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Farmbiz: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar

By Kudakwashe Gwabanayi

IT IS quite unfortunate that the land reform was politicised. Land resettlement was one of the main reasons for the liberation struggle. The idea was that everyone gets access to land, despite their race, or political affiliation. But as we are all aware, today one has to belong to the ruling party Zanu PF to get land.

Those that are privileged to information argue that Zanu PF cannot claim title to the land because this was never part of their motivation as a party.

Some say the party broke away from Zapu in 1963, the main objective being primitively tribal; to derail Joshua Nkomo’s undisputed popularity and certain presidency.

Whether true or false, this narrative seems to be confirmed by the fact that 20 years after independence, Robert Mugabe’s administration did little, or nothing to answer the land question.

It took the frustration and subsequent demonstration of the war veterans for the ruling party to be jolted into action.

This event catapulted the late war veterans leader Chenjerayi Hunzvi into the limelight.The government responded by arresting the war veterans.

Those who walk in the corridors of power say that then-Home Affairs ministers John Landa Nkomo had to be sneaked out of the party headquarters in the presidential limousine boot as liberation war survivors were baying for his blood for his open opposition to the land redistribution exercise.

He is alleged to have said that real war veterans had died in the struggle in one of the central committee meetings.

This created a tense relationship between the government and the war veterans

However, party spin doctors saw this as an opportunity and used land as a campaigning tool. This was the time that the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change had been formed led by Morgan Tsvangirayi and it was a real threat to the throne.

The government, finding itself in an invidious position, embarked on a chaotic land resettlement programme that attracted worldwide condemnation. A delimitation exercise that followed made the situation worse as it concentrated voters for the ruling party on strategic areas.

The take-home message of this narrative is that land is sacrosanct, those that have it must always remember that lives were lost for the general populace to access land. It must be used wisely for the benefit of all.

While it is a good thing that the majority have got the land, this has failed to ensure that the majority is economically empowered. The country has not been able to achieve food security.

Zimbabwe now imports grain to address a food deficit due to droughts and failure to fully utilise farmland by some farmers who benefited from the Land Reform Programme.

The programme, which began at the turn of the millennium, aimed at redistributing land from white-owners and estates, as well as state lands, to more than 150 000 black farmers under the A1 and A2 models.

The A1 model allocated small plots for growing crops and grazing land to landless and poor farmers, while the A2 model allocated farms to new black commercial farmers with skills and resources to farm profitably and raise agricultural productivity.

Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Development minister Anxious Masuka has now allowed farmers who were allocated A1 and A2 farms but have no capital to embark on meaningful production to go into joint ventures with those who can, regardless of race, subject to government approval.

The land tenure makes it difficult for the ordinary farmers to access loans for capital. Government has tried to intervene with inputs but the results have not been pleasing.

What is more worrying however is the fact that most farmers are reluctant to pay the land levy to the government because they think the government of the day would never displace them because it actually wants their votes.

This is a dangerous scenario because even in the Bible it says that give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar as far as the land levy is concerned.

The bulk of the farmers have accumulated huge amounts in arrears on their land levy and a change in government could spell doom on them because the land has been politicised.  Unfortunately there are no permanent friends in politics; one day Zanu PF may deem the land disposable especially now that it is infested by factionalism.

Farmers are urged to pay all levies so that they are not found wanting. Earlier this year the government threatened to withdraw offer letters from those that are not productively using their land. This would make the comrades who paid the ultimate price turn in their graves.

  • Gwabanayi is a practising journalist and a farmer in his own right. — 0772 865 703 or gwabanayi@gmail.com

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