THE Lands and Agriculture ministry only managed to issue two 99-year leases in 2017, while nine 99-year leases were prepared for registration and still await payment, and three were sent for registration.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
This came out in the 2018 budget estimates of expenditure (Blue Book) where the ministry was outlining its major achievements of 2017.
The 99-year leases were introduced to address issues of security of tenure in respect to the A2 model, as a tool for formalising occupancy of redistributed farms to beneficiaries who would have paid lease rentals.
Christopher Chitindi, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture, told NewsDay in an interview that issuance of only two 99-year leases for the whole year could not be said to be an achievement at all, adding that what was needed was capital injection to speed up the process.
“In order for 99-year leases to be issued out, the Ministry of Lands has to do surveys, maps and also valuation of the farm structure, and all these processes need funding,” Chitindi said.
“The ministry needs financial support to move with speed because 99-year leases have an advantage to farmers in that they are bankable and will enable farmers to get loans from banks using the leases as collateral in order to support their projects.”
Chitindi said for 2018, the Lands and Agriculture ministry should prioritise land dispute resolution because several farmers were fighting over boundaries and it was affecting production at farms.
“In 2018 government must prioritise resolving land disputes because there are many illegal settlers that are disturbing farming activities. There are some issues of land disputes with miners, but those are insignificant. The main issues to be resolved are boundaries and illegal settlers,” he said.
In his 2018 National Budget statement, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa assured farmers that the government was going to institute measures to strengthen the legal standing of offer letters and 99-year leases to ensure their occupancy is guaranteed, and cannot be withdrawn willy-nilly, through indiscipline of either youths, political leaders, traditional leaders or senior government officials.
“It has also been observed that the pace at which farm valuations is being undertaken is slow, resulting in very few issuances of the leases. It, therefore, follows that the proportion of 99-year lease issuances against the number of beneficiaries remains negligible, constraining financing by financial institutions and, in the process, perpetuating farm land as dead capital,” Chinamasa said.
He said going forward, in 2018 government would set aside resources for strengthening the capacity of the Surveyor-General’s department to scale up conducting of farm surveys, instead of outsourcing for rapid issuance of 99-year leases.