Robert Mugabe: “Old age made me send white people away”
n 2000 Robert Mugabe shocked the world when he made dramatic changes to land ownership laws in Zimbabwe which resulted in thousands of white Zimbabwean farmers being forced to give up their farms and many to leave the country. Those white farmers owned 70% of the most arable land in the country which they had inherited from a colonial past built on racial hierarchy. But now the tide is shifting again. Mugabe’s people have hinted strongly, for the first time, that farmers can return–at least some of them. This will be some 16 years after the Zimbabwe government began seizing their land. A few selected white farmers will be granted security of tenure on farms regarded to be ‘of strategic economic importance.’ Meanwhile black beneficiaries are expected to start paying a small rental fee per acre that will be used in part to compensate the more than 4,000 evicted white farmers according to the country’s minister of lands, Douglas Mombeshora. Some years ago Mugabe said, “We say no to whites owning our land and they should go.” It is the first time that the Zimbabwe government has publicly hinted on the failure of its unsustainable land policy.
Zimbabwe suffered an estimated $12 billion in lost to agriculture production since the land occupations took place and has had to rely on donor handouts and food imports from neighboring countries. At least 1.8 million tonnes of the staple grain, maize, is required annually to feed the nation. Most of the white people chased away by Mugabe went to Zambia and recent reports have indicated that they are doing very well there. Maize output in Zambia has increased to 3.3 million tonnes in the current harvesting season, the highest production recorded in Zambia’s history. Agriculture minister Wylbur Simuusa said this afternoon that the production of rice, millet, groundnuts and tobacco has also increased this season compared to the last season.
He said the country’s maize production rose 32 percent in the 2013/2014 season from 2.5 million tonnes in the 2012/2013 season on the back of improved yields, area planted and increased investment in the sector, signalling a possible sharp drop in mealie-meal prices. “This is the highest ever maize harvest recorded in Zambia’s history and provides us with the opportunity to adequately feed the nation and export the surplus,” Simuusa told journalists at a media briefing in Lusaka yesterday. “However, it also brings challenges of ensuring availability of adequate storage facilities to minimise losses and also address export policy issues.” He said the government planned to export slightly over 300,000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Kenya. Simusaa, however, added that the government would be cautious on exports so as not to compromise food security. On the other hand, Zimbabwe was recently declared as the poorest country in the world. President Mugabe is currently making plans to call back all the white people he sent away. According Nehanda, a Harare based Newspaper, Mugabe and most Zimbabweans regret sending white people away. The newspaper stated that mugabe told those close to him that it was not his intention to send white farmers away, old age made him do it. He was in other words not thinking straight when he did it.