THE proposed US$35 million government land audit has hit a brick wall amid disclosures that Zanu PF bigwigs and securocrats, who are multiple farm holders, are stifling efforts by Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora to carry out the exercise, the Zimbabwe Independent has heard.
Sources at the Ministry of Lands said the pilot project, which was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), revealed that the majority of multiple farm owners are senior government officials and Zanu PF bigwigs.
“With the findings of the pilot audit, the minister vowed to complete the project but stumbling blocks are being thrown along his way, frustrating him,” the source said. “His work is being made difficult by senior government and party officials who do not want to comply with the one-owner-one-farm policy. Earlier this year the minister approached several multiple farm holders asking them to surrender some farms so as to avoid being humiliated by the audit, but no one did that.”
The source said army chiefs are still holding on to several farms. “One military commander has farms in Bindura, Chivhu and Norton. He has interests in the wildlife safaris, making him a multiple farm holder,” a source said.
Another Zanu PF insider said: “President Robert Mugabe, his loyalists, 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 embarrassed if the audit goes ahead.”
According to information from the Commercial Farmers Union database, those who own multiple farms include president of the Senate Edna Madzongwe with six farms, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo (five), State Security minister KemboMohadi (four), Economic Planning minister Obert Mpofu (three) and Local Government 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), dotted around the country.
Other Zanu PF members clinging to more than one farm include Leo Mugabe (three), Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa (two) and Grace Mugabe’s late brother Reward Marufu (two).
When contacted for comment, Mombeshora could neither confirm nor deny party and government bigwigs are throwing spanners in the land audit works.
“The issue of the land audit is work in progress and it will come to completion,” Mombeshora said.
The Lands ministry recently 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 and account for land that is being used unproductively as well as investigate reports that some resettled farmers are leasing out farms to white commercial farmers.
Since the controversial land reform programme started in 2000, several land audits have been commissioned and on several occasions blocked by Zanu PF ministers and war veterans, claiming 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.