Zimbabwean authorities have seized a farm allocated to a nephew of former ruler Robert Mugabe during the country’s controversial reforms, saying the property was not being fully utilised, documents seen on Thursday by AFP revealed.
In an affidavit, businessman Robert Zhuwao, the son of the late Robert Mugabe’s younger sister Sabina, protested that the land ministry revoked his title to the 233-hectare “on the basis of a false allegation.”
“Since I was allocated the plot, I have been farming tobacco, cereal crops, sunflower and poultry,” Zhuwao said in documents filed in the Harare high court, denying he was not making full use of the farm in the Mugabes’ home province of Mashonaland West.
“I fully complied with the requirements which came with the offer letter. I am, therefore, not in breach of any of the terms and conditions attached to the offer,” he said.
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until his toppling by the military in 2017, launched land reforms 20 years ago seizing around 4,000 farms from the country’s 4,500 white farmers.
He justified the land grabs as a way to correct colonial-era land ownership disparities that had favoured whites and to stimulate economic growth for black Zimbabweans.
Zhuwao claims he was offered the farm under that land reform programme in 2004.
Zhuwao is the brother of exiled former Cabinet minister, Patrick Zhuwao. He has claimed to the court that only the judiciary or President Emmerson Mnangagwa had the powers to revoke the land offer.
Critics blame Mugabe’s farm evictions for a collapse in agricultural production that forced the one-time regional bread basket to become dependent on imported food to feed its population.
Economic output fell by half following the land seizures which started in 2000 and the country’s economy has struggled since then.
The government has started paying compensation to farmers whose properties were seized, beginning with elderly farmers and those in difficult circumstances.
Compensation will only be paid for improvements the former farm owners made to the land. It will not be paid for loss of the land itself.