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Land audit reveals arbitrary seizures

Itai Dzamara/Dumisani Muleya

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s land audit team appointed last month to review government’s land reform programme has submitted a preliminary report that reveals a

pattern of corruption and ad hoc seizures in the allocation of farms.

Official sources said the committee, headed by former Secretary to Cabinet Charles Utete, submitted its initial report recently. When it was appointed in May it was ex-pected to submit a comprehensive report within two months

The preliminary report is said to be similar in form and content to Minister of State for Land Reform, Flora Bhuka’s report that unearthed gross irregularities and multiple-farm-ownership in the land redistribution exercise.

“There is already a preliminary report that details the abuses by ministers, top government officials, senior Zanu PF members and higher ranking civil servants,” a source said referring to the Utete committee.

“Mugabe’s comments last week-end in Chivi that those who have amassed land would lose the extra farms were based on that report.”

The Bhuka report, which was suppressed in the corridors of power in March, named ministers, governors, senior military officers and civil servants as having grabbed more than one farm in violation of government’s own one-man-one-farm policy.

The report of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture, Water Development, Rural Resources and Resettlement also exposed grave abuses in the land reform programme.

The report, presented to parliament last month, was compiled between January and March.

“Regarding aspects of land acquisition, planning and allocation, the review acknowledges the unprecedented levels of property gazetting which are, however, proceeding against sluggish legal confirmation amidst a flurry of contestations,” the report says.

The report noted that politicians usurped the powers of the executive and management institutions tasked with implementing the programme and seized many farms and parcelled them out to their families and friends.

Although not identifying names, it said “prominent government leaders and politicians” were involved. The report alludes to the issue of abuse of political power and multiple farm ownership.

“It is very clear that senior politicians do not respect these institutions resulting in some of these politicians appropriating the functions of the Identification Committees by deciding what farm must be settled,” it says.

“In some cases, they also decided who must be settled even on properties not identified for resettlement.”

The report gives the example of Matabeleland South province where a prominent politician directed that small pieces of land owned and used by a businessman as a filling station and hotel should be acquired for settlement by his spouse.

It also refers to newspaper publisher and businessman Ibbo Mandaza’s five farms that he controversially acquired in Matabeleland North province for private projects. Mandaza also appears in the Bhuka report.

The report highlights the environmental and wildlife destruction caused by the land reform programme, which it describes as “a ticking time bomb”.

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