Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has promised to give more land to the country’s former freedom fighters, even as the opposition accuses him of using the land redistribution program to hunt for votes ahead of the 2018 general election.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of War Veterans on Saturday, President Mugabe asked all veterans who are yet to benefit from his controversial resettlement program to identify farms at their preferred locations and the government will facilitate their resettlement, reports News24.
The announcement follows a series of meetings between the 93-year-old president and war veterans last year, where it’s alleged that the freedom fighters generally complained that the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement was dispossessing them of their farms.
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“Some have initiated housing co-operatives which are seriously under attack from various cunning land barons,” said Tshinga Dube, Zimbabwe’s minister of War Veterans.
“The veterans of the liberation struggle have pleaded with His Excellency to intervene at the highest level to stop the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement or any other authorities involved.”
Dube reportedly asked the ex-freedom fighters to approach his ministry for compensation and also requested veterans who had been offered land but failed to settle on them to provide the names of the farms and copies of offer letters to his ministry.
Those who have been evicted from their lands or issued with eviction notices have been reportedly instructed to provide supporting documents to help President Mugabe reverse such actions and ensure they are resettled.
Politics of Patronage
Critics say the announcement is an attempt by the veteran president to marshal support for his re-election bid in the coming general election.
With the ongoing political and economic crises in Zimbabwe, many expect President Mugabe to face immense opposition in the 2018 polls seeing that his own party, Zanu-PF, is currently in disarray, with some veterans withdrawing their support from him.
“He [Mugabe] knows the economic situation of the country continues to deteriorate and there is no solution in sight. Substantially, therefore, he has nothing to campaign with, the indigenization and land redistribution mantra has passed its sell-by date and people want food on the table,” Zimbabwean political commentator Rick Mukonza says.
By galvanizing the support of war veterans, who for many years have been his greatest political mainstay, President Mugabe hopes to bring around the emotive issue of land, which is part of the political machinery that has kept him in power for so long.
Since 1980, the government of Zimbabwe has been carrying out numerous land reforms, including equitable redistribution of land between Black subsistence farmers and White Zimbabweans who remained in the country after independence.