Govt repossesses idle farms

HARARE – Government has started repossessing farms from unproductive beneficiaries of the controversial programme to redistribute land seized from white farmers.

This comes as vast swathes of land taken from white farmers, mainly in the cropping provinces, lies idle and Zimbabwe has not been able to fully feed itself since the land grabs began.

Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora yesterday issued notice to withdraw 38 offer letters given to individuals allocated land under the programme.

“Notice is hereby given to land beneficiaries…that the acquiring authority intends to withdraw their offer letter for not taking up their plots in contravention of the terms and conditions of their offer letters,” read the notice.

“Beneficiaries should respond to this notice within 14 working days (from yesterday).”

Some of the beneficiaries include Chandauka J who has five subdivisions in Chikomba along with 37 others with plots in Hwedza, Goromonzi, Marondera and Murewa.

The acquiring authority is likely to withdraw the offer letters unless the individuals give solid representations that overweigh the purpose for withdrawal.

The War Veterans’ ministry has bemoaned the dispossession of idle land parcelled out to the ex-freedom fighters under the often-violent land grabs. 

In a recent statement, the Tshinga Dube-led ministry called on all ex-combatants who had their land seized to approach the ministry’s provincial field officers for their names and details to be documented.  

The Surveyor-General’s Department has been conducting a survey to evaluate all the farms government acquired under the land reform programme.

The ministry of war veterans called upon all affected veterans to submit the “information urgently to our nearest provincial field officers,” its statement reads.

“The name, war veterans number, national identification number, province and district, date settled, name of farm, subdivision and size copy of offer letter, any evidence of threat to withdraw and court papers if there is any court action underway.”

President Robert Mugabe’s land reforms have led to about 4 500 white farmers being evicted from their land by his supporters and war veterans over the past 17 years, often violently. More than a dozen farmers have been killed.

The new occupants, mainly war vets, lack farming skills and can barely make ends meet. Their agricultural output is a fraction of the level seen before 2000, when Mugabe — saying he sought to right colonial wrongs — grabbed land from experienced white farmers.

The new occupants are also being hammered by a stagnating economy that has seen banks reluctant to lend undermining their businesses.

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