Zimbabwe: Resettled black farmers abandon land

By Regerai Marwezu

MASVINGO - At least 180 mostly senior government officials, war veterans and state security agents have abandoned sugar plots they grabbed from former white farmers in the country's sugar growing Chiredzi district.

Zimbabwe Sugar Association chairman Daniel Nsingo told ZimOnline the new black farmers deserted after failing to run them and incurring huge debts.

About 500 black farmers hurriedly occupied sugarcane plots in Chiredzi at the height of government farm seizures in 2001 and had struck a deal with private firms Triangle Limited and Hippo Valley Estates under which the companies would provide labour and inputs for the farmers.

The companies -- that are the two sugar milling giants in the country and have seen production slumping since farm invasions - would recover their money from cane delivered by farmers under the agreement.

Nsingo said: "Some new farmers failed to get a single cent as Hippo Valley and Triangle deducted their monies from the cane delivered.

"Some farmers ended up owing the two companies various amounts of money and about 180 have since abandoned their plots because they have failed to run them."

More farmers were feared could also desert their plots, according to Nsingo.

President Robert Mugabe's government has since 2000 seized land form white commercial farmers to give to black under a controversial redistribution programme it says is meant to right a colonial and racial land tenure system that reserved all the best land for whites.

But the southern African nation that was a regional breadbasket before farm seizures has had to rely on food imports and handouts from international relief agencies mainly due to failure by new black farmers to maintain production on former white farms.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday said more than a third of the 12 million Zimbabweans will face serious food shortages by early next year due to crop failure and an acute economic crisis gripping the country.

Poor performance in the mainstay agricultural sector has also had far reaching consequences as hundreds of thousands have lost jobs while the manufacturing sector, starved of inputs from the sector, is operating below 30 percent capacity. ZimOnline