AGRICULTURAL and Rural Development Authority (Arda) board chairman, Basil Nyabadza, has described former President Robert Mugabe’s fast-track land reform programme as a “great mistake” which drove away the country’s hardworking white commercial farmers and crippled the agricultural sector.
Nyabadza told NewsDay last week that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government had introduced policies to lure back the farmers, most of them in Australia, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique.
“Those must be persuaded back and work with the new government to bring meaningful economic recovery.
“We have a lot of capital resources dotted around the world, including Australia, and we are saying all of them must come back and start the agricultural business on a fresh page,” Nyabadza said, denouncing the fast-track land.
“Clearly, the formulas deployed then left a lot of bad feeling. And more importantly, the intellectual property left our borders,” said Nyabadza.
“As stakeholders, we now need a broad-based approach and our message to exiled farmers is clear: Come home.” He added that he recently teamed up with Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Monica Mutsvangwa and toured Mozambique’s thriving Vanduzi horticultural farm, run by former Kondozi Farm owner, Piet de Klerk.
Nyabadza said Vanduzi had transformed into a major horticultural producer whose products have found their way into many regional and international markets, including Zimbabwe, since its takeover by de Klerk.
Kondozi Farm, which used to be the bedrock of Zimbabwe’s horticulture programmes, has now been stripped of its assets and reduced into a pale shadow of its former self following its takeover by Zanu PF chefs in April 2004.
In 2013 former South African president Thabo Mbeki also took a swipe at Mugabe’s chaotic land reform programme, saying the Zanu PF leader had “set a bad example which we don’t want any country in Africa to follow”.
“The way the land reform was done offended other players in the world. I told them (Mugabe and Zanu PF), they could not listen; they did what they wanted with their own country. They set a bad example which we don’t want any country in Africa to follow. So they must pay a price.” Mbeki said.
Mnangagwa’s administration, which came into power in November last year, has now started reversing some of Mugabe’s ruinous policies. The new government recently started issuing 99-year land leases to both white and indigenous commercial farmers in an effort to kick-start the sector and resuscitate the country’s regional breadbasket status.