President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe Appeals For Racial Unity.
Ahead of their landmark election, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for racial unity explaining that white farmers will still have their lands.
Former government under President Robert Mugabe, supported the seizure of hundreds of white-owned farms which they saw as unfairly taken by settlers.
Speaking to a crowd in Harare, Mr Mnangagwa, 75, explained that the controversial policy was a thing of the past.
“We should cease to talk about who owns the farm in terms of colour,” he said.
“It is criminal talking about that. A farmer, a black farmer, a white farmer, is a Zimbabwean farmer.”
Mr Mnangagwa’s move is to ease the concerns of white voters ahead of their historic elections on 30 July.
This will be the first presidential poll since Mr Mugabe was ousted from power in November, bringing an end to his 37-year rule.
Traditionally, White Zimbabweans have voted for opposition parties such as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as opposed to Mr Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF party.
Mr Mnangagwa explained to the crowd that his government was “racially blind” and acknowledged the failure of his predecessor’s controversial land reforms.
The farm seizures of white farmers led to a crash in Zimbabwe’s agricultural output, an exodus of skilled white farmers and widespread unemployment among black farm labourers.
Over 120 political parties are registered for this month’s elections, and there are likely to be 23 presidential candidates to choose from on the ballot.
Mr Mnangagwa is favourite to win the poll, but analysts say he also has enemies – for overthrowing his former mentor and for being a previous enforcer of Mr Mugabe’s government.
Mnangagwa’s main opposition is Nelson Chamisa, 40, a lawyer and preacher who rose to the top of the MDC in February. Chamisa is hugely popular, especially among the young and unemployed, and would become the country’s youngest ever president if elected.
The youth vote is expected to be key. More than half of Zimbabweans are now under 25 and about 43.5% of registered voters are under 35.