Biti calls for title deeds for land beneficiaries

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

GOVERNMENT must grant title deeds to beneficiaries of the land reform programme in order to transform their lives and elevate them into a middle class group, MDC vice president Tendai Biti has said.

In an interview with this week, the Harare East MP and former Finance Minister said government has turned all the land doled out to ordinary Zimbabweans into “dead capital”.

“We have to revive productivity anchored on agriculture. So, farmers must understand it’s a business and therefore we must pursue a business model when it comes to our farming.

“The starting point is we must give every farmer a title deed on his land particularly the beneficiaries of the land reform programme so that they can monetise their asset called land,” said Biti.

Government has however shot down this proposals for years arguing this could be used to sell-off the land and allow former white commercial farmers back on the land.

At the turn of the century, then President Robert Mugabe fronted the compulsory acquisition of land in what he said was a programme to “re-unite the people with their land” and complete one of the outstanding objectives of the liberation struggle.

His successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared there was no going back on the land reform. Currently, beneficiaries have 99-year leases that banks have been unwilling to take as collateral.

Biti argued: “They can hypothecate land in banks. 74% lending by banks before the land reform programme used to go the farming sector. That has to happen again.

“Farmers must stand on their feet. Dependence on the State must end.”

Biti said instead of empowering the people, the land reform programme has turned former productive citizens into poor peasants highly dependent on government.

“In fact, if you want to make someone poor in Zimbabwe right now, give them a farm.

“And the answer is simple. It has got a use value, but no exchange value,” he said.

Biti is on record as saying that most beneficiaries of land reform who are government workers must quit their jobs in order to enhance productivity.

“If you have got a farm, why do you still need to work in government as a civil servant because farming is a business?” he asked.

The land reform programme is blamed for decimating a once productive agricultural sector in which some 6 000 commercial white farmers owned vast tracts of land most of which had been inherited from the colonial period.

The land redistribution exercise turned into a political fight between Harare and Western powers.

Relations have never recovered from this and the country’s economy seemed to have plunged with it.