Contrary to claims by the state media that 300,000 families have so far benefited from the so-called 'fast track land reform' exercise, research has found that only half that number may have benefited.
Africa Check is an independent fact checking and news website founded by the AFP news agency and the Wits University School of Journalism. It says that official figures show only 169, 000 families may have benefited from the exercise since 2000.
Africa Check said research found that about 240,000 families had received land since 1980. The statistics were provided by Professor Sam Moyo who told Africa Check that 'some of the beneficiaries have since divided their land to make room for other family members. Moyo, a land expert, sourced the figures from the ministry of lands and rural resettlement.
Africa Check's Sintha Chiumia told SW Radio Africa that even those official figures are 'uncertain' because throughout her research she found that many people doubted the government's authenticity with regards to land reform. Chiumia said official data lists only the number of people with offer letters for pieces of land, without giving details of whether those people had actually taken up those offers.
She added: 'These are some the reasons why the long-promised audit of land ownership is needed, going back from the present day to before independence.'
Chiumia said further research into the 'land reform' exercise should ascertain the actual number of beneficiaries, patterns of ownership and how the land was being utilized.
Agricultural economist Professor Mandivamba Rukuni told the research that 'a national land audit would clarify the situation once and for all by verifying and authenticating land records in the country.'
In 2008, ZANU PF and the MDC's agreed to a 'comprehensive, transparent and no-partisan land audit', but that has not happened. Prior to the agreement there were three government-commissioned audits but they were all dismissed by the opposition and civil society.
The land reform exercise has always been contentious as it involved the expropriation of land from white Zimbabwean owners, which was then handed over to black Zimbabweans without any compensation to the original owner.
Apart from its non- compensation aspect, the exercise was heavily criticized for its violence, which saw farmers and their farm workers beaten and raped, and sometimes murdered in cold blood, with the state unwilling to intercede. Moreover, the exercise virtually destroyed commercial agriculture and reduced Zimbabwe's international standing from food sufficient to a donor supported nation.
It is estimated that up to two million farm workers and their dependents were displaced and affected by the exercise.