Zimbabwe has begun repossessing idle land from black farmers who benefitted from controversial land reforms two decades ago, Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka said Wednesday.
People whose farmland is lying unused and those who own multiple farms will lose land, he said.
The land will be given to aspiring farmers from a waiting list left from earlier rounds of land reform, he said.
“Zimbabwe has a finite geographic space,” Masuka said.
“We have allocated 99 percent of the land, and the land that I am currently allocating to those on the waiting list is land that I am taking from blacks, allocating to blacks.”
Government will not repossess productive farms, he added.
“We will leave a family with a farm,” Masuka said.
Speaking at the opening of annual tobacco auctions, Masuka said some repossessions had already occurred, but did not give details.
Former president Robert Mugabe launched land reforms in 2000, forcibly removing white farmers and giving their land to blacks.
The scheme was supposed to redress legacies of British colonialism but in practise, many of Mugabe’s close allies ended up with multiple farms.
But many new farmers had little knowledge, training or support, and vast swathes of land became derelict.
Once renowned as a breadbasket, Zimbabwe now suffers from chronic food shortages, while a quarter of a million farmers are on the waiting list for land.
Masuka’s deputy, Vangelis Haritatos, told AFP that government had also allowed former white commercial farmers to return to some farms through joint ventures.
“We don’t have a set criterion as government,” he said. “What we want is fairness for everyone.”
“We need to take our country to self-sufficiency, in food and nutrition,” Haritatos said.
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, some 10 million of Zimbabwe’s nearly 15 million people risk hunger by September after a poor rainy season.
The country has long depended on donors for basic food supplies.