Zimbabwe’s vice-president has said the country’s remaining white farmers would be spared eviction if they toed the line and respected the law, local media reported on Thursday.
“We cannot remove every white man in this country,” Vice-President Joseph Msika was quoted as telling a farmers’ rally.
“If you think it’s possible, that will not happen. We will respect those white people who respect our laws and want to live with us,” the private Daily Mirror newspaper quoted him as saying.
The state-owned Herald further quoted Msika as saying: “We cannot remove every white farmer because it’s stupidity. That is shooting yourself in the foot.”
No more than 600 white farmers remain in Zimbabwe following controversial land reforms which saw the eviction of at least 4 000 of their peers to pave the way for land redistribution to poor blacks.
Msika also lashed out at lazy black farmers who invaded white farms and seized properties and then failed to produce anything.
“Some of you when you take these farms, you don’t make use of them,” The Herald quoted Msika as saying.
“Don’t just evict someone who is farming productively because they are of a different race.”
Msika’s statements came weeks after Land Minister Didymus Mutasa said no white farmers were “farming legally” and urged them to seek permission from the government to continue work after constitutional reforms barred dispossesed farmers from seeking legal recourse.
Msika attacked new farmers for their heavy dependence on government handouts.
“We don’t want to build a nation of beggars,” Msika said, urging the farmers to “cultivate the land”.
Zimbabwe’s land reforms, which began often violently in 2000 after the rejection in a referendum on a government-sponsored draft Constitution, have seen about 4 000 white farmers lose their properties.
Critics say the majority of the beneficiaries of the land reforms lack farming skills and rely on government handouts.
They also blame the land reforms for the chronic food shortages in what was once Southern Africa’s bread basket.
At least four million of Zimbabwe’s 13-million people require food aid until the next harvest in May.