2 February 2018

Zimbabwe: White Farmers Say Cautious After 99 Yr Lease Offer, More Still Needs to Be Done

Photo: The Herald
Tobacco farm (file photo).

The white farming community remains cautiously optimistic after President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration announced it would issue 99 year-leases to those on the land and have offer letters.

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) director, Ben Giplin, told New Zimbabwe, Thursday, that the criteria on who will get the documents for land ownership "sounds narrow for now".

"It is an important step but we will be cautious. It's too early for us to be sure of government's motive and the direction this new policy position is taking," said Giplin.

The CFU boss said it remains to be seen how government is going to address legal issues involving farmers with court cases and no longer on their land.

"For now it seems the policy is for those with offer letters which is very narrow. We would want to see it encompassing all farmers including those with unresolved legal issues," Giplin added.

He said the 99 year-leases are also still dogged by perceptions that they are not bankable.

"The moment we see banks accepting these leases then government would have resolved a major impediment to the efforts to turnaround the agricultural sector.

"Then there is the issue of their transferability and the powers of the minister to revoke the leases. This is another great area that needs attention. We have to have a menu of things to address all the issues in agriculture," said Giplin.

Mnangagwa has been trying to reverse most of former President Robert Mugabe's "toxic" policies including compulsory expropriation of land that was blamed for wreaking a once thriving agricultural sector seen as the economy's backbone.

Early this week, government announced it would issue 99 year-leases to white farmers something which was anathema under Mugabe.

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