Zimbabwe: Harare repeats threats to kick out white farmers

By Farisai Gonye

HARARE - Zimbabwe's hardliner Minister of Lands Didymus Mutasa on Monday repeated threats to expel the few white farmers left in the country and said a United Nations (UN) report warning of more food shortages in the southern African country would not deter the Harare government.

"The position is that food shortages or no food shortages, we are going ahead to remove the remaining whites. Too many blacks are still clamouring for land and we will resettle them on the remaining farms," he told ZimOnline by phone.

Mutasa, who is also in charge of state security and distribution of government food aid, said the Harare administration was under pressure to return some farms to whites or that it "spares those remaining because we are facing food shortages".

The Lands Minister, who is one of President Robert Mugabe's closest confidantes, did not say who was pressuring Harare to return seized farms or stop evicting remaining white farmers but he vowed "we would rather all die of hunger, but knowing full well that the land is in the hands of black people."

He defended falling production on former white farms given to blacks as a learning curve and promised the cash-strapped government would do more to provide resources and farming skills to new black farmers in order to boost production beginning next season.

A report released last week by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme said more than four million people or about a third of Zimbabwe's population of 12 million would face serious food shortages by early next year.

Critics blame Zimbabwe's food crisis directly on Mugabe's haphazard fast-track land reform exercise that displaced established white commercial farmers and replaced them with either incompetent or inadequately funded black farmers.

Food production plunged by about 60 percent as a result while chaos in the agriculture sector because of farm seizures also hit hard Zimbabwe's once impressive manufacturing sector that had depended on a robust farming sector for orders and inputs.

Most of Zimbabwe's firms have operated at about 30 percent of capacity since the beginning of farm seizures in 2000, this in a country where unemployment is more than 80 percent. - ZimOnline