By Staff Reporter
LANDS Minister, Anxious Masuka has admitted there is rampant corruption among ministry officials, who parcel out farms after receiving bribes.
He said the lands department had become a haven of corruption where criminal cartels of officers, demanded bribes for land allocations under the notorious “something for something and nothing for nothing” operation mantra.
Masuka was addressing senior lands officers in Gweru at a meeting on land distribution and management.
Over 250 000 people are on the waiting list for land.
Masuka told the land officers: “The Lands department now has a bad reputation. The department has degenerated into a haven of corruption activities as officers demand kickbacks in land allocations and that is very bad. We need to clean that image now by doing the right things in a professional manner.”
He lamented the high levels of graft among land department staffers adding their offices were only accessible to people that can afford to pay kickbacks.
“There are land officers whose offices are entered only by those with something in their pockets. Something for something and nothing for nothing, and that is corruption in land allocation. Corruption, corrupt activities must stop henceforth,” the minister said.
“As a civil servant, I think you should strive to leave a lasting legacy in the area of operation. Now we have land officers who set targets, for example, to have two Mercedes Benz vehicles in two years from corruption, which is wrong.”
He added Zimbabweans based in the Diaspora, who want to invest in land back home, were the main targets of the cartels.
To show how corrupt some land officers have become, Masuka said he was receiving phone calls from land seekers, who reveal to him their schedule number, which should be confidential details only known by land officers.
“The land officers who would have received kickbacks go to the extent of giving confidential information about the process of land allocation.
“Planning, preparation of schedules, and numbers are done by the ministry officials, but I get phone calls from people giving me their schedule number. That shows that the officer will be trying to please his/her benefactor because such information as schedule numbers are private and confidential,” he said.
Masuka said land was an economic enabler that must be allocated to deserving people for the agriculture sector to contribute to the growth of the country’s economy.
“Land is an economic enabler; the land must be used to unlock value and must be allocated in a transparent manner. Land can be used to maximize the productivity of the agricultural sector so that the country earns foreign currency.”
The minister reiterated the need for lands officers to be fair and transparent, and work towards clearing the backlog of the over 250 000 people who have applied for land.
He claimed the revised guidelines on allocation of land will target multiple farm owners, abandoned farms, derelict land, and under-utilised farms.
The Government has reviewed the policy on the allocation of vacant land and restructured the provincial and district lands committees to curb the rampant corruption.