Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter—
Government has unearthed irregularities in the allocation of farms during the land reform programme, as it emerged that some children as young as 10 years of age benefited from the programme.
It has also been noted that the land reform programme was marred with double allocation of farms due to a mix up of names.
Lands and Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora told The Herald yesterday that a preliminary audit on the database of the beneficiaries done by his ministry revealed that some undeserving people benefited.
He said a comprehensive audit to uproot the irregularities was on cards and it required US$35 million.
“What we have been doing is to take a batch of ID numbers to the Office of the Registrar-General for them to give us details of the beneficiaries, including the date of birth to cross-check with what we have in our database,” said Minister Mombeshora.
“We are also discovering a number of anomalies. You know our policy, we do not give somebody land who is less than 21 years, but we are getting people with 10 years, 12 years, owning plots and that could explain why some plots are vacant.
“Some people acquired farms on behalf of their children and used the correct ID numbers, but lied on the dates of birth.”
Minister Mombeshora said they took the ID numbers to the Registrar Generals Office because Government used them to generate offer letters.
In light of that, Minister Mombeshora said, Government would repossess the land that was acquired fraudulently.
In some cases, he said, the ministry was given wrong names of farms resulting in double allocation.
“We want to go and verify that information when we do the audit to say which farm was sub-divided, what are the correct details of the farms and get the correct names as was on the title deeds and verifying with what we have used in the ministry because we have seen some errors and those errors have caused problems of double allocation,” he said.
Minister Mombeshora said once one made a mistake in the spelling of the name of a farm, the computer would pick that as a different farm and it would be allocated to another person.
On subletting of farms, Minister Mombeshora said such practices were illegal although Government tolerated approved joint venture agreements.
“Sub-leasing is not allowed at all,” he said. “We allow joint ventures and contract farming.”
Minister Mombeshora said the contract farming arrangement involved provision of inputs by a contractor to a farmer and in turn the farmer would sell the produce to the contractor at market rates after deduction of production costs.
He said joint ventures should be done with the approval of Government to safeguard farmers from any form of prejudice.
Minister Mombeshora said he would soon present a proposal to Cabinet and the Zanu-PF Politburo seeking to rent out State land.
“We are making proposals for land rentals saying you cannot use State land for free,” he said. “We use that money to do the inspections, the evaluations and also to do the audits. If we have done our maths correctly we will be able to raise $22 million per year.
“We have asked Treasury to allow us to retain 60 percent of that money.”
There have been concerns over underutilisation of land and leasing of farms, resulting in some discrediting Government’s noble programme.
Allegations of multiple farm ownership have been raised and the Government is in the process of fishing out those who received more than one farm.
After the land reform programme in 2000, Government conducted a land audit led by former Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Charles Utete which recommended that the National Land Board be empowered to ensure that land allocated to the people was fully utilised.
The Utete Report further recommended that failure over a defined period to use the land productively, especially in regard to the A2 model should result in cancellation of leases, and the re-allocation of the land to those willing and able to make use of it.