Candid Comment: Audit Won’t Reverse Land Reform

THE call on Monday by Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial secretary of lands Themba Mliswa that party members and war veterans must resist government’s land audit exhibited political brinkmanship of the top order.

Mliswa shockingly told a meeting in Karoi on Monday that allowing the land audit meant “denying black empowerment as the process is aimed at reversing the gains of the land reform”.

“We are also demanding that the government must repossess all farms owned by blacks who are leasing them out to former white commercial farmers, because it is against the law,” Mliswa said.

He added that blocking the audit would be in line with a resolution made by the party at its congress last December.

The former rugby coach did not spell out how the audit would reverse the gains of the chaotic land reform programme that has killed the agricultural sector and with it the economy. His utterances were acts of dissembling by claiming that Zanu PF had resolved at its talk shop last month that it was opposed to the audit.

Mliswa and those of his thinking in the corridors of power in Zanu PF and government must be reminded that the three parties in the inclusive government agreed when they inked the global political agreement in September 2008 that a comprehensive land audit would be undertaken. It is nonsensical for those opposed to the audit to insinuate that its primary purpose is to reverse the gains of the land reform.

Rather this wanton attempt to cover up the anomalies of the whole land reform project betrays what we fear has happened on the farms.

It has been said hundreds of farms have been grabbed by people who cannot farm them. Many more have been made derelict by those who set out to loot and plunder previously productive farms for the sake of it never planning to put them to productive use. The nation is also aware of “cellphone” farmers who never visit these lands but rather stay in the cities directing operations though their mobile phones.

The proposed audit is supposed to expose all these irregularities and also very importantly to expose multiple farm ownership.

To attempt to block this necessary undertaking is to prevent the resuscitation of our commercial farming sector once the pride of the whole continent.

The advantages to be accrued from the audit far outweigh the fears of Mliswa and those of his thinking in Zanu PF, which continues to use the land issue to hoodwink the electorate.

The land audit which is supposed to be comprehensive, transparent and non-partisan is meant to establish accountability and eliminate multiple farm ownership; ensure security of tenure to all land holders; and also to ensure that people who deserve to be allocated land and who apply for it shall be allocated land irrespective of race, gender, religion, ethnicity or political affiliation.

The parties in the inclusive government also agreed to call upon the UK to accept primary responsibility to pay compensation for the land expropriated from former white commercial farmers and work together to secure international support and finance for the land reform programme in terms of compensation for the former land owners and support for the new farms.

This is meant to restore full productivity on agricultural land, not the reversal of the land reform!

Although the MDC formations have voiced concern over the brutal force and the manner the land was expropriated from white commercial farmers beginning in 2000 when Zanu PF was staring defeat in the face, they have conceded that the process is now irreversible. That is why the two formations have publicly stated that we should now move from land redistribution to productivity.

What are Mliswa and his colleagues in Zanu PF trying to hide by blocking the audit?

Several land audits have taken place in this country and revealed that there were many multiple farm owners, among them top Zanu PF politicians.

Reports abound that some bigwigs have more than five farms each and are scared of being unmasked during the audit.  This time around the audit’s results would be made public and those found guilty would be shamed. The two MDC formations should not allow the dirt to be swept under the carpet as happened to the findings of previous land audits.

The first phase of the audit will be rolled out early this year with over 180 000 farms earmarked. The audit will run for the next two years.

It is laudable that Zanu PF and the two MDC formations have agreed that there must be a uniform tenure system throughout the country to address the current situation where some land is held under the freehold tenure system, while others are under the 99-year leases and yet others designated as state land.

The parties have agreed that all land shall be held under freehold tenure on condition that only citizens would be entitled to acquire and take title; first registration of agricultural land for beneficiaries under the land reform programme will be in the individual name of the owner, not that of a company, save for land owned by institutions such as churches, schools and hospitals; and any transfer of ownership to be subjected to a certificate of approval by a land board or commission.

The board or commission would assess the value of agricultural land for capital gains tax purposes where transfer is sought.

This is the way forward. What has Mliswa got to hide?

 

Constantine Chimakure

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