Redistribution of land that used to be owned by former commercial white farmers is almost complete with only 900 000 hectares left after the successful allocation of about 14,5 million hectares to locals during the last 15 years under the Fast Track Land Reform Programme.
Out of the remaining 900 000 hectares, not much can be given to new farmers as the bulk of it will remain as reserve land to ensure that Government does not exhaust the entire resource.
While land reform will remain an ongoing process, the majority of the land allocations will now be made on a use it or lose basis.
This comes as Government has said farmers who do not pay the newly introduced land rentals risk losing the resource as the land reform programme takes a new direction geared towards monitoring performance by those who have been granted the precious resource.
Last week, Land and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora said land redistribution is no longer a top priority of the Ministry as more efforts are being channelled towards setting up the Land Commission, conducting a land audit, collecting the recently announced land rentals as well as cutting of farm sizes.
“Land reform is a continuous process but from the land that we have, not much has been left for redistribution.
“We have 900 000 hectares that are left but these will mainly be reserve land as we cannot afford to give all the land that we have,” he said.
“Now that we are almost done with redistribution, the focus now will now be on those we have given the land to see if they are using it in the right way, otherwise they risk losing it.”
Minister Mombeshora said the Land Commission Bill is set for presentation at Cabinet’s first sitting this year.
“One of our major targets this year is the establishment of the Land Commission. This is a Constitutional requirement and we are going to expedite efforts to ensure that it is established this year.
“We have already completed the crafting of the draft Land Commission Bill.
‘‘This will be presented at the first seating of Cabinet when it resumes its meetings for this year.
“We want to expedite the process so that once it is approved by Cabinet it will go straight to Parliament for debate,” he said.
According to Minister Mombeshora, one of the major tasks of the Commission would be to conduct the land audit as stipulated by the Constitution.
The Land Audit is a requirement according to Section 298 of the Supreme Law.
As well as ensuring accountability and transparency in the administration of land, the commission will also advise Government on all aspects of land and also investigate all complaints over land issues.
Minister Mombeshora said money generated from land rentals would bankroll some of the major activities that will be undertaken by the Land Commission as well as the Ministry.
Land rentals are expected to rake in about US$22 million annually with the Ministry retaining 60 percent of the revenue, while the remainder goes to Treasury.
The fees are pegged at US$ 3 per hectare per year and an additional annual development levy of US$2 per hectare for A2 farmers, while A1 farmers will pay a flat fee of US$15 per annum, irrespective of farm size.
Minister Mombeshora said farmers who resist paying the rentals will be kicked out of the farms to pave way for those on the land allocation waiting list.
“We will not hesitate to kick out those who resist paying the land rentals.
‘‘These fees that we have prescribed are very low. These are just token payments and anyone who is making use of the land should have no problem whatsoever in paying these fees,” he said.
Minister Mombeshora said teams from his Ministry will embark on periodic visits to specific points in the farms to embark on the collections.
“Our teams will be moving around the farms to collect the rentals per every quarter or bi-monthly depending on how the farmers are paying up. We are also going to come up with innovative ways of payments so that farmers can be able to pay through their banks or other flexible means such as mobile cash transfer systems such as Ecocash, Telecash and One Wallet.
“The money collected from land rentals will help to fund some of the key activities that we will be doing such as the work of the commission, land administration, periodic inspection, resolving of land disputes and putting in place of demarcations.”
On compensation of white farmers, Minister Mombeshora said:
“What should be made clear is that Government does not compensate for taking the land. We only compensate for improvements that were done on the land, so that will also be done using funds collected from the land rentals,” he said.
More than 300 000 households have benefited from Zimbabwe’s historic land reform programme that was implemented to address land imbalances that existed due to the colonial regime.
The land revolution resulted in Britain rallying its western friends to impose illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe as the erstwhile colonial power sought to protect the interests of its kith and kin — the commercial white farmers.
Over the years however, some countries in the West have warmed up to Zimbabwe’s land reform exercise, with prominent figures such as American billionaire businessman Bill Gates, being among the latest to back the programme.
Other African countries are also looking to emulate Zimbabwe seeking a redress of land imbalances skewed in favour of whites.
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