Zanu PF MPs slam govt over land barons

HARARE - Government is sponsoring cartels that are in the business of grabbing farms whose owners would have died and selling them for a fee, Parliament heard this week.

Zanu PF legislators complained in the National Assembly during Wednesday’s question without notice session that the cartels have all but taken over Douglas Mombeshora’s ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement.

The ruling party lawmakers led by Mutoko East MP Nelson Mawere asked Mombeshora’s deputy Berita Chikwama what government is doing to stop abuse of children whose parents were given farms under the land reform programme but have since died.

“Your ministry is now causing confusion in that regard.  What is government’s policy and how are you going to look into that because orphans are being abused,” Mawere said.

“Yesterday, an orphan was removed from a barn of a house and was put in an area with thorns where the land has not been prepared.  Can I be allowed to bring a paper or to bring the said family to you so that you can assist them?” she asked.

In her response Chikwama said government’s policy does not allow a deceased person’s land to be taken away.

“Once that happens you should make a report.  Furthermore, there is an inheritance process when one is deceased,” Chikwama said adding that the law that is in accordance with the deceased estates should take its course.

“We know that there are others who quickly take over land from widows as soon as their husbands are deceased.  Ever since we came into that ministry, women who have had their land taken were having their land restituted”.

She, however, called on women to occupy the land left by their husbands immediately after their deaths because “it will cost government a lot of money when they have to send its officers to go and bar the new invaders on that land”.

Chikwama’s response, however, did not seem to satisfy Buhera North MP Joseph Chinotimba

who felt the minister had “left some gaps because when people want to report after losing their land it is a challenge” because the ministry is allegedly the source of the problems.

“Where are they supposed to report?  Are they supposed to go to the person who issued them the land because their system as a ministry is not ideal at all?” Chinotimba asked.

“Where are they supposed to report?  If people go to the minister, will the minister not request one to make an appointment before they go to see him?  So, who exactly are they supposed to see and where are they supposed to go and report because we know that these people can be tricked.

“They cannot also go to the permanent secretary.  So, those who are losing their land, to whom exactly are they supposed to report?” he asked.

His Chegutu West counterpart Dexter Nduna also weighed in suggesting that there is nepotism in the manner lands officers were appointed in the ministry.

“I do not think it is right to remove the lands officer who is male and then put his wife.  This problem cannot be solved in this manner,” Nduna said.

Citing the case of Chegutu and Kadoma, Nduna said: “You (Chikwama) removed a lands officer in Chegutu and put him in Kadoma and then you replaced him with his wife in Kadoma”.

“I am saying that we cannot solve these challenges if the situation is like that. 

“You should put other officers who are not related in different areas.  Why not put people who are not related to ensure that the challenge is solved?”

The new farmers who were allocated land forcibly taken away from white commercial farmers on 99-year leases since 2000 have no legal claim to the land as government is reluctant to issue them with title deeds.

The lands officers are therefore taking advantage of that to work with influential businessmen, politicians and government officials in falsifying land registration documents resulting in several cases of double and even multiple allocations.

In 2014 for example the ministry through the National Land Inspectorate investigated seven officials from various provinces for allegedly demanding payment from people seeking to be allocated land.

Lands officers implicated in the corruption comprised two from the Midlands’ Mvuma District, two from Makonde and Hurungwe districts in Mashonaland West, two from Umguza District in Matabeleland and one at the ministry’s head office in Harare.

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