Mugabe's cronies 'grab land'

Some of President Robert Mugabe’s closest allies and relatives have seized farms intended for the resettlement of poor Zimbabweans, according to a secret government report prepared by the Zimbabwean vice-president, Joseph Msika, and leaked yesterday to a London newsletter.

In one case a senior armed forces officer used troops to forcibly evict 96 resettled families from formerly white-owned land in the rich farming area around Marondera, it says.

It says the officer concerned grabbed three farms.

In another incident a cabinet minister obtained a choice farm by hiring thugs to drive off youths settled on the property as part of an agricultural training programme, it adds.

Three cabinet ministers, four provincial governors, two leading businessmen and members of Mugabe’s family are said in the report to have obtained farms by corrupt allocations.

The “Land reform and resettlement programme national audit interim report” was completed this month, according to Africa Confidential, which obtained a copy.

“We are not surprised by this report at all, it is what we’ve said all along, that the land seizures were benefiting those high up in Zanu-PF,” Wilfred Mhanda, chairman of the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform, said.

It is the first of three expected to show that Mugabe’s “fast track” land seizures have caused Zimbabwe’s agricultural production to plummet and have largely created the famine affecting nearly seven million of the country’s 12-million people. The misuse of land seized from white farmers is expected to be highlighted in two other reports to be presented to parliament in the coming weeks.

Parliamentary sources say that a report from the parliamentary committee on agriculture and land will say that many of the poor black peasants resettled are destitute and getting poor yields because they do not have adequate seeds, tools, fertiliser and training to make good use of their new plots.

The committee toured the country to look at the situation of resettled farmers.

It is jointly chaired by the Zanu-PF MP Daniel McKenzie Ncube and the Movement for Democratic Change MP Renson Gasela, who is the opposition party’s agriculture spokesman.

Another report highlights alarming problems facing the nearly one million farm workers and their families who were thrown off the properties that the Mugabe government has seized.

Many are homeless and hungry as a result of the chaotic land seizures, according to the report, which should be tabled in parliament soon.

The agriculture minister, Joseph Made, recently admitted that the government had failed to resettle nearly half the farms allocated under the scheme to create a new class of large-scale black farmers.

The result is that less than half the land previously cultivated has been farmed this year, according to the Famine Early Warning System Network. The government has already applied to the UN for another year of food relief.
- Guardian Unlimited Â

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