Mnangagwa defends 99-year leases, argues they can be used as surety

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By Anna Chibamu

MOST Zimbabwean banks have a colonial mindset and that’s why they are rejecting government’s 99-year leases issued to beneficiaries of the land reform programme, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.

Mnangagwa told State radio in an interview that financial institutions can trust the leases and give out loans using these as guarantee.

“Banks mindset is still buried in the colonial period but, these 99-year leases are sufficient to conform to the needs by farmers.

“It is safe for banks to provide loans. Only agricultural land requires 99-year leases and not urban or communal land. So the leases are adequate for one holding this lease to get a loan from a bank,” Mnangagwa said.

Most banks have been reluctant to provide loans to farmers on the basis of the 99-year leases demanding instead that government give them title before they can get financial support.

Mnangagwa admitted the land reform programme was characterised by chaos with a government audit unearthing shocking details of how it was abused by senior officials.

He declared government will stick to the one family one farm policy and the audit will also be made public.

“Some people have registered a two-year-old child on a farm of 800 ha or more. All those things have been unearthed by the land audit but the report is yet to be tabled. This is part of what I have been briefed,” the President said.

Mnangagwa also revealed that former First Lady Grace, owned no less than 16 farms from the country’s prime agricultural areas.

Agriculture Ministry secretary Ringson Chitsiko this week told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture that land issues had become complicated to deal with amid revelations that land invasions were on the increase.

Mnangagwa’s government has gone about trying to protect the few remaining commercial white farmers and in some instances has gone further to take land from black beneficiaries to return it to the former owners.

Former President Robert Mugabe triggered the land invasions at the turn of the century arguing these were meant to correct colonial land imbalances. However, his critics argued the programme was a political gimmick by Mugabe to keep power.

Government has indicated that all farm invaders who moved onto land after 2005 will be forced out because they are illegal settlers.