Zimbabwe is failing to realise maximum gains from the agriculture sector due to idle land that has become dead capital and being held for speculative purposes, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said.
Presenting 2018 National Budget estimates in Harare yesterday, Minister Chinamasa called for urgent implementation of the land audit to flush out speculators.
“In this regard, appropriate remedial measures to address prevailing idle tracts of previously productive land in order to improve agricultural production in the country, will be guided by results from the comprehensive land audits,” he said.
“Having completed the land reform programme, Government is moving to undertake periodic land audits through the Land Commission, established and operationalised in June 2016, with the mandate of ensuring accountability, fairness and transparency in the administration of agricultural land vested in the State.”
The necessary preparations for the land audits were now at an advanced stage, said Minister Chinamasa.
“Through this process, issues of multi-farm ownership, idle land and under-utilisation of land are going to be identified,” he said.
President Mnangagwa in his inauguration speech, pointed out that under the new order, Government’s economic policy will also be anchored on agriculture.
As such, beneficiaries of the land reform programme are required to fully utilise the land and improve on productivity.
He said Government is urgently addressing all issues related to land tenure in order to bring finality and closure to the management and ownership of land, critical for improved land utilisation.
Minister Chinamasa said to address security of tenure, especially with respect to the A2 resettlement model, Government introduced the 99-year lease, as a tool for formalising occupancy of re-distributed farms to beneficiaries.
“To give confidence to beneficiaries that their occupancy is guaranteed, and cannot be withdrawn willy nilly, through the indiscipline of either youths, political leaders, traditional leaders or senior officials, Government is undertaking to institute measures to strengthen the legal standing of offer letters and 99-year leases.”
This, Minister Chinamasa said, would enable the much needed farm investments and improved utilisation of land, leading to high productivity.
He said it was disheartening that the pace at which farm valuations were being undertaken was limited, resulting in very few issuances of the land leases.
“It, therefore, follows that the proportion of 99-year lease issuances against the number of beneficiaries remains negligible, constraining financing by financial institutions and in the process, perpetuating farm land as dead capital,” said Minister Chinamasa.
“Going forward, through the 2018 Budget onwards, Government will set aside resources for strengthening capacity of the Surveyor General’s Department to scale up conduct of farm surveys, instead of outsourcing, for rapid issuance of 99 Year Leases.”
Over 300 000 families benefited from the fast track land reform programme implemented in 1999.