- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2006

HARARE, Zimbabwe — President Robert Mugabe admitted yesterday that Zimbabweans were “begging” for food because of his mass seizure of white-owned farms.

After years of official assertions that his land policies would improve production and guarantee self-sufficiency, he conceded that many of those awarded white-owned farms were doing nothing with their gains.

“If farming is not in your blood, switch to what you are good at,” Mr. Mugabe told supporters in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. “We want those with land to use it. We don’t want to keep begging for food.”

Zimbabwe has depended since 2001 on emergency supplies from the United Nations World Food Program. Almost 4 million people — one third of the population — needed help from the program last year.

Food once ranked among Zimbabwe’s main exports. The main reason for the switch from self-sufficiency to dependency is the transfer of commercial farms to those with no training, capital, expertise or equipment for farming.

Mr. Mugabe’s speech at the annual ceremony remembering the 1970s war against white Rhodesia amounted to an admission of failure.

“Those who can’t produce, be warned: We will take the land back,” he said.

“We now need to distinguish capable and committed farmers from holders of land who are mere chancers and who should be made to seek opportunities elsewhere.”

Mr. Mugabe’s regime has evicted all but a few hundred of the 4,000 white farmers who, until the start of the land seizures six years ago, were the backbone of the economy.

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