Illegal settlers on agricultural land warned Dr Anxious Masuka

Tariro Stacey Gatsi

IN the wake of concerted stakeholder efforts to support agricultural production across the country, the Government has promised action on illegal settlers on agricultural land in urban areas saying such actions were detrimental to the push to achieve food and nutrition security and must be stopped.   

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka recently issued a press statement ordering the settlers to stop the practice, adding that they faced prosecution.

“Only the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development is authorised to issue tenure documents on agricultural land. It is a criminal offence, in terms of the Zimbabwe Land Commission Act (Chapter 20:29) and the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act (Chapter 20:28) to occupy state land without lawful authority in the form of a permit, an offer letter or a lease,” Dr Masuka said. 

He said land applications should be done to the district or provincial lands offices and those recommended for land allocation should wait to get the tenure documents before occupying the recommended pieces of land.

“Government will not regularise those that settle themselves on state land without procedurally issued tenure documents. The full wrath of the law will be applied in such cases of illegal settlements,” continued the press statement.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry, Professor Obert Jiri added his voice saying illegal settlers were simply those people and individuals who take the law into their own hands and allocate themselves a portion of land. 

“It is undesirable because the portions of land ordinarily belong to someone or Government, so illegal settlements lead to avoidable land disputes,” he said.

National Housing and Social Amenities Ministry permanent secretary Engineer Theodious Chinyanga said his Ministry totally agreed with Prof Jiri adding that land delivery for housing had to be occupied in an orderly fashion.

“It’s the Ministry mandated to do housing, which requests for land for people to be settled nicely but we cannot continue eating on agricultural land as we end up being a hungry nation with houses. We don’t want informal settlers but formal settlements where all services are available,” he said.

Engineer Chinyanga said the authority on land allocation was the Ministry of Lands, adding that his Ministry did not encourage people to settle anyhow as that promoted lawlessness. 

“There are two types of land invaders —those who do so for agriculture and those who try to convert the land into residential zones. When it’s residential we step in but this time we are not stepping in to regularise as Government has put in place a law banning invasions to contain land barons’ activities,” Engineer Chinyanga added.

The Government’s proactive efforts to deal with illegal settlers on agricultural lands reflect its commitment to creating an environment conducive to sustainable agricultural practices and by securing farming land, it aims to secure the nation’s food production capacity to ensure agricultural stability.

Meanwhile, Manyame Rural District Council (MRDC) last month ordered illegal settlers on six peri-urban farms of Braemer, Cawdor, Dunnotar, Edinburg, Longlands and Tantallon to immediately vacate the farms.

“Therefore, take note that in terms of the said Section 34, you are ordered with effect from November 29, 2023, which shall be the date from which this order takes effect to demolish your illegal structures, restore the land to its original state and vacate the land within seven days from the date of this order,” Dr Masuka said in the statement.

MRDC chief executive officer Mrs Farirai Guta could not comment on the issue saying it was still before the courts.

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