Use it or lose it, farmers warned

MugabeLovemore Mataire Senior Reporter
President Mugabe yesterday castigated A2 farmers for underutilising land and said Government will soon undertake an audit to ensure that land is fully utilised.

Speaking to thousands of Catholics and other people who attended Kutama Mission centenary celebrations in Zvimba, President Mugabe said he was disappointed with A2 farmers whom he said were using land as some kind of status symbol.

“We feel that the land issue has helped us to ameliorate the unemployment levels of our people and some of our young men are now reaping tobacco, cotton, although with regards to cotton there has been some reduction in the volume of production. But in tobacco the volumes are going up and rewarding our youngsters and it is more our young men who are in the A1 system and the A1 system is the one we rely upon most for food even yielding greater quantities of maize,” said President Mugabe.

He said the A2 farmers were giving Government trouble and an audit was needed to establish how each farmer was faring.

“It is turning out now that quite a good many of those who got farms on the A2 system are not running them,” said President Mugabe. “The farms require huge capital and good management, they don’t have it, but they are a status symbol to many.

“(They say) ‘I am a farmer, I have a farm’, but what are you producing? That’s what we want to know, (not) to just have a farm where most of it is just pasture for cattle and you are not looking after the cattle, too,” he said.

The President said Government had no policy for the acquisition of land belonging to boarding schools because they needed land to be self-sufficient in producing food for the growing population of schoolchildren.

“We don’t even consider that, we have never considered it,” he said. “If anything, the schools without farms are entitled to have farms, provided they use the farms in the manner in which I have described.”

President Mugabe bemoaned the wrangle between the Jesuit and Marist Brothers in the Catholic Church over the ownership of Kutama Mission’s farm, which is being underutilised because of the dispute.

He said the Jesuits, who owned the farm in the first place, were unwilling to give it to the Marist Brothers, who are now running Kutama, insisting that they should be their tenants.

“I want that settled as we want the farm well used, it’s not well used at the moment and production is not as good as (at) the time of Brother Michael,” President Mugabe said.

Recounting the historical aspect of the land issue, President Mugabe said he, together with the late Vice President Dr Joshua Nkomo, had insisted that the British provide funding for the land reform programme during the Lancaster House constitutional negotiations.

He said the Americans and the British Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher agreed to provide funds for the land reform.

President Mugabe said problems started when the Labour Party assumed power and sought to abrogate their historical duty as agreed upon by the previous Conservative government.

“However, in terms of the principle that we have, the issue of principle has been fundamental, you rely more on people who stick to the principle than those who waver,” he said.

“The Americans, Andrew Young, used to describe me as a Jesuit and add to it, he also called me a Marxist, but we were never communist, but there are definite principles naturally that we share.

“When you talk of a country and its sovereignty, you must also accept that the nation of that country has a right, God-given right, to their natural resources and must own those resources, they are owners of those resources.

“The natural resources of a country belong to us. We can have others to partner us in development of the resources, but that does not entitle those others to be masters over us.”

President Mugabe said former British prime minister Tony Blair could not publicly say that he wanted the land reform programme stopped, but started telling blatant lies and presented them as truth, saying there was no democracy and rule of law in Zimbabwe.

He said the European Union accepted Mr Blair’s lies, which led to the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe.

“We say those (lies) must be resisted, we will resist and we will resist on principle and on the basis of organising our people to be united in supporting us on those matters of principle,” President Mugabe said.

“Sure, we must have democracy, sure we must have rule of law, but that must not be dictated to us by anyone and that is the area where sometimes we have been misconstrued by even the authorities in our church.

“But we have said no, we believe in what is right and in the principle that we have described as salient principle that attach to our sovereign right of independence and sovereign right of ownership of our natural resources.”

President Mugabe said Zimbabwe is an open society, which recognises its culture, including the chiefs and is not like other countries which have abolished traditional chieftainships.