Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mugabe admits his land policies might have caused famine


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President Robert Mugabe at the weekend admitted that his chaotic and often violent land redistribution exercise helped cause severe food shortages in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe has in the past completely rejected assertions that his seizure of large-scale producing white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks destabilised the mainstay agricultural sector and Zimbabwe's capacity to feed itself.

Zimbabwe, once a regional breadbasket, has since Mugabe's land reforms in 2000 largely survived on handouts from international food relief agencies.

The Zimbabwean leader, who insists his land reforms were necessary to correct an unjust land tenure system that reserved all the best farmland for whites while blacks were cramped on poor soils, had in the past maintained that his country's food problems were mainly because of poor weather.

But Mugabe last Saturday told a conference of his ruling ZANU PF party that lack of proper planning in the land reform exercise, corruption, lawlessness on farms and vandalisation of irrigation equipment and infrastructure, coupled with shortages of fertilizer and seed had exacerbated the effects of poor weather.

"All this translates into low production and food insecurity," said Mugabe, in a surprisingly frank assessment of his land reform project.

Indicating he is not about to call off ongoing seizures of the few farms still in white hands, Mugabe told the ZANU PF conference that there were still more people waiting to be allocated land. But he said vandalisation of farms should stop.

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