Felex Share Senior Reporter
Cabinet is on Monday expected to approve the Land Commission Bill as Government steps up efforts to establish a Land Commission to carry out periodic land audits countrywide.
The periodic land audits, according to Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora, will weed out multiple farms owners, resolve land disputes and deal with land reform beneficiaries leasing out farms to white former commercial farmers.
This comes as Minister Mombeshora revealed yesterday that a number of farmers were willingly surrendering portions of their farms since Government introduced land rentals and unit tax in July.
A1 farmers pay $15 per annum in rental, while their A2 counterparts are paying $5 per hectare per annum.
In an interview after making a presentation on land issues in Zimbabwe at the Defence College in Harare, Minister Mombeshora said all was set for the establishment of a Land Commission.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) I was told (in Cabinet) that my Land Commission Bill will now be on the Cabinet paper on Monday,” he said.
“We are having Cabinet next week on Monday and I will be presenting the Bill for approval to Cabinet. It has gone through the Cabinet Committee on legislation and it has been approved.”
“We have actually sent names for possible candidates to be in the Land Commission for vetting. We are doing it in parallel such that by the time the Bill passes through Parliament, the Commission will be waiting to be announced.”
The Land Commission is a requirement under Section 296 of the Constitution.
Apart from ensuring accountability and transparency in the administration of agricultural State land, the Commission is also expected to make recommendations to Government regarding all aspects of land and investigate complaints related to administration, allocations and farm boundaries.
Minister Mombeshora said the new land rentals had been ‘accepted’ by most farmers.
“In any society you will find a few who will always complain about something,” he said.
“People have already started paying. We have also noticed a new trend where people are coming to give up land, saying they want their farms to be subdivided.”
Government is expecting to realise more than $20 million annually from the land rentals, with part of the money being used to compensate white former commercial farmers who lost the land they held before the land reform programme.
Part of the money will also finance periodic land audits to ensure full land use.
Said Minister Mombeshora: “They (land rentals) were gazetted in July and we had a few problems as we have people in remote areas without access to the media.
“We are teaming up with politicians so that they spread the word throughout the country and we want to come up with pamphlets in the following year to reach out to everyone.”
On farm downsizing, Minister Mombeshora said provinces were coming up with comprehensive reports, to be submitted to head office for approval, on all the farms that needed to be cut.
The comprehensive reports, he said, should justify reasons for the downsizing.
“Each province should identify farms that are bigger than the recommended size in that province,” Minister Mombeshora said.
“They must give us a report on what is happening at that farm first, not just to downsize. There are farms which are under utilised and some which are utilised to the maximum and we are targeting the former.
“The process is still going on and we want a complete report to avoid unfair practices. Some of them (provinces) have told us we have identified 8 000 hectares for possible allocation from downsizing and we are now saying we want to see these areas and we approve.”
Most of the farms far exceed recommended sizes gazetted province by province and now Government is in the processes of downsizing them to resettle people in need of land.