24 January 2013

Zimbabwe: 'Overdue' Call for Land Audit Welcomed

The call this week by the MDC-T for an urgent land audit has been welcomed as a necessary step towards bringing the agricultural sector out of 'turmoil'.

Morgan Tsvangirai's party made this urgent call following a ruling by the High Court on Tuesday that the Ministry of Lands should have a clear, transparent and accountable land allocation policy.

In his judgment, Justice Bharat Patel slammed the Lands Ministry over its "murkiness" in land distribution. He then reversed a Ministry decision from 2005 to offer Denby Farm in Seke to a senior ZANU PF politician who already had another farm allocated to him in 2001.

"The MDC condemns the continued greed shown by the senior ZANU PF politicians in acquiring more than one farm and the MDC's position remains that there should be a comprehensive, transparent and non-partisan land audit to weed out multiple farm ownerships and identify underutilised land as stipulated by the law," the party said in a statement.

After a decade of chaos that highlighted ZANU PF's partisan land redistribution campaign, the country is unable to feed itself and is once again turning to international donors for food aid.

Despite this, land grabs have continued and most recently Grace Mugabe was reported to have taken over part of the lucrative Mazoe Estates in Mazowe. The First Lady already owns multiple properties as a result of the land grab.

The MDC-T said in its statement that it is "important for the inclusive government, to carry out a land audit in line with the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in order to reassert agriculture on the pole position as the country's economic mainstay."

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) President Charles Taffs told SW Radio Africa that the call is 'overdue' but welcome.

"A land audit was part of the agreement that formed that government of national unity and four years down the line we still haven't had a land audit. In fact the European Union has offered to finance one. So the fact that one hasn't taken place confirms our suspicions that they (the government) actually don't want it because it is indeed chaotic and unfair and biased," Taffs said.

He urged the MDC-T to ensure their call results in action, saying Zimbabwe "desperately" needs a proper audit to start the recovery process that will help the agriculture sector grow.

"However there is great resistance because if it was done properly it would expose the multiple ownership of land distribution which would emphasise how unfair and unjust the whole system has been," Taffs said.

He added: "Agriculture is in turmoil and we need to fix it. The current status quo cannot continue because it is holding the country to ransom."

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