It is not land reform when you take land from a few whites and give it to a few blacks. That was how Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai appraised his country’s controversial land reform policy.
In a speech at the AgriBusiness Forum in Johannesburg, he said that “ordinary Zimbabweans were crowded out by the chaotic process” of the land grab by politically connected individuals.
“Zimbabwe used to be the bread basket of Africa until wanton politicians destroyed the noble land redistribution programme. During the 1990s, Zimbabwe was a nett exporter of agricultural products, which was the biggest earner of foreign currency.”
He also pointed to the importance of land tenure in agricultural investments. “No sane investor will put their money into a country where property rights are not secure,” he said. “Constitutionality and the rule of law must be the basic norms for land redistribution”.
Tsvangirai was upbeat about agriculture’s role in Africa’s prosperity. “Africa can feed itself and the rest of the world if it has the best policies and practices in place.” He said government subsidies should be targeted wisely, and questioned many governments’ preference for fixing staple food prices. “How can a government subsidise the consumer and not the farmer? The farmer is where the production starts,” he said. – Jaco Visser