Speedy release of 99-year leases
THE Government is moving towards offering 99-year farm leases once a beneficiary is approved to occupy a piece of land to enable them to use the document in securing funding for agricultural production.
Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Dr Douglas Mombeshora yesterday said that the move was part of measures that also include offering renewable five-year leases to white farmers still holding onto the land, but with a track record of good production.
The minister was responding to questions from chiefs attending their two day Annual Chiefs Conference that ended in Bulawayo yesterday.
“The law says one can get an offer letter and only gets a 99-year lease after three years upon assessment by Government to verify levels of production and infrastructure that would have been developed on that piece of land during the period under review,” said Dr Mombeshora.
“But we have refined the lease to be bankable and it defies logic to give the lease after three years and upon seeing production because there will not be any production as the farmer would have failed to get funding.
“Therefore, farmers need the lease first so that they access funding from the banks. We are looking at ensuring that farmers get 99-year leases at the time they go onto the land or are approved to occupy a piece of land.”
Dr Mombeshora said a majority of white farmers who remained on farms after the fast track land reform exercise did not have legal documents despite some of them being productive.
He said his ministry in consultation with provincial lands officers would soon issue five-year renewable leases to the white farmers.
“There are white farmers who have been approved by our provincial officers to continue farming after satisfying a number of requirements,” said the minister.
“We will be giving such farmers fiveyear leases that are subject to renewal upon meeting certain conditions at the expiry of the documents.
“This will enable us to collect land taxes from these farmers.”
Dr Mombeshora said the Government was concerned over the increase in cases of local farmers who were engaging in joint farming ventures without Government approval.
“Partnerships on farms, be they with locals or foreigners are provided for by the law, but they should be approved by the Ministry of Lands (and Resettlement).
“There are many cases of these unapproved deals that have come to the attention of the ministry.
“We have directed provincial land committees to investigate such cases as they conduct the current exercise on land audit.
“We do not want a situation where we repossess land from a white farmer and then wake up to see that farmer back again in the disguise of a partnership.”
The minister said the programme to audit farm sizes was ongoing and any reduction of farm sizes would be conducted upon recommendation from reports from district lands officers.
The chiefs’ conference which was opened by President Mugabe yesterday was also attended by VicePresidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.