IN what is further evidence that Zimbabwe’s chaotic land reform programme has largely failed, a significant number of resettled farmers are increasingly leasing land to former white commercial farmers, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Although the practice is prevalent countrywide, it is rampant in the Mashonaland provinces, particularly the prime farming region of Mashonaland Central.
Most of the resettled farmers involved in the practice are operating under the pretext that they are in partnership with the white farmers when in fact they have failed to farm.
Several resettled farmers in Mashonaland Central are leasing out their A2 farms to white farmers after failing to productively utilise the land for over a decade. The farmers are reportedly afraid of losing the land following threats by government to take back unproductive land after instituting a land audit, hence the move to lease out land to give a false impression they are productive to keep them.
Investigations by the Independent show that a large number of black farmers — including war veterans and senior civil servants — are leasing farms for varying periods around the country.
Most of the farmers leasing the land were violently kicked off farms during the country’s land reform programme which started in 2000. Less than 300 white farmers remain out of about 4 500 before the programme which government recently admitted has failed.
Some of the white farmers have made investments on the farms after getting long-term leases, installing expensive state-of-the-art equipment such as centre pivots and trolley barns that cost between US$100 000 and US$500 000 each.
In return, resettled farmers are reportedly charging US$100 per hectare. Some of the beneficiaries of the land reform programme are leasing out their entire farms.
Commercial Framers’ Union director Hendrick Olivier confirmed the development, adding resettled farmers who are leasing out land admit their failure to utilise the farms productively.
“This is being done countrywide and it is a clear admission that the resettled farmers lack the means or funding to fully utilise the land,” Olivier said.
In some cases, resettled farmers are said to be demanding a percentage of the produce harvested.
In January government made a major climbdown and now allows farming joint ventures between black farmers and former white commercial farmers. It now also allows contract farming. President Robert Mugabe and Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko have also admitted land reform failures.