No incentives for agric development

HARARE - With the end of the rainy season almost upon us and harvesting of the summer maize crop imminent,  this is again an opportune time to bring the “land issue” back under the spotlight.

In the next few weeks, preparations should be underway for winter cropping and most importantly for winter wheat — a strategic crop of national importance. 

For more than a decade, we have been importing wheat because we have been unable to grow enough of our own, despite previously exporting the grain and being known as the bread basket of Africa. This winter saeson presents yet another opportunity for us to save ourselves and to regain our regional status.

From the beginning of Zanu PF’s land reform programme, there have been calls for security of tenure to be addressed as a matter of urgency. 

Since 2000 no one has been secure on agricultural land: at first it was whites, then pro-MDC blacks and now even supporters of Zanu PF aren’t safe.

The only thing that seems to secure continued occupation of agricultural land is an individual’s connections to, or seniority in, the ruling party structures.

Over the last 14 years, land in Zimbabwe has lost all of its commercial value and has become so politicised no wonder we cannot feed ourselves anymore.

The recent distressing eviction of 900 families from a repossessed and redistributed farm in Mazowe is a case in point. Fourteen years after those families were given offer letters to be on Manzou Farm, they suddenly found themselves confronted by police armed with shotguns, baton sticks and dogs.

Regardless of the pieces of paper or crops in the ground, they were ordered off the farm and had their homes destroyed.

When similar scenarios happened to white commercial farmers, at the hands of war veterans and Zanu PF supporters it was wrong. Now it’s happening to 900 black small-scale farmers and it is still wrong. Every time these evictions happen it reduces confidence in the country and leaves even less locally-produced food on the market.

With alarming regularity, we hear of land disputes and court cases between people occupying the redistributed land and those who want to occupy it. 

Just as internationally-recognised title teeds were ignored by our government when they started seizing commercial farms, now their own offer letters are becoming just as worthless.  In his maiden speech in Parliament, Bulawayo’s Metropolitan senator Norman Michael Carter addressed the critical issue of land tenure. 

“The economic recovery of Zimbabwe is centred on the recovery of agriculture. Now that most white commercial farms have been nationalised, the war for the land is over. Development cannot happen in a war zone.

Since the land reform began, why have the beneficiaries not been granted security of tenure?” 

Carter suggests the reason government has not given security of tenure to the beneficiaries of acquired farms is because of a lack of trust.

“Government has withdrawn the means by which these farmers can rebuild the business of farming and improve their lives.

The government is disempowering them and keeping them politically dependent, in the same way that medieval monarchs did in Europe before the growth of democratic institutions.”

Restoring value to the land is the only way forward for Zimbabwe. While people on farms are in a state of perpetual insecurity knowing the land can be seized from them at a moment’s notice on a political whim, there are no incentives for development.

Why would a farmer plant an orchard, construct contours, erect fences or even maintain the existing infrastructure when he knows that tomorrow, it may not be his anymore? 


Comments (2)

Quite simply you cannot legalise something that is illegal in the first instance. Furthermore the government wants to exercise control over all the land & consequently over the occupants of it as well. If they gave title many of these occupants who are not making use of the land will simply sell it off & use the proceeds for other ends. In any country where there is law & order possession of stolen property is a crime but not here.

saundy - 7 April 2014

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