From George Maponga in Masvingo
THE government has started charging new farmers rent for occupying houses on more than 6,200 farms countrywide allocated to them under the land reform programme, we can reveal today.
On average, occupants of the farmhouses will pay between $400 and $1,000 per annum depending on the size and condition of the houses.
These new rentals are over and above the $5 per hectare farmers are paying to the government annually as land rent.
The Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement has already deployed teams of valuators countrywide to determine the value of the farmhouses vacated by white former farmers.
However, farmhouses taken over by the government departments and converted into makeshift schools or clinics among other utilities are exempted from paying rentals.
Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora yesterday confirmed that his ministry had started collecting farmhouse rentals throughout the country.
Mombeshora said those interested in leasing the vacated farmhouses were supposed to formally apply for consideration.
“We give priority to government departments to take over these properties (farm houses) and we have the Estates Department that handles those issues,’’ he said. “In cases where there are no government departments who are prepared to take over the properties we then lease out the buildings to individual farmers who want to take over. The individuals should make an application and their application is then assessed but the size of the rentals differ from one area to another,’’ said Mombeshora.
According to a joint United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Project Action Plan for 2014 to 2016, 6,240 farms were acquired for resettlement purposes by the government since the inception of the land reform programme.
This means the government is going to collect rent from the over 6,200 farm houses dotted on farms.
The collecting of farmhouse rentals from beneficiaries of the land reform programme is being spearheaded by the Estates Section that falls under the Department of Acquisition in the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement.
The rentals would be paid to the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement for onward transmission to Treasury.
There are mixed feeling on the new government approach, with farmers saying the rentals would be a burden.
The government last year said it had set a target to raise $22 million from land rentals aimed at developing infrastructure in the resettlement areas and also compensate white farmers who lost their land.
A1 resettled farmers pay $15 land rental per annum while A2 farmers pay $5 land rental per hectare.
Over 300,000 people were allocated land under the A1 and A2 farming models.