THE Zanu PF government is finally carrying out the long-awaited land audit of farms grabbed during the land reform programme with the assistance of the European Union (EU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Bank.
This comes after years of pressure from civil society and the MDC formations led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube before and during the inclusive government era between 2009 and 2013.
The land audit was one of the contentious issues in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) — precursor to the unity government — not implemented.
Zanu PF insisted that there could be no land audit as long as the country was under Western-imposed “illegal sanctions”.
Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday the land audit would start next year as and when funds are made available. The audit will cost US$35 million.
EU ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia said the EU has made available €4,7 million (over US$6,5 million) to support the Ministry of Lands’ Action Plan 2014-2016. He said the EU considered the land audit a significant process for the country since agriculture is a key component to Zimbabwe’seconomic recovery.
Dell’Ariccia said “The land audit is very important for the EU to the point that together with the UNDP and World Bank we’re financing it.
Again, it’s an ongoing process. In the framework of our support programme, we had a meeting chaired by the Permanent Secretary of Lands (Sophia Tsvakwi) and things are moving forward.
“This fund is complemented by an additional contribution of US$700 000 from the UNDP. The project has been outlined in close consultation with the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlementand has received the endorsement of the Office of the President.”
He said the funds are not being disbursed to the government directly, but are channelled through the UNDP.
The project will be linked to the World Bank’s support for background studies for analysis and recommendations on land valuation/compensation, land tenure/surveys, dispute resolution systems, land use planning, land administration and capacity building.
The ambassador said the audit work would be carried out by ministry officials, in particular the Department of the Surveyor-General, to whom the EU is providing technical assistance in terms of capacity- building and equipment.
“The government’s Action Plan for the land audit runs from 2014 to 2016. The EU project’s duration is until 2017 in order to permit the wrap-up of the initiative and a proper result-oriented evaluation/assessment,” he said.
The EU and Zimbabwe are currently engaged in crucial negotiations that could throw a lifeline to the cash-strapped Zanu PF government.
Mombeshora said: “It (land audit) is not a climb-down. I heard it long back that the EU had offered to assist in the land audit, but their assistance was not only financial, but they wanted to take part in it, taking control of the programme. This is where it differed with government — that is controlling the programme.”
Mombeshora said the land audit would also deal with cases of multiple ownership of farms.