'Stop invading dairy farms,' Zim govt warns illegal settlers

Harare - A Zimbabwean minister has warned illegal settlers against invading dairy farms that were sparred by government during the country’s land reforms programme, says a report.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister Owen Ncube said this amid reports that illegal settlers were invading dairy farms in the province.

Speaking to midlands dairy farmers, Ncube said that it was government policy to spare dairy farms in the land redistribution exercise in order to maximise milk production.

He also warned land officers against allocating dairy farms to unproductive people, saying this would negatively affect dairy production and the economy of the country.

"I understand that Midlands is one of the leading provinces in terms of milk production and we would want it to remain like that. In the past years, we have spared the dairy farmers, but of late we learnt that that some farms were downsized to levels that made their business non-viable and uneconomic. We want to correct the anomaly," Ncube was quoted as saying.

Ncube’s remarks came just a few weeks after a white farmer who was evicted in June received his land back following interventions by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. 

With a military escort, Robert Smart made his way into his Lesbury farm about 200km east of the capital, Harare to cheers and song by dozens of workers and community members.

The ruling Zanu-PF party supporters, led by veterans of the 1970s war against white minority rule, evicted many of Zimbabwe's white farmers under an often violent land reform programme led by ex-president Robert Mugabe.

Of the roughly 4 500 white farmers before the land reforms began in 2000, only a few hundred are left.