Zimbabwe’s deputy premier Arthur Mutambara said on Thursday a team of top officials from the unity government was launching an investigation into fresh seizures of white-owned farms.
”Tomorrow we are going to the farms to see for ourselves,” Mutambara told journalists.
”A cross-party team is going to the farms to understand what’s happening and take action. We are trying to quickly address this political hygiene matter. It’s a matter of life and death.”
Since Zimbabwe’s unity government formed in February, white farmers have reported a surge in violence on their lands despite a power-sharing deal between long-time President Robert Mugabe and new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mutambara had earlier met US ambassador James McGee who expressed concern over the farm violence.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson James Maridadi said the premier had tasked Mutambara with leading the probe into farm disruptions.
Tsvangirai last month decried the fresh wave of farm invasions across the country and warned that those responsible for the farm disruptions risked arrest.
Mugabe, however, has insisted that his controversial land reforms would continue.
The land reforms launched in 2000 aimed to resettle black people on 4 000 white-owned commercial farms, but the process was marred by politically charged violence.
The scheme has drastically reduced agricultural production, which once accounted for 40% of the economy, as most of its beneficiaries lacked both farming equipment and expertise.
While a decade ago Zimbabwe produced enough maize to feed the nation and export a surplus, now more than half its people are estimated to need food aid.
Zimbabwe’s new government wants to attract foreign investment and trade, but major donors have proved reluctant to open their wallets, in part because of the ongoing farm violence.
Mutambara said he had urged the United States to end the sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle, which include a travel ban and asset freeze, but also block global lenders like the International Monetary Fund from offering financing to the government.
”There is no efficacy, no meaning anymore in the targeted sanctions,” Mutambara told journalists after meeting McGee.
”There are still outstanding issues to do with fresh farm invasions, the rule of law. We told McGee that we are determined to resolve all the outstanding issues. Why don’t you give us a fighting chance?”
The US imposed the sanctions on Mugabe and elite members of his Zanu-PF party in 2002 following controversial presidential elections which the opposition and Western diplomats charged were rigged to help Mugabe retain power.
Since forming the unity government, Zimbabwean leaders have argued that the sanctions have outlived their usefulness as the country is trying to raise more than $8-billion to revive the moribund economy.
Mutambara called on the US to restore balance of payments support and credit lines to Zimbabwe’s new government, but admitted that the government still needs to do more to clean up its record.
”We must stop imposing sanctions on ourselves by fresh farm invasions and disregarding court orders,” Mutambara said.
”I am saying we are guilty as charged on this account. We are saying the transgressions are not insurmountable. What I promised was that this government will do all it can to resolve these matters. — Sapa-AFP