THE revelations that some 10-year olds were also allocated farms during the land reform programme leaves a sour taste in the mouth. However, Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister, Douglas Mombeshora deserves a pat on the back for admitting that there were such anomalies in the land reform programme. Such acknowledgement is the first step towards addressing these irregularities.
Mombeshora must expeditiously take action to escape the traditional accusation that government always come up with brilliant reports, inquiries and commissions whose recommendations are left to gather dust. These revelations are not completely new as the Presidential Land Review of 2003 led by Dr Charles Utete hinted on these irregularities.
The Utete Commission’s recommendations were never followed up and this gave credence to the vociferous accusations that the land audit was dumped to cover up some senior politicians who were allegedly at fault on the anomalies identified. There have been accusations that some senior ZANU-PF politicians and government officials are owners of more than one farm. It is high time that Mombeshora put this issue to rest. Those who will be caught up in the farmgate will have themselves to blame, more so after 14 years of clinging onto fraudulently acquired land.
The government cannot fold its hands while greedy people own several farms especially when there are plenty of deserving citizens without even an acre. It’s just unfair and this will be a new source of another Chimurenga in the future. I travelled along skyline road on Sunday with a local enterprising farmer who only owns six hectares of land on Ganvillia farm. He showed me tracts of A2 farms that have not been farmed for the past five years.
I was told that most of the farms were owned by women whose husbands had since died. The farmer also said these cellphone farmers rarely come to the farms. While I am not saying the government must seize the farms, at least they must surrender some hectarage and remain with the size they can manage.
There is serious under-utilisation of land in this country. Remedying the irregularities does not need the US$35 million that Mombeshora is demanding unless he wants to buy SUVs for his officials. This should be done in the normal course of duty. The district lands committees know who owns each and every piece of land in their respective districts. That task can be done in a matter of a month.
The government must make a final call for those who fraudulently acquired land or have more than one farm to come forward and surrender them. Those who will fall in the audit net must be arrested and lose all the farms. We cannot afford to waste tax payers’ money on that exercise.