Mugabe warns land invaders to stay away from Tongaat Hulett farms

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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe gestures during his 93rd birthday celebrations in Harare, Zimbabwe, February 21, 2017.

MASVINGO – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe warned land invaders to stay away from South African-owned Tongaat Hulett sugar plantations.

Mugabe’s warning came 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 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.

He 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.

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Tongaat Hulett, which also sponsored a local premier league football team, owned vast tracts of land in the Lowveld of Chiredzi and Mwenezi districts.

Most of its plantations were located in Chiredzi’s Hippo Valley estates, Mkwasine, Mwenezi and Triangle, where more than 10,000 people were employed.

Apart from sugarcane production, Tongaat Hulett produced ethanol fuel from cane sugar for local consumption, as well as stock-feed. The company also had a presence in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

Mugabe’s warning was a major shift from his stance against land ownership by foreign nationals and companies.

Over the years, since 2000, he had sanctioned the invasion of white-owned farms, a development blamed for incessant hunger in the country formerly known as an exporter of food.