JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa is a “sell-out” and worse than his predecessor Robert Mugabe, South African opposition leader Julius Malema said on Wednesday.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader said Zimbabwe’s decision to pay compensation to white farmers whose land was taken during the Fast Track Land Reform programme was a “sell-out position”, warning that Mnangagwa might not finish his five-year term he controversially won in August last year.
“It’s a sell-out position, Mnangagwa is selling out,” Malema said during a news conference in Johannesburg.
“I can tell you now he won’t finish his term. The way he’s going about it, he’s not going to finish his term. That country is swimming in a pool of poverty; they can’t afford basic things like primary health care, good education and infrastructure. They get money and they go and give to people who are not deserving of such money. It’s a sell-out position, it’s unsustainable.”
Zimbabwe announced on Monday that it would start paying compensation this year to thousands of white farmers who lost land under Mugabe’s land reform nearly two decades ago.
Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 black families, arguing it was redressing imbalances from the colonial era.
But land reform still divides public opinion as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself.
Mnangagwa, who came to power after Mugabe was toppled in a military coup in November 2017, sees the paying of compensation to white farmers as key to mend ties with the West, and set aside $17.5 million in this year’s budget to that end. The initial payments will target those in financial distress, while full compensation will be paid later.
Said Malema: “He’s reversing the gains of the revolution and very soon the people of Zimbabwe will turn on him and he’ll have nowhere to hide.”
Malema, whose party is championing land reclamation without compensation in South Africa, maintains that white land owners forcibly took land from its black owners – and no money should be paid for the land.
“We don’t agree with Mnangagwa. They (white farmers) don’t deserve any compensation, and therefore anyone who compensates them for stolen land is a sell-out. So Mnangagwa is a sell-out. He must know that he’s bad, he’s a sell-out. We thought he was going to bring fresh air in Zimbabwe but he’s continuing to be worse than what we’ve experienced before. He’s a sell-out and he must know that.”
The Zimbabwe government, which maintains it will only pay compensation for infrastructure and improvements on farms and not for the land, is talking to international financial institutions on options to raise the full amount to pay farmers.
Colonialists seized some of the best agricultural land and much of it remained in the hands of white farmers after independence in 1980, while many blacks were landless.