Zim­babwe aims to undo some land grab mis­takes

Com­mis­sion is car­ry­ing out au­dits to ex­pose those who own mul­ti­ple farms, says min­is­ter

Business Day - - NATIONAL - Kevin Sa­maita

Zim­babwe’s gov­ern­ment has started a land au­dit to cut farm sizes, flush out mul­ti­ple farm own­ers and cor­rect some of the mis­takes from its chaotic land re­form pro­gramme.

The ef­fort is an at­tempt by the gov­ern­ment to re­dress the dam­age caused by its land seizures that started in 2000.

Re­cently lands, agri­cul­ture, ru­ral re­set­tle­ment, wa­ter and cli­mate min­is­ter Per­rance Shiri said his coun­try re­grets some of the in­jus­tices of its land re­form pro­gramme and is tak­ing cor­rec­tive mea­sures, in­clud­ing com­pen­sat­ing white farm­ers and work­ing with them.

An­a­lysts on Wed­nes­day con­firmed the move is a re­al­i­sa­tion by Zim­babwe’s gov­ern­ment of the folly of forced land grabs.

An in­for­mal au­dit by au­thor­i­ties ex­posed ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the al­lo­ca­tion of farms, with chil­dren as young as 10 years old re­port­edly get­ting land.

Once seen as the bread bas­ket of South­ern Africa, Zim­babwe’s food pro­duc­tion has plum­meted, forc­ing it to im­port ba­sic food­stuffs be­cause of dire short­ages of wheat, soya beans and other crops. The al­ready des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion has been wors­ened by a huge bud­get deficit of $3bn and crip­pling short­ages of for­eign cur­rency.

Agri­cul­ture ac­counts for 15% of Zim­babwe’s GDP and pro­vides about 70% of its for­mal em­ploy­ment. Zim­babwe’s land re­form re­sulted in a huge dis­place­ment of 6,000 white farm­ers, with about 300,000 black fam­i­lies ben­e­fit­ing.

But the pro­gramme has been abused by top Zanu-PF of­fi­cials.

For­mer pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe re­port­edly owns at least 21 farms, which is against the gov­ern­ment’s one-per­son-one­farm pol­icy. His wife and chil­dren are also said to have ben­e­fited from the pro­gramme.

Ad­dress­ing the se­nate in Harare, Shiri said the land au­dit will help flush out mul­ti­ple farm own­ers. “The land com­mis­sion is cur­rently on the ground car­ry­ing out land au­dits where they want to es­tab­lish the oc­cu­pants, pro­duc­tion lev­els as well as elim­i­nate mul­ti­ple farm own­er­ship,” he said.

“The is­sue of the re­siz­ing of the farms to the rec­om­mended stan­dards will be pur­sued in earnest. In a bid not to step on each other’s toes, our min­istry of­fi­cials are not cur­rently pur­su­ing the re­siz­ing of the farms up and un­til the com­ple­tion of the land au­dit.”

Shiri said the land au­dit will also deal with own­er­ship and bound­ary dis­putes.

Hen­drik Olivier, for­mer CEO of the Com­mer­cial Farm­ers Union, a group­ing of mostly white farm­ers, said re­siz­ing of the land will be “a big test” for the Zim­bab­wean gov­ern­ment rope in white farm­ers.

“It is not an easy task. Some of the mul­ti­ple farm own­ers are top of­fi­cials. We wait to see if they will be named.

“An­other test is to see if, once the re­siz­ing is done, they will be able to work with the white farm­ers. I think this is what they need to do and it’s quite grat­i­fy­ing that the pres­i­dent has said that he is will­ing to work with white farm­ers,” Olivier said, re­fer­ring to Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa.

Agri­cul­ture econ­o­mist Mid­way Bhunu said the land au­dit is long over­due.

“The root cause of our cur­rent eco­nomic cri­sis is lack of pro­duc­tion, be­cause we are not mak­ing full use of the farms.

“Zim­babwe’s econ­omy is agro-based and we need a new strat­egy to get the most out of the farms.

“Most of the underutilised land lies in the highly pro­duc­tive ar­eas of re­gion 1 and re­gion 2. These are prime ar­eas, which have best con­di­tions for pro­duc­tion, but there are many peo­ple who are fail­ing to use such land,” Bhunu said. to


/James Oat­way

Right­ing wrongs: SA farmer Louis Fick, whose farm was seized by a Zim­bab­wean gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in 2009. The gov­ern­ment now aims to re­dress the dam­age caused by the land seizures, which started in 2000, in­clud­ing com­pen­sat­ing white farm­ers and work­ing with them.

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