Mugabe concerned over unused farms

Robert Mugabe says the farms are being used as status symbols and just keeping cattle.

President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe. Picture: AFP.

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe has now admitted Zimbabweans who were given large farms under the country's land reform programme aren't using them to grow crops.

Mugabe says the farms are being used as status symbols and the new owners are just keeping cattle on them.

This is the second time in recent weeks that he has expressed disappointment with some of Zimbabwe's new farmers.

He told crowds gathered for centenary celebrations at his old high school that big farms need good management.

The Zimbabwean president said many of the new farmers were just keeping them as status symbols rather than working them.

This is a criticism that has been voiced many times by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change since land reform was launched in the year 2000.

Mugabe didn't say the farms would be taken away, but the Herald newspaper is reporting that he did say an audit would be carried out.

Meanwhile, Britain has given Zimbabwe $72 million to help increase food production by rural farmers over the next four years, as the southern African country faces the prospect of poorer harvests this year due to inadequate rains.

Once the bread-basket of the region, the country has since 2000, struggled to feed its people due to droughts and Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks, which badly affected commercial agriculture.

Catriona Laing, Britain's ambassador to Zimbabwe, said with 70 percent of Zimbabweans living in rural areas and mostly surviving on farming, supporting agriculture would speed up economic recovery.

The money would be paid out through the Food and Agriculture Organisation and other relief agencies.

Additional reporting by Reuters