THE Zanu PF government will not conduct a comprehensive land audit considered overdue and as agreed to by all parties in the 2008 Global Political Agreement (GPA), but will instead concentrate on improving agricultural productivity in the short to medium term.
By Paidamoyo Muzulu
Zanu PF has over the last five years strenuously resisted conducting a comprehensive, transparent and non-partisan land audit of farms grabbed under the chaotic land reform programme amid reports that many senior party officials including the First Family are multiple farm owners.
This is despite former finance minister Tendai Biti budgeting US$31 million for the exercise in his 2012 budget.
Agriculture deputy minister Paddy Zhanda said increasing farm production is the government’s priority at the moment and not auditing who owns what farm at a time the country is struggling with food security at household level.
Zhanda made the remarks at a parliamentarians’ pre-budget seminar held in the resort town of Victoria Falls last weekend.
“It is not about the size of land; if you think Zhanda has four farms, it will not make a difference if no resources are made available,” he said. “First things first, we have to stop this bleeding and we should be able to produce our maize and then everything else will be done later.”
Zhanda was responding to a question from MDC-T shadow minister for agriculture Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo, who wanted to know if government would set aside resources for a land audit.
Zanu PF government officials have always blamed banks and sanctions for the poor agricultural production in the country.The country faces a severe food deficit, with more than 2,2 million households needing food aid early next year, according to the World Food Programme.
The government has since 2000 compulsorily acquired over seven million hectares of land from former white commercial farmers for its resettlement programme.
However, agricultural production has plummeted compared to 1998 when Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector last produced crops such as tobacco, flowers, wheat, maize, milk, coffee, beef and citrus in abundance.
The government has in the past carried out two land audits, but the reports were never made public. Audits were done by a team headed by the then minister responsible for land reform and resettlement, Flora Buka in 2003 and another by a commission chaired by Charles Utete, a former chief secretary to the President and cabinet.
The Utete commission report found that only 134 000 people were allocated land under the resettlement scheme against the 300 000 claimed by government.
Meanwhile, Zhanda said it was important for the private sector to play a role in the rehabilitation of irrigation schemes and support new farmers who now rely solely on natural rains for their agricultural production.
“The irrigation schemes continuously require government support as on their own they are not sustainable,” he said. “We need to develop public private partnerships (PPPs) to finance irrigation infrastructure that can help increase production on resettled land.”
The country has 56 irrigation schemes, most of which are in need of refurbishment. In 2012, Biti set aside US$15 million to rehabilitate the schemes.
The government irrigation programmes are implemented through the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), which has over the years built several dams.
The government is still to complete the construction of Tokwe-Murkosi Dam, Gwayi-Shangani Dam and Mutange Dam that will change agriculture in the southern provinces.
Construction of Kunzvi Dam, to supply water to Harare and farmers around Murehwa, is also expected to commence under a PPP arrangement.