OFFICIALS in the Lands and Agriculture ministry, including lands commissions, have been accused of withdrawing offer letters given to Zanu PF members and ex-combatants across the country.
According to a report compiled by the ruling party’s land and resettlement department, the officials were engaged in systematic corruption of grabbing land from vulnerable groups for themselves and their relatives and close friends.
“Party members, especially war veterans, widows and orphans started to receive withdrawal letters as a result of recommendations from members of the Land Audit Commission who, themselves seem to have found a chance through audit, to take occupied land,” the report read.
“The Land Audit Commission that was legally instituted to solve land issues is also being abused, as already occupied pieces of land are being fraudulently classified as vacant, by those involved in the exercise.”
Efforts to get a comment from the Lands ministry were fruitless as minister Anxious Masuka and his secretary John Bhasera were not answering their mobile phones.
They did not respond to text and WhatsApp messages sent to the cellphones, while deputy minister Vangelis Haritatos’ phone was not reachable.
The report adds: “Conflicts emanating from double allocations as a result of corruption within the civil servants in charge of land allocation tasks continued unabated throughout the whole period under review.
“Some evictions seem to be orchestrated by civil servants within the Ministry of Lands itself, as those coming in to claim the said already occupied pieces of land, come in possession of offer letter documents dating even before the bona fide beneficiaries were allocated the said pieces.”
In 2019, President Emmerson Mnangagwa set up a commission to probe land use, investigate and determine complaints and disputes including allocation of agricultural land across the country.
The audit revealed serious irregularities in the redistribution of land seized from white former commercial farmers in 2000 and parcelled out to indigenous people, some with little to no knowledge of productive farming.
The audit revealed that some farmers sold the farms and others leased them without government approval.
Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa director Obert Chinhamo urged the government to investigate officers from the Lands ministry and land commissions who are involved in corrupt activities.
“The authorities must not keep these reports as top secrets. We deserve to know the names of all the implicated individuals. Why is the government trying to protect them? The corrupt must be named and shamed. We are demanding that the report be made public,” Chinhamo said.