Lack of funding stalls Zimbabwe land audit

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ZIMBABWE’S land audit to ascertain farm ownership, disputes and land utilisation levels has been stalled due to lack of adequate funding, Agriculture Minister Perence Shiri has said.

Following land reform programme-which saw government taking over land from about 5 000 commercial white farmers who owned about 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s fertile land-concerns of lack of production and multiple ownership have been raised.

Shiri told Business Weekly that there was no meaningful progress on the audit due to funding constraints.

According to reports, some informal audits exposed serious irregularities in the allocation of farms with some children alleged to have benefited from the programme blamed for the collapse of the economy.

The land reform programme saw agriculture output crash, with the nation’s gross domestic product shrinking by as much as 50 percent between 2000 and 2010.

“We have made some progress though not to my satisfaction,” said Shiri in an interview on Wednesday.

“Financial resources have been a serious challenge. The (audit) teams need vehicles, travelling and subsistence allowances for their sustenance whilst they are in the bush.

“What we have received as support in that regard is not adequate really to meet our expectations.

He said the ministry had approached treasury for supplementary budget “and we hope they will do something.” Shiri could not reveal how much is needed.

Land reform irreversible

President Mnangagwa said while the land reform was irreversible, the government would ensure compensation is made for investments made on the farms.

Speaking at his inauguration last year, President Mnangagwa said the land reform programme was inevitable and “nationalization of our land cannot be challenged.”

White farmers are, however, hoping that a new dialogue with the government over compensation for lost properties will succeed and help send a positive message to foreign investors over private property rights.

A majority of the affected farmers rejected previous compensation offers by government–limited to just investments — and were holding out for full payment encompassing land and improvements, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) told this newspaper recently.

Only those facing extreme financial hardships or medical problems accepted the offers, which were between 10 and 15 percent of professional valuation of their properties, it said.

The government embarked on the land reform programme since 2000, an exercise it said was meant to redress colonial land distribution imbalances by parcelling redistributing land from minority white commercial farmers to indigenous people.

Major beneficiaries of agriculture

The country’s agriculture sustain over 70 percent of livelihoods in the country including major companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. Some of these companies are: SeedCo, National Food Ltd, TSL Holdings, Ariston Holdings, Zimplow Limited and Delta Beverages.

Business Weekly