Bring finality to land reform!

Source: Bring finality to land reform! | The Herald October 11, 2016

Obert Chifamba Senior Reporter

Recent reports of fresh land invasions in resettlement areas are stress-provoking. In fact, they scuttle and nullify the efforts Government and all concerned stakeholders are making to support agricultural productivity and eradicate hunger especially coming at time like the month of September

when preparations for the 2016 /17 season should be marking the order of the day.

Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister, Douglas Mombeshora has since issued a warning directing all people illegally settled on farms to move off by September 30, 2016 or face eviction and prosecution.

“Given the elaborate carefully considered planning undertaken in resettlement areas that took into account ecological aspects, such as natural resource management and conservation, as well as issues of viability, Government will not tolerate illegal settlements that have mushroomed in undesignated areas including grazing and catchment areas of dams and rivers.

Any person occupying rural land without an official temporary permit issued by the District Land Committee, an offer letter or permission of the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement is deemed an illegal settler.

“This notice therefore serves to inform all illegally settled people to immediately vacate rural State land that is resettled farms and return to their original homes by September 6, 2016. Failure to do so will result in immediate eviction and prosecution,” read the statement, which further stressed that in terms of the gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act Chapter 20:28, “it is an offence to occupy rural State land without the authority of the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement,” read the warning.

What this means is that, coming barely two months before the onset of the rainy season, the planned operation could easily plunge preparations for the 2016 /17 season into turmoil, as even those legally resettled would not be very sure of their future on the farms given that some of the “illegal settlers” claim to have come from high offices or will be wielding offer letters claiming to have been properly given the land.

What is also fast becoming apparent is that most of the cases of illegal resettlement are traceable to corrupt people in positions of authority, as is the case with traditional leaders who were reportedly parcelling land to people without the approval of the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement in the Midlands province in which more than 18 000 families allegedly occupied a number of farms dotted across the province.

Such developments have brought untold uncertainty within the farming communities with farmers no longer sure of their security of tenure once a piece of land becomes a subjected of ownership wrangling.

While all this drama is unfolding in the farms, it is production that is taking the worst battering and the war on hunger will be unwinnable if Government does not flex its muscles and dish out deterrent penalties to all those convicted of such offences.

What the people at this point need is to see stern measures being taken against the culprits. Those found guilty should be arrested, tried and sentenced to lengthy jail terms so that they all know it is illegal and counterproductive to give out land without Government’s blessings.

In most cases those parcelling out land are receiving payments, which they do not declare to anyone but pocket yet land is a national resource that must not be sold by an individual without Government’s nod.

Interestingly, Government had come up with a sound intervention programme, Command Agriculture, to boost maize production and reduce food importation but such a noble intention may not see the light of the day or yield meaningful results if there are disturbances on the farms.

This chaos on the farms can also indirectly affect enterprising farmers’ chances of landing support in the form of loans from banks or other institutions interested in agriculture because lenders know that there has to be a conducive environment for real productivity to take place.

While Government is also working tirelessly to promote Public-Private Partnerships, through joint ventures and contract farming, some companies may be discouraged to invest in farming by these sad developments.

No serous investor would want to commit funds on projects surrounded by uncertainty. Some farmers even end up reducing hectarages of cropped land owing to fears of being pushed out by lawless people purporting to be acting at the advice of Government or traditional authorities.

Government’s land reform programme that was rolled out in 2000 saw some 300 000 newly resettled farmers occupying the prime farmlands that used to be the preserve of white commercial farmers only.

Sadly, a mishmash of incessant droughts, lack of financial resources, poor planning to single out a handful has seen most of these beneficiaries struggling to reach productive levels that can guarantee the country adequate food and fill the strategic grain reserves in the process.

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  • comment-avatar
    jono austin 6 years ago

    But we were told time and again that the ‘Agrarian revolution’ was a massive success!

  • comment-avatar
    R Judd 6 years ago

    It is ZANU’s who are doing all the invading. They are addicted to other peoples property. Try putting a stop to that if you can

  • comment-avatar
    Joe Cool 6 years ago

    This is the first instance of them reaping what they have themselves sown – anarchy.