President Mugabe pleads for land reform financial support

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday pleaded for financial support for the much-hyped land reform programme, which has largely remained underfunded amid lack of productivity at most acquired farms.

Mugabe spoke as First Lady Grace emerged from her hibernation following an embarrassing episode in which she reportedly bashed a 20-year-old South African model, Gabriella Engels, in that country whom she found in the company of her sons, Robert Jnr and Bellarmine Chatunga, on August 13.

Officially opening the 107th edition of the Harare Agricultural Show, Mugabe was quick to heap praise on the command agriculture programme, saying it had put to rest “propaganda” tarnishing the image of his fast-track land reform programme which displaced over 4 500 white commercial farmers.

“If we have had a good rainy season, like the one we have just had, the results of our land reform programme become more evident and that exposes the false propaganda of our detractors,” he said.

“Last year, my government intervened pro-actively to stimulate agricultural production with the accent on ensuring food security. Government employed it (command agriculture) as its latest strategy to boost economic growth. As a result of this strategy, Zimbabwe is expecting a bumper harvest in excess of two million metric tonnes of maize.”

Mugabe begged mostly financial institutions to inject resources into the scheme, which has suffered immense criticism for its mediocre results and heavy political undertones.

“Thanks to the support that has been rendered by my government and our well-wishers to these enterprises. I urge input suppliers from seed, fertilisers and agro-chemical providers to work closely with our farmers so that we continue to make the land reform programme a resounding success,” Mugabe said.

“Financial institutions should also come in to provide sufficiently the needed capital that will get the programme moving and we pray that the banks lower their interest rates because in essence they are an inhibition to progress and development . . . so, please, banks listen to our call.”

Some land beneficiaries were failing to acquire loans from banks to boost the capital base of their operations, with most financial institutions reluctant to compromise on their lending conditions due to fear of poor compliance by the farmers in repaying the funds.

The command agriculture programme has been regarded by some sections of society as a late bid by the Zanu PF government to spruce the soiled image of the land reform programme which analysts have deemed to be largely controversial.