister of State Retired Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri, Deputy Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Cde Bertha Chikwama, Zimbabwe Land Commission representatives, ZFU farmers’ representatives from all provinces and inputs suppliers, among others.