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Mugabe's policy reversed on white farmer land leases

Communists offer cautious welcome to President Emmerson Mnangagwa's agricultural reform

ZIMBABWEAN President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared an end to “discrimination along racial lines in agriculture,” with the Agriculture Ministry ruling that white farmers may now receive the same 99-year land leases as are available to their black counterparts.

Under his predecessor Robert Mugabe’s land reform programme many white farmers had their land redistributed to landless peasants and veterans of the country’s independence war, while those who managed to hold onto their land were only allowed five-year leases, making tenure unstable.

Commercial Farmers Union president Peter Steyl said the long leases would “bring a certainty that had been eroded. There is a lot of technical expertise that had been idle. Bringing back evicted farmers will unlock that much-needed expertise.”

Zimbabwe Communist Party (ZCP) national political commissar Ian Beddowes gave a cautious welcome to the change.

The ZCP had never agreed with the racial policy of throwing whites off the land, he said, though the “one family, one farm” slogan of the war veterans had benefited many poor Zimbabweans as giant landholdings were broken up.

But the land reform movement had been exploited by the “parasitical black bourgeoisie,” with military chiefs and senior civil servants based in Harare or Bulawayo gaining ownership of land they did not farm, he said.

“We’re not unhappy about white farmers getting underutilised land back,” Mr Beddowes told the Morning Star. “Land must in the final analysis belong to the people as a whole, so we would oppose permanent title deeds,” while anyone working the land themselves should keep their right to it, he said.

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