Zimbabwe’s new Agriculture Minister, Perence Shiri, has ordered illegal occupiers to immediately vacate farms grabbed from white farmers from early 2000 onward.
“All those who were illegally settled, or who just settled themselves on resettlement land, should vacate immediately,” Shiri was quoted by the government-owned The Herald newspaper.
Shiri’s order came at the heel of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Robert Mugabe (93) as leader last month, pledged to stabilise the economy, including agriculture, and create jobs.
Crucially, the new Zimbabwean government, scheduled to meet the International Monetary Fund (IMF) early next year, wanted to demonstrate tangible evidence of being investor-friendly by revising the compensation of evicted white farmers. Claims by evicted farmers is conservatively estimated at US$8.6 billion. This includes fixed assets such as houses and dams.
The seizures that affected approximately 2 000 white commercial farmers, sent the agricultural sector, the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy, into a tailspin, triggering a slump that saw the nation’s gross domestic product halved.
“Only those people with documentation of land occupancy and/or those who were allocated land legitimately should remain on the farms and concentrate on production unhindered,” Shiri said.
Peter Steyl, President of the Commercial Farmers Union, said affected farmers were encouraged by the message from government. “It is still early days, but the message so far is there will be room for evicted farmers to come back,” he said.
However, it would appear illegal land occupiers will not go without a fight. Zimbabwean cleric Trevor Manhanga was resisting a recent directive by government to vacate a 100-hectare farm grabbed from a white farmer.
“I’m staying put. I did not invade, occupy or grab any farm or portion thereof. I am in legal and lawful possession of an offer issued on 15 March to a piece of land measuring 100 hectares of Lesbury Estate in Makoni,” he was quoted by local media.