Takunda Maodza Manicaland Bureau Chief
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri last week officially launched the formulation process of a comprehensive National Land Policy in Mutare where stakeholders gave their input on issues they want addressed.
The launch covered Manicaland and Masvingo provinces.
It is guided by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) and would be aligned with the African Union Framework Agenda 2063 and guidelines on land policy in Africa.
Similar consultative processes were launched in other provinces this year.
Minister Shiri was represented by his deputy, Cde Douglas Karoro, who read his speech.
“It is my pleasure to address you at this important launch of the National Land Policy Review Process, the third one covering the Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces. The first launch was done on the 13th of February 2019 in Harare and had participants from Harare, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West provinces.
“The second launch was done in Bulawayo on the 14th of March 2019 with participants from Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands Provinces. This event that brings us together today comes at the backdrop of many changes brought about by the Land Reform Programme,” he said.
Minister Shiri said the absence of a comprehensive National Land Policy document saw the nation relying on the 1990 National Land Policy supplemented over time with policy pronouncements, the Constitution and an array of legislative instruments.
In the absence of a land policy, Zimbabwe also made use of the 1998 Commission of Inquiry into Appropriate Agriculture Land Tenure System, the 2003 Presidential Land Review Committee (Utete Commission), the 1993 to 1994 Inquiry into Zimbabwe’s Land Tenure Systems chaired by Professor Mandivamba Rukuni and the ZIMASSET blueprint.
“In light of the significant changes to the land ownership structure and production patterns ensuing principally from the fast-track land reform programme, the need to mitigate the effects of climate change, technological advances and international best practices among others, the Government of Zimbabwe is compelled to adopt a comprehensive gender sensitive National Land Policy,” said Minister Shiri.
Minister Shiri said the policy must address land issues holistically with aspects that include land tenure, access to land, land use planning, land information management, land dispute resolution, environmental sustainability management, management of wildlife, forestry and water being taken into consideration.
“With land being a finite resource, it is imperative that a comprehensive gender sensitive land policy be put in place.
“The policy document will not only enhance equal access to land, productivity and sustainable utilisation of land, but will also take into cognisance various discourses and benchmarks,” he said.
Stakeholders who attended the meeting raised a number of issues they want addressed by the policy.
The timber industry wants stiffer penalties imposed on elements causing fires on their estates and the eviction of illegal settlers from their land.
Traditional leaders say they are the custodians of the land and demand active involvement in its management.
They also want the policy to be clear that the land belongs to Zimbabweans.
Commercial farmers are eager to see issues pertaining to the bankability of 99 year lease addressed by the policy.
Masvingo Province wants the policy to address issues around wildlife management, irrigation schemes expansion in the face of climate change and processing of offer letters within a reasonable time-frame, among other things.
At independence over 15.5 million hectares were owned by 6000 white commercial farmers.
The black majority only owned 1.4 million hectares, resulting in the land reform exercise in 2000.
The Land Reform Programme saw about 40 million hectares previously owned by white commercial farmers vested in the State.
About 300 000 families have been resettled countrywide to date, changing the country’s land ownership structure.