THE proposed government land audit has hit a snag before getting well underway after a pilot project revealed that several top government and Zanu PF officials own on average of two farms each, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Sources close to the Lands and Rural Resettlement ministry this week said the preliminary land audit exercise, funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has showed that several top government and Zanu PF senior officials own on average four farms per family.
“The discovery is not shocking, but the issue needs to be resolved internally so that the multiple farm holders hand over other farms before being named in the audit,” said the source.
The Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement secured more than US$7 million from donors for the audit. The funds, administered by UNDP, are expected to fund the ministry’s two-year action plan.
The land audit seeks to address various issues among them land disputes, cases of multiple farm ownership, account for land that is being used unproductively as well as investigate reports that some resettled farmers are leasing out their farms to white commercial farmers.
A fortnight ago, Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora said government has since embarked on farm resizing, conceding that there are many farms that exceed the gazetted sizes determined by the provinces in which they fall. The adjusted farms would then be re-allocated.
Sources, however, said the audit is an exercise in futility because the majority of people who acquired vast tracts of land under the disorderly land reform programme that kicked off in 2000 are Zanu PF bigwigs, sympathisers and the well-connected.
“The common people who benefited from the chaotic land reform were offered the right sizes while top government officials own vast tracts of lands,” a source said.
“President Robert Mugabe, his loyalists in the party, cabinet ministers, senior army and government officials and judges now own nearly five million hectares of agricultural land, including wildlife conservancies and plantation land.
“The Mugabe family alone has close to 14 farms and this makes it difficult for a mere minister to embark on the land audit. The bigwigs have to surrender some farms voluntarily to avoid being shamed if the audit goes ahead.”
Another source also said the land audit could suffer the same fate as past ones.
“In the past government has held several land audits whose results remain unknown because the audits expose senior government and party officials.”
According to information gathered by this paper, those who own multiple farms include Senate president Edna Madzongwe with six farms, Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo (five), Home Affairs co-minister Kembo Mohadi (four), Mines minister Obert Mpofu (three), Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere (two).
Madzongwe was given an offer letter for Stockdale farm (750 hectares) but is said to be the owner of Aitape farm (2 000ha), Couburn Estate (560ha), Mpofu farm (450ha), Bourne farm (445ha) and Reyden farm (1 340) all dotted around the country.
Other Zanu PF members clinging to more than one farm include the late Sabina Mugabe (three), Leo Mugabe (three), Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa (two) and Grace Mugabe’s late brother Reward Marufu (two).
Since the controversial land reform programme started, several land audits were commissioned and on numerous occasions blocked by Zanu PF ministers and war veterans, arguing the process was a witch-hunt targeting senior party officials and other beneficiaries of the widely criticised land reform programme blamed for decimating the agricultural sector — the backbone of the country’s economy.