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Land reforms anchor economy: President
Posted: Monday, March 15, 2004

PRESIDENT Mugabe has said land reforms undertaken in the last four years had anchored the economy for sustained growth, and underpinned the country's sovereignty.

In an interview with a group of local and visiting Cuban journalists, the president said land was any nation's main resource, which had to be equitably owned and shared mainly by the indigenous people.

The Government has brushed off strong Western opposition, led by Britain and the United States, and re-distributed to peasants the bulk of the country's prime farmland previously controlled by a handful of white farmers.

President Mugabe said the programme had laid a strong foundation for sustained economic growth in Zimbabwe, and consolidated the country's independence and sovereignty.

He said political independence which the country gained from Britain in 1980 was hollow if not accompanied by economic empowerment of the majority black Zimbabweans in vital sectors such as agriculture.

"There is no nation that can feel sovereign if its resources, whether it's lands or minerals or any other resources, are in the hands of enemies or foreigners.

"Much as we respect the principles of international capital and investment, that cannot be the excuse that our land was being owned by the British," he said.

"We feel that our land has now been liberated. It is now the land of our people for our people. It (land) gives the people a sense of belonging and ownership," he added.

President Mugabe said the other main aim of the land reforms, in addition to consolidating Zimbabwe's nationhood, was to turn around the economy, and ensure its sustained growth by expanding production in the agricultural sector -- the economy's mainstay.

"Agriculture is an extremely vital sector of our economy -- it yields exports, our food and is the main source of raw materials for our industrial sector," he said.

The bulk of the country's exports are agricultural products such as tobacco, which is Zimbabwe's biggest single export, and cotton.

The president said the next focus, after resettlement, of the Government in the agricultural sector was to provide financing and technical support services to farmers to ensure efficiency and optimal use of the land.

"Now we want to organise the people (resettled farmers) properly, and give them all the assistance they want to be confident and productive, and use the land optimally," said President Mugabe.

"It is necessary that we put inputs at the disposal of the people, things like fertilisers, small tractors and ploughs. We want the people to be efficient and to be mechanised," he said.

He said the land reforms were easy to implement in the country, in part, because Zimbabweans were natural farmers, and deeply attached to their land, giving himself as an example.

"I am also farming in my village. I've 1 000 chickens, but I want to increase that to 2 000, and I keep some pigs also. I produce and sell eggs, and the income from this helps pay for the maintenance of my (village) home," he said.

"The people love their soil," said President Mugabe.

He vowed no amount of pressure -- political, economic or military -- would sway him and the Government to relent on land reforms, which were now spreading to other countries in the region with similar land ownership disparities between white farmers and the indigenous blacks.

He said sanctions, which Western countries had imposed in protest against the reforms, had boomeranged in that they had opened the eyes of blacks in Zimbabwe and elsewhere to the injustice of land ownership in the country.

"Our people are getting stronger in their will and resistance; they no longer listen to them (Western countries) and their puppets," said President Mugabe.

"Yes, sanctions do harm, but we have ourselves realised that we cannot sacrifice our independence (for aid)," he said. -- New Ziana.

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