16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Land Audit Unlikely This Year - Parliament

Zimbabwe's troubled inclusive government is unlikely to carry out a promised national land audit as agreed under the Global Political Agreement (GPA), a major blow to the agricultural sector which requires closure on issues of compensation for land expropriated from former white owners.

The land audit had been necessitated by increasing criticism that land reforms undertaken by President Robert Mugabe's government had benefitted politicians and their cronies. There have been accusations of multiple farm ownership by politicians and those well connected.

A report by the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Water, Lands and Resettlement indicated that government would this year not be able to conduct the land audit because funds were not allocated for the exercise in the 2013 national budget, despite submission of a bid amounting to US$29,9 million.

The fact that no progress has been made since the signing of the GPA in 2008 may indicate that the land issue is still very much politically sensitive and the current inclusive government would not be able to provide answers for the land question in Zimbabwe.

The parliamentary report said the land audit requires at least US$31 million.

"The land audit did not get any funding again. This is slowing down agriculture and this means the land audit is still on hold," the report said.

Major objectives for the land audit included establishing fairness in land allocation; ensuring security of tenure; and crafting ways of financing land compensation; as well as other interventions towards greater productivity of land.

"For the year under review, the Ministry (of Agriculture) has adopted a farm-by-farm inspection for productivity and land utilisation. To this end, a concept paper was submitted to the Office of the President and Cabinet. The Cabinet recommended for assessment of all land categories. However, funds were not made available," the report added.

Although the Committee expressed concern over these developments, the report recommended that the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, which is mandated to improve livelihoods of all Zimbabweans through the promotion of equitable distribution of land and sensitise farmers on effective utilisation of land, should provide security of tenure to farmers.

"Security of tenure will facilitate agricultural lending by the banks and any other funding partners and will allow for steady primary production. Speedy surveying of farm subdivisions and issuance of bankable leases creates value for the land, as well as assuring farmers of clarity over their property rights and security of tenure," the Committee said.

The Committee also urged the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement to educate farmers that they need to pay for infrastructural development on farms that were allocated to them.

"Farmers need to know that after valuation they will have to pay so as to get the 99-year lease. But given the rate at which these are being processed it will take up to 40 years to get all of them done.

"The issuance of bankable leases to A2 farmers is also dependent on the Surveying of the Sub-divisions to the farm land, over 90 percent of which is de facto State land. This, therefore, presents land as dead capital, posing the challenge of collateral when farmers seek financing from banks and that way forcing farmers to rely more on government and donor support," the report said.

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