At least 120 white farmers in Zimbabwe have returned to the land by setting up farms under leasehold deals with the black beneficiaries of Robert Mugabe’s land seizure policies.
The emergence of a new group of white farmers has drawn bitter criticism from the victims of Mr Mugabe’s violent occupation of properties sold under colonial era leases.
“These farmers handed Mr Mugabe victory,” said former Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president, Andy Ferreira.
In the ten years since Mr Mugabe ordered 4,000 white farmers off their land, Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed. A recent revival in agricultural production appears to have resulted from younger white farmers restoring fallow land to agriculture.
Mr Ferreira has called on international traders to shun tobacco grown on contested land as “blood tobacco”.
Mr Ferreira, an evicted farmer, said this new generation of white farmers did deals – often with Mr Mugabes cronies in the ruling Zanu PF party “because they like the life” and rewards of farming in one of Africa’s most fertile nations.
Hendrik Olivier, director of the Commercial Farmers’ Union said, in some discomfort: “Yes it is happening. We advised these (white) farmers not to move onto land without permission from original owners” Some farmers are paying leases to the Zanu PF beneficiary and the original owner. Others are only paying the Zanu PF person who “acquired” the land and its improvements for free.”
Trevor Gifford, a past president of the CFU, who was forced off his farm in eastern Zimbabwe earlier this year said: :”I am relieved this is coming out. Some of these white farmers are behaving disgracefully.”