Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe speaks to his wife Grace during a recent rally. Picture: Reuters

MASVINGO - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has warned land invaders against targeting South African-owned Tongaat Hulett sugar plantations.

His warning comes amid complaints from the company that some villagers, supported by "war veterans" and Zanu-PF leaders, were targeting its plantations in Zimbabwe's Lowveld.

“Surely, you cannot harvest where you did not sow,” Mugabe said in an unprecedented warning in Masvingo Province.

“We gave you land. So, make full use of it or seek skills from those with the know-how.”

Mugabe has convened a meeting with local Zanu-PF politicians, war veterans and traditional leaders to avert any possibility of invading Tongaat Hulett cane sugar plantations in the Lowveld.

Speaking in the vernacular Shona, Mugabe lashed out at the land grabbers, arguing that they should invest in the land currently in their possession and grow their own crops instead of invading farmlands already tilled by Tongaat Hulett.

Tongaat Hulett, which also sponsors a local premier league football team, owns vast tracts of land in the Lowveld of Chiredzi and Mwenezi districts. Most of its plantations are located in Chiredzi’s Hippo Valley estates, Mkwasine, Mwenezi and Triangle where more tha 10 000 people are employed.

Apart from sugarcane production, Tongaat Hulett also produces ethanol fuel from cane sugar for local consumption as well as stock-feed. The company, which started its operations in KwaZulu-Natall, also has presence in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

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

Since 2000 he has sanctioned the invasion of white-owned farms, a development blamed for incessant hunger in the Southern African country which was formerly an exporter of food. - CAJ News