GOVERNMENT and Zanu PF bigwigs, most of whom are multiple farm owners courtesy of the controversial land reform programme, have moved to protect themselves by ensuring the proposed US$35 million land audit only focuses on land usage instead of naming and shaming greedy new farmers, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
The move is set to benefit many Zanu PF bigwigs, security sector chiefs and senior government officials who acquired many farms for themselves and their families during the programme, which is still to be concluded 16 years after it began.
Government officials revealed Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora has told officials in his ministry that the major focus of the audit will be agriculture output.
“The minister is shifting focus from the multiple farm ownership to land usage. This means those with large tracts of land lying idle may lose out. Multiple farm owners will however remain untouched,” said the source.
Officials revealed Mombeshora was cautious of touching a raw nerve as he is aware a comprehensive audit would expose most senior government officials, including President Robert Mugabe’s family, which has more than a dozen farms.
The audit hit a brick wall last year amid stiff resistance from Zanu PF bigwigs and securocrats.
A pilot project that was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that the majority of multiple farm owners were senior government officials and Zanu PF bigwigs.
“One military commander has farms in Bindura, Chivhu and Norton. He has interests in 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, 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 Kembo Mohadi (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).
Initially, the land audit sought to address various issues, among them land disputes, 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.
The programme has been blamed for decimating the agricultural sector, the backbone of the country’s economy.