Lands Commission Admits Chaos On Farms, Handling Over 1 000 Disputes

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

THE Zimbabwe Lands Commission (ZLC) says it is handling over 1 000 disputes involving farm allocations and boundary rows.

The ZLC has also admitted the fast-track land reform programme created headaches for the government, which it now sought to fix.

ZLC commissioner Tendai Ruth Bare said the statutory body established under Section 296 of the Constitution was mandated to regularise the settlement of beneficiaries on farms repossessed during the agrarian reforms which started in 2000.

The internationally-condemned violent land grabs rolled out during the iron-fisted rule of late former president Robert Mugabe, saw over 4 000 white commercial farmers being removed from their prime properties without compensation.

Said Bare; “The commission has an oversight role on the administration of agricultural land vested in the state and to regularise the fast-track land reform programme which resettled plus, minus 300 000 farmers in a period of five years.

“This was no mean feat. I don’t think this has happened anywhere else in the world where 300 000 people are resettled in a period of five years. Obviously, when you are doing that programme, not all the procedures would be systematically followed.”

Bare said the ZLC was currently seized with resolving in excess of 1 000 land disputes.

“Most of the disputes are over farm boundaries, acquisitions, double allocations, offer letter withdrawals, inheritance, and divorce cases with a bearing over land rights.”

The commissioner was speaking in Chinhoyi this Monday during a provincial multi-stakeholder consultative workshop on the formulation of a national and gender-sensitive land policy.

Bare said the ZLC was committed to resolving the disputes professionally through the adoption of the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism to promote accountability, restorative justice, and reconciliation.

“The role of the commission is to assist in negotiation and mediation and where no consensus or agreement is reached by farmers we then arbitrate guided by the principle of accountability, fairness, and transparency.

“Therefore, the ADR allows farmers to co-exist amicably after a dispute has been resolved, which is not the case when a dispute is resolved through a court where the loser automatically takes a position of hostility,” said Bare.

The crafting of a gender-sensitive national land policy, she added, is a game-changer in the administration and management of land in the country.

The policy must provide quotas to ensure equitable rights to property and land tenure to women, youths, the disabled, among other groups.

“This will enable us to improve on production and productivity and achieve food security, industrial development, and economic growth.

Agriculture should contribute 17% to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) so this policy should be implemented systematically for us to attain Vision 2030,” Bare said.

Participants at the workshop highlighted disputes in communal, resettlement, and A1 farm areas mostly emanated from grazing land and where miners invade farms to prospect for precious minerals, especially gold.