Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa says agriculture will remain the mainstay of government economic policy in pursuit of an investment-led process of job creation.
Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new president on Friday following the resignation of Robert Mugabe.
Addressing thousands of people at his inauguration in Harare, Mnangagwa pledged to change the conduct of government business, saying that Zimbabwe was in a mess and viewed as a pariah state by the global community of nations because of unpopular policies.
“Our economic policy will be predicated on agriculture, which is the mainstay, and on creating conditions for an investment-led economic recovery that puts premium on job-creation. Key choices have to be made to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to tackle high unemployment, while transforming our economy from primary to tertiary production,” Mnangagwa said.
He pledged to create conditions to allow the beneficiaries of the country’s land reform programme to make optimum use of the resource.
“I exhort the beneficiaries of the land reform programme to prove they deserved it by demonstrating commitment to the utilisation of the land now available to them for national food security and the recovery of our economy. They must take advantage of the programmes that my government shall avail to ensure that all land is utilised optimally,” he said.
However, President Mnangagwa said due to “historical realities” specific to Zimbabwe, the world needs to understand and appreciate that the land reform programme was inevitable.
“Whilst there is a lot we may do by way of outcomes, the principle of repossessing our land cannot be challenged or reversed. Dispossession of our ancestral land was the fundamental reason for waging the liberation struggle.
“It would be a betrayal of the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in our liberation struggle if we were to reverse the gains made by reclaiming our land,” he said.
Further, he said urgent steps will be taken to capacitate the Land Commission to conduct an audit that should capacitate government to resolve outstanding issues to do with land redistribution.
WHITE FARMERS TO BE COMPENSATED
In a policy shift that marked a departure from the hard-line policies of his predecessor Robert Mugabe, President Mnangagwa said his government will compensate white farmers who lost their properties to the land reform exercise.
“My government is committed to compensating farmers whose land was taken. Complex issues of land tenure will have to be addressed urgently and definitely, in order to bring closure to the ownership and management of this key resource, which is central to national stability sustained economic recovery. We dare not prevaricate on this issue,” Mnangagwa said.
Meanwhile, the National People’s Party (NPP) of former Vice-President Joice Mujuru has called on Mnangagwa to ensure that an urgent, comprehensive land audit that would weed out owners of multiple farms.
NPP Secretary-General Gift Nyandoro said it was shocking to note that 17 years of land redistribution had left a large part of the country in the hands of a few new owners with multiple farms, while the majority still have none.
“There is need for genuine land audit so that the nation gets to know who owns what of the land taken from the white community. We cannot be a nation where one person owns multiple farms when the rest have no land to settle on. It’s time Zimbabweans demands a new culture of doing business that is not based on patronage and personality cults,” Nyandoro said.
Despite a declared government policy of “one man one farm”, Mugabe, his wife Grace, his family and several of their top allies are alleged to be owners of several farms.
According to a preliminary land audit that was done in 2015, multiple farm owners registered some of their properties in the names of their spouses, children and relatives. The Zimbabwe Land Commission (ZLC) needs at least US$16 million to do the audit and establish a centralised farm registry system.