Renewed assault on property rights

THE government has advised remaining white commercial farmers to apply for 99-year leases to avoid losing their land amid growing pressure from senior officials and Zanu PF supporters for more land seizures.

Owen Gagare

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents the interests of most white farmers, held a meeting with lands minister Douglas Mombeshora on Thursday last week where the issue was discussed.
CFU had been pushing for a meeting to get assurance from government in the wake of threats by senior government officials to forcibly take over the farms of remaining white farmers.

CFU director Hendrik Olivier confirmed the development in an interview and said the farmers would comply with government’s directive.

“We had a cordial meeting and the minister indicated that there are a number of farmers which are not legally on the land, both black and white. He said all farms now belong to the state and we should therefore apply through the district and provincial structures to get 99-year leases, which will enable us to operate without disturbances,” he said.

“We are advising our members to comply in the hope this will help them to operate without hassles.”

Section 72 of the new constitution, which deals with rights to agricultural land, empowers government to acquire agricultural land for a public purpose. This may include resettlement for agriculture, land re-organisation, forestry and environmental conservation among other purposes.

“…the land, right or interest may be compulsorily acquired by the State by notice published in the Gazette identifying the land, right or interest, whereupon the land, right or interest vests in the State with full title with effect from the date of publication of the notice,” reads section 17 (c) (2).

Agricultural land is described as “land used or suitable for agriculture, that is to say for horticulture, viticulture, forestry or aquaculture or for any purpose of husbandry, including the keeping or breeding of livestock, game poultry, animals or bees; or the grazing of livestock or game.”

Olivier said most farmers were not operating at full throttle because of disruptions on farms. The farmers were also failing to make long term plans and investments because they did not have security of tenure, hence the meeting with Mombeshora, he said.

Last month Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was acting president, announced government would intensify the land grab aimed at the remaining white farmers while multiple farm owners would also be targeted.

“Those with multiple farms, we will take them, the few whites on farms, we will look into that and those with big farms, we will cut to size,” Mnangagwa told Zanu PF supporters in his Chirimanzu-Zibagwe constituency.

The minister of State for provincial affairs in Mashonaland East Joel Biggie Matiza also announced government would seize land.

“The white farmers who are carrying out farming activities on gazetted land will not be tolerated as it is illegal in terms of the laws of the country,” Matiza said. The CFU now has a membership of 300 down from 4 500 before the advent of the land reform programme in 2000.