Land reform to spare some white farmers – Mugabe

HARARE (AFP) — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Thursday said some white farmers would be spared under his controversial land reforms and urged Britain to compensate owners of property seized for redistribution.

"It’s not every white farm which will be taken. Not necessarily," Mugabe said in reply to the leader of the predominantly-white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) at a conference to lure investors.

"The responsibility of compensation rests on the shoulders of the British government and its allies," he said.

"We pay compensation for developments and improvements. That’s our obligation and we have honoured that. Above all Zimbabwe upholds the sanctity of property rights.

"Sure there must be some compensation. Let’s join hands and appeal to the British."

The land reforms launched in 2000 aimed to resettle blacks on 4,000 white-owned commercial farms, but the process was marred by politically-charged violence.

The scheme has drastically reduced agricultural production, which once accounted for 40 percent of the economy, as most of its beneficiaries lacked both farming equipment and expertise.

Mugabe’s statements came as the CFU reported fresh invasions of white-owned farms.

He accused the farmers of taking sides with the British, whose relations with Zimbabwe were strained over the land reforms launched ostensibly to redress historical land imbalances.

"The farmers have let themselves down," he said. "They have tended to side with the British."

Mugabe said conditions in Zimbabwe favoured investment following the formation of a coalition government with his long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai and opposition faction leader Arthur Mutambara.

"The formation of the inclusive government has strengthened our stable political environment making us more conducive to investment promotion," he asserted.

The international investment conference aimed at attracting local and foreign investment will end on Friday.