Government’s plans to appoint a Land Commission are not only noble, but long overdue. This should be expedited because we are of the same view as Government that there are some irregularities that need to be addressed. The irregularities in question have otherwise marred the noble initiative behind the land reform programme meant to give access to the previously landless black majority. This was not only meant to make the majority of Zimbabweans land owners, but to make it productive.
However, a decade and half since the exercise was put in motion, the country is failing to achieve food self-sufficiency. All factors hindering production in agriculture should be attended to and resolved expeditiously. As noted elsewhere in this paper, agriculture is the backbone of the economy. The Government has set the tone for economic recovery, with revitalisation of the sector on top of the key areas to spur this growth.
This is important for the successful implementation of the country’s medium term economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-economic Transformation, which is aimed at among other things creating self- sufficiency and food surplus in Zimbabwe. To achieve this we need to ensure that most if not all farms are productive. One of the critical factors towards achieving this is to address the issue of dual ownership of land regardless of the people involved.
It is quite unfathomable that there are people who are still holding on to land despite repeated calls to relinquish some of the land so that other Zimbabweans can enjoy the fruits of the liberation struggle and the country’s independence, which opened access to land for all.
It is also untenable that most of those holding on to two or more farms are not utilising this land, but holding it for speculative purposes. This is unacceptable and should be one of the priority areas the land commission should focus on. As a nation, we need to start treating farming as a business if we are to grow the economy and meet Zim-Asset objectives of guaranteed food self-sufficiency.
It is laudable that Government is planning to do another land audit which should hopefully assist the land commission to deal with this menace causing under utilisation and poor performance of the agriculture sector. It is also our fervent hope that the commission will be charged with bringing sanity to the confusion surrounding the allocation of offer letters, which has often-times resulted in clashes where two or more beneficiaries claim title to the same pieces of land.
We believe that there should be a clear and transparent manner for allocating land that does not create confusion and haggling among the beneficiaries. The other critical issue that should be addressed by the commission is that of poor productivity on the land. Most farms are lying idle.
Admittedly, there are various issues affecting productivity on the farms including lack of and high cost of funding, expensive inputs and lack of farm equipment, but there are some lazy farmers hiding behind these issues to mask their individual shortcomings. The commission should therefore focus on ways to enforce the use it or lose it policy so that the land is put to proper and productive use as previously recommended by the Utete Report of 2000.
Land should also be allocated to people who are dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate about farming. Where beneficiaries are passionate about farming, but lack the financial muscle to fully utilise their farms the land commission should come up with suggestions on how to trim farm sizes so that excess land is allocated to other deserving people.
Further, the Land Commission should also come up with ideas on how to make the land bankable in order to attract capital and support from financial institutions. This is because of the fact that despite issuance of 99-year leases and A1 permits farmers are still failing to access loans from banks. As such, the idea of a land commission is very noble and should be supported by every progressive Zimbabwean.