Government’s decision to make farmers pay rent and development levy for using the land is most welcome and will surely be a catalyst for a boon in production as farmers seriously begin to take farming as a business.
More than 300 000 people are proud owners of land and asking them to pay a token fee in rent and development levy will not only benefit the Government with the much-needed revenue, but also the farmers through the provision of services.
The roads in most farming areas are so bad that they can only be rehabilitated if the farmers themselves provide the money through paying rent and other levies. To that end, the Government was spot on in coming up with the policy on rent and levies to the extent that any right thinking and patriotic Zimbabwean pursuing the national interest must be seen to be supporting the policy thrust.
It is a fact that all the beneficiaries of land reform did not pay a cent for the land they occupy and if Government would today ask them to pay for the land using market prices, not many would be able to pay for the land given the vast tracts of land that they hold.
Now just being asked to pay a token fee per annum makes some people tremble!
In the past couple of years we have had farmers refusing to pay land tax to the Rural District Councils, not because they could not afford, but simply because of arrogance. As a result, the councils failed to rehabilitate the roads but still we have farmers shifting the blame from themselves to the councils when they are not playing their part.
This refusal or reluctance to pay will soon be a thing of the past as the new Finance Bill will punish farmers who default on paying the quarterly land rents. We have no sympathy at all for farmers, who make a lot of money using the land, but refuse to pay a token fee in rent. That is selfishness!
A2 model farmers will pay $3 per hectare per year and $2 development levy every year while A1 farmers will pay $10 per year regardless of the size of the property. The development levy has been pegged at $5 per year, which means that A1 farmers would pay a total of $15 per annum and if this is not a token amount, then someone needs to educate us on what it is.
The total amount of rent A2 farmers will pay is a function of the size of their properties, but again $3 per hectare is not an amount any serious farmer taking farming as a business should complain about.
With such rents, only farmers who fail to productively use the land can default on payment, otherwise the amounts are highly affordable.
Gone are the days when people would indulge in cellphone farming or use the farms as weekend retreats for braai with friends and family and boast at gatherings that they have farms. Farmers who struggle to pay the paltry land rent and development levy over a period of a year should actually not be on the land and should have their offer letters withdrawn.
We totally agree with the proposals contained in the new Finance Bill that farmers who default payment for nine months risk losing the land. The proposals are not intended to punish the farmers, but rather to spur them to work hard on the farms and turn the vast tracts of land into greenbelts of crops.
Once they have done this, obviously it would be surprising for any farmer to default on payments.