Harare – Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has expressed concern over President Robert Mugabe's recent call for the seizure of land still occupied by the few remaining white commercial farmers.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said in a statement sent to News24: "…We are alarmed and extremely concerned by President Robert Mugabe's recent call at his so – called youth interface rallies - for the compulsory takeover of all land that is still occupied by the few remaining white commercial farmers."
Mugabe, 93, recently said that white commercial farmers who still remained on the farms should be removed from their properties because most Zimbabweans were in need of land.
The nonagenarian said this while addressing thousands of his ruling Zanu-PF party supporters in the farming town of Marondera, about 80km east of the capital Harare.
"We told (former British premier) Tony Blair to keep his England and we keep our Zimbabwe because land is our heritage. We have discovered that in Mashonaland east province alone, there are 73 white commercial farmers who are still occupying some farms when our people do not have land," said Mugabe.
'Retrogressive and blatantly racist call'
But Gutu said his party maintained that land should be allocated to all deserving Zimbabweans.
"The MDC has always advocated for a holistic and sustainable land reform exercise that will ensure national food security as well as the development of commercial and small – scale agricultural schemes," said Gutu.
He added: "More importantly, the MDC is extremely concerned by the retrogressive and blatantly racist call for the compulsory acquisition of all farms that are still being occupied by the few remaining white farmers."
Gutu urged the government to carry out a land audit and repossess all idle land before it could disturb production by the few remaining white commercial farmers.
"The fact of the matter is that a lot of commercial farm land is lying idle right now and if a transparent land reform audit would be undertaken by the government, a lot of farms can be made available for resettlement by all those deserving Zimbabweans who have applied for land.
"We would like the land reform programme to be streamlined and rationalised to ensure that a person will only be allocated one farm and thus, do away with the corrupt scourge of multiple farm ownership that is rampant amongst the ruling elite."
This was not the first time that the MDC expressed concern over Mugabe's plans to target the few remaining "productive white farmers". Last month, Gutu said that the move would worsen the country’s already battered economy.
"The resolution to take away all farms that are presently owned by the few whites who are engaged in commercial agriculture is absolutely nonsensical, racist, primitive and retrogressive," said Gutu.
Colonial land ownership imbalances
He claimed that there were less than 200 white commercial farmers who still occupied land in Zimbabwe, adding that: "We also have got it on very good and reliable authority that at least one senior cabinet minister has amassed no less than 19 farms for himself and members of his immediate family."
Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party launched the land reforms in 2000, taking over white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks, said reports.
Mugabe said at the time that the reforms were meant to correct colonial land ownership imbalances.
At least 4 000 white commercial farmers were evicted from their farms.
The land seizures were often violent, claiming the lives of several white farmers during clashes with veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation struggle.
Economists blamed the chaotic land reforms for the country's economic downturn but Mugabe maintained that his administration was correcting colonial imbalances.