Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered that a white Zimbabwean farmer evicted from his land in June be allowed to return, signaling a shift in land-ownership policy from predecessor Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa has also ordered an end to the intimidation and eviction of farmers, regardless of race, with immediate effect, presidential adviser Chris Mutsvanga said Thursday.
Robert Smart, evicted from his Lesbury Estate farm in the eastern Manicaland province by then-governor Mandi Chimene, can return immediately, Mutsvanga said by phone interview from the capital, Harare.
Chimene’s whereabouts aren’t currently known, while a religious leader who participated in the eviction was “told to leave the farmer alone,” Mutsvanga added. Several ministers and governors loyal to Mugabe, like Chimene, have disappeared from public view since Nov. 15, when Zimbabwe’s military briefly took control of the country.
One of Mnangagwa’s key challenges will be to revive an agricultural industry that collapsed following the Mugabe-sanctioned seizure of mostly white-owned commercial farms starting in 2000, causing food shortages and slashing export earnings and tax revenue.
After taking office two weeks ago, the new president spoke in a speech about the need to revive Zimbabwe’s decimated economy and put the southern African nation back to work. However, his announcement last week of a cabinet that included ruling party loyalists and army generals fueled skepticism about the likelihood of policy changes.
“Under the new dispensation, all Zimbabweans, regardless of race, color or creed are welcome to work for the development of the country,” Mutsvanga said.