Land audit facing resistance from big fish

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Harare – The ongoing land audit is quickly hitting a snag after ruling party bigwigs, influential businessman and senior government officials who benefitted from the land reform programme are stifling the Land commission’s progress, the Mail and Telegraph has heard.

Top government sources this week said senior officials and ruling party bigwigs are against the plans to downsize their farms as proposed by government.

“Many people do not want their farms to be downsized as proposed by government,” the source said.

“It is shocking because much of the land is not being utilised.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa commissioned a fresh team of commissioners to audit land ownership as well as utilisation.

In an interview this week Local government minister July Moyo said farm owners must welcome the commissioners.

“There is nothing wrong with the land audit. President Mnangagwa has a very small farm, 436 hectares of arable land and that is close to the maximum hectrage of farm ownership in Midlands,” Moyo said.

“As our population grows it means we cannot hold on to large tracts of land when there are people in need of that land,” he said.

Investigations by the Mail and Telegraph shows that several Zanu PF bigwigs have over 800 hectares of land. Most farms in Mashonaland Central are over the required benchmark and are likely to be downsized.

In the 2018 National Budget, the then finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said government was urgently addressing all issues related to land tenure in order to bring finality and closure to the management and ownership of land, issues considered critical for improved land utilisation.

The long-awaited new land audit is expected to resolve outstanding issues on multiple farm ownership, land ownership disputes and land compensation among other contentious issues, while the land tenure review will revise the 99-year lease framework to restore security of tenure to the leaseholders.

In their current form, the 99-year leases are considered unbankable, one of the stumbling blocks to farmers’ access to agricultural finance.