MASVINGO, July 4 – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has warned land invaders to stay away from South African-owned Tongaat Hulett sugar plantations.
Mugabe’s warning comes amid complaints from the company that some villagers, supported by a group of war veterans and Zanu-PF leaders, were targeting its plantations in the Lowveld.
“Surely, you cannot harvest where you did not sow,” Mugabe said in an unprecedented warning in Masvingo province.
“We gave you the land. So, make fully use of it or seek skills from those with the know-how.”
Mugabe has convened a meeting with local Zanu-PF politicians, war veterans and traditional leaders to avert any possibility of invasion of Tongaat Hulett cane sugar plantations in the Lowveld.
Speaking in the vernacular Shona, Mugabe lashed out at the land grabbers arguing they should invest in the land currently in their possession and grow their own crops instead of invading farmlands already tilled by Tongaat Hulett.
Tongaat Hulett, which also sponsors a local premier league football team, owns vast tracts of land in the Lowveld of Chiredzi and Mwenezi districts.
Most of its plantations are located in Chiredzi’s Hippo Valley estates, Mkwasine, Mwenezi and Triangle, where more than 10,000 people are employed.
Apart from sugarcane production, Tongaat Hulett also produces ethanol fuel from cane sugar for local consumption as well as stock-feed.
The company also has presence in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.
Mugabe’s warning is a major shift from his stance against land ownership by foreign nationals and companies.
Over the years, since 2000, he has sanctioned the invasion of white-owned farms, a development blamed for incessant hunger in the country formerly known as an exporter of food.