Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
The Zimbabwe Land Commission (ZLC) has joined the nation in mourning the passing on of former President Robert Mugabe, who played a critical role in correcting land ownership imbalances inherited from the colonial regime.
ZLC chairperson Commissioner Tendai Bare on Tuesday said the early years of Independence witnessed slow progress on the land redistribution exercise since it was based on the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller”.
Commissioner Bare said the “willing-buyer, willing-seller” system saw about 20 000 families being resettled by the year 2000, as many did not have money to buy the land, while many whites were also not keen to sell their farms.
The landless citizens were getting increasingly impatient, resulting in some of them invading farms owned white former commercial farmers.
“Under the leadership of the former President, His Excellency R.G. Mugabe, Government launched the fast-track land reform programme, a reform which was extremely necessary for Zimbabwe.
“Our country was one of a few countries in the world to embark on a programme of such magnitude, where over seven million hectares of land were parcelled out to the landless majority,” she said.
Commissioner Bare said the bold move taken by the late national hero Cde Mugabe influenced other countries in the region and beyond to review their own systems of land ownership.
She said after an initial decline in agricultural production, there has been a strong recovery in Zimbabwe’s second most valuable export crop, tobacco.
“Sales by thousands of land beneficiaries reached record levels in the year 2017 and this year, in an industry which was previously dominated by white commercial farmers.
“Land beneficiaries have been remarkably resilient, increasing production over time as they invested in land. To complement their efforts, structured support was extended through various Government programmes, including Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme,” she said.
Commissioner Bare said Cde Mugabe also stood against colonialism and imperialism during the liberation struggle and as a leader among other Frontline States against apartheid.
“We also know that the late former President was a strong advocate for reconciliation.
“At Independence, he announced a policy of reconciliation and invited whites to help rebuild the country, notwithstanding the rigours of the liberation struggle.
“I recall some of his quotes while he was calling for co-existence in a free Zimbabwe and these included: ‘If yesterday I fought you as an enemy, today you have become a friend’ and ‘If yesterday you hated me, today you cannot avoid the love that binds me to you’.
“We indeed will remember him for that,” she said.
Commissioner Bare also said Cde Mugabe inculcated civility among Zimbabweans, hence the peace that prevails in the country.