Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
GOVERNMENT has announced new guidelines for A2 land permit holders that include the need to have a full-time farm manager and moving onto the property within a set timeframe to avoid repossession of the resource.
The new terms of reference for A2 farmers come at a time Government is working on ensuring that Zimbabweans take farming as a business to uplift the livelihoods of land beneficiaries in line with Vision 2030.
Addressing senior lands officers from across the country attending a workshop on land management and distribution in Gweru on Monday, the acting lands development acting director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Mr Cephas Magauze also said a new permit with improved security features is now being issued to farmers to further curtail illegal land allocations.
Mr Magauze said there are conditions attached to the land permit to give operational guidelines to holders so that there is maximum land utilisation.
He said the A2 land permit holder must in 90 days appoint a farm manager who should take up permanent residence at the farm, failure to which the land would be forfeited.
The land permit holder must also within the first 30 days after receiving the permit from Government start developing permanent structures and undertake development in accordance with a five-year development plan.
“There are conditions attached to the land permit. The permit holder must take up permanent residence within 30 days, the permit holder must appoint a manager to take up permanent residence in three months. The permit holder must undertake to initiate development in accordance with the five-year development plan. So, there are rules of engagement of which if they are breached, the farm will be forfeited by the State,” said Mr Magauze.
He said the permit holder shall not sublet or subdivide part of the land without written consent from the lands minister.
In case there is room for a joint venture, the permit holder must also seek consent from the Minister.
“Converting agricultural land to residential stands or other business should be with permission from the Minister.
Poaching of wild animals is prohibited because farming is not hunting and hunting is not farming. The natural resources on that land be it trees must be protected and no wanton cutting down of trees will be permitted. The Minister can cancel the permit if any of the conditions are breached by the permit holder,” he said.
Mr Magauze said in case of urban development, when there is need for a local authority to expand, the farm in the way of urban development will be repossessed and the permit holder would be compensated for developments done and allocated another piece of land.
He said if the permit holder fails to produce anything in two successive agriculture seasons, the permit will be cancelled.
“So, there is no room for holding on the land for speculative purposes or showboating. It is tantamount to failing to utilise the land and this leads to cancelation of the permit,” said Mr Magauze.
He said land permits have new features.
“We have introduced new securitised land permits for the A2 model settlement permit. It now has security features so that there is no room for manipulation of the permit. There is a fidelity seal and serial number with special reflective ink, security feature embedded on the permit, underground micro text at the back, the Minister has to sign the permit and there is also a long serial number and a hologram seal. The more securitised land offer permit is an effort to flush out corruption in the land redistribution programme which is reversing the gains of the land reform program,” he said.
Addressing the same meeting, Lands Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said it is obligatory that on top of the five-year plans, the permit holder must prepare and produce production plans by February 15 of each year.
“The permit holder must submit his/her development plan so that it is easy to assess productivity on that farm.
We want sanity in those pieces of land. It is the plan of the Government to transform the A2 farmer from just being a land owner to a business person. We are unlocking the value of the land so that the people are empowered in line with Vision 2030 as envisaged in NDS1,” he said.
Dr Masuka said the new conditions of the permits were also going to work in favour of especially war veterans since Government is going to look for joint ventures for them so that they benefit from the land.
“To war veterans, if you indicate that on your farm you have zero production, then you indicate on the challenges part any problems you will be facing. That way the Government will know what is happening and will look for joint ventures for you. So, you must take part in the production and productivity report writing and present it to the officials so that everyone is assisted. It is time we all benefit from the land and farming through adding value to the land,” he said.