Beaven Dhliwayo, Features Reporter
A lot of Zimbabwe’s irrigable land is underutilised, although the farms have the potential of being highly productive, posing a threat to the country’s food security.
The country was once the breadbasket of Africa, but many farmers who benefitted from the Fast Track Land Reform Programme are not fully utilising the land and this is disrupting commercial agricultural production and rendering the land unbankable.
It is high time the country moves towards restoring this historic moment, through maximum utilisation of land. Thus it becomes imperative for the Zimbabwe Land Audit Commission to be firm with the findings of the national land audit currently underway and rationalise ownership and farm sizes.
There is need for those who benefitted to begin farming profitable crops and livestock, and acquiring additional funding equipment to move towards commercialisation.
Using the findings which are yet to be submitted to Parliament after the final phase of the land audit, farms that are being abused should be reclaimed and be given to others who will use them for the benefit of the nation.
One worrying case it that of nepotism which is implicating Mashonaland Central Provincial Minister Monica Mavhunga who allegedly directed the provincial lands officer, Charles Kadzere to withdraw an offer letter given to Witness Jonga at Chibuli farm to pave way for the expansion of a relative’s farm.
Information gathered by our sister paper The Herald revealed that Mr Kadzere called Mr Jonga notifying him that he had been instructed by Cde Mavhunga to withdraw his offer letter and relocate him to Muzarabani district. Jonga applied for land and was given an offer letter by the Ministry of Lands in July this year.
The land was lying idle for almost 20 years since the start of the Land Reform Programme and was not allocated to anyone.
“After I got my offer letter (MLACWRR 704), I paid the lease for the land and the district lands officer accompanied me to show me the virgin land which has not been used for almost 20 years,” he said.
“When I was shown the boundaries, my plot accommodates a dam, compounds and farm house. I then advised Benson Kadzinga that am now his neighbour but this did not go well with him, claiming that the land I was allocated belonged to him as he was given the mandate to occupy it by the then Provincial Minister, Martin Dinha.”
Jonga added that it is nepotism at play because Kadzinga’s daughter is married to Banwell Seremwe, who is Cde Mavhunga’s nephew.
Cde Kadzinga refused to give a comment saying he does not talk to people he doesn’t know.
“I cannot comment on the issue because I don’t know you or even your face. The issue is now at the courts and you are free to come and hear for yourself,” he said before dropping the phone.
When The Herald visited Chibuli farm on Sunday, Cde Kadzinga’s 138 hectares had turned into a bush with no visible meaningful farming activities on the vast land.
This is not the first issue to happen in Mashonaland Central. In June, this year, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported that Cde Mavhunga allegedly ordered Kadzere to withdraw an offer letter belonging to Cde Garikai Jacobs who runs one of the productive farms in Centenary to pave way for a relative, a Cde Marodza. Another related case is where a successful coffee farmer was facing eviction to pave way for the son of Manicaland resident minister but Government came to the rescue of the farmer in the best interest of promoting production as delineated in Vision 2030.
The land audit should dig deep, and end the high level corruption in the form of nepotism, patronage and abuse of power, as well as petty bribery and extortion.
Nepotism deprives the agricultural sector of the right talent yet it is one of the drivers to achieve the country’s Vision 2030 of becoming an upper-middle income economy.
Contacted for comment, Cde Mavhunga said Jonga should not drag the issue to the media but the matter should be resolved by the provincial lands commission.
“The land that Jonga is fighting for was allocated to Cde Kadzinga in 2012 and if he has an offer letter it was an error by the Ministry of Lands which we want reversed,” she said adding that it is a ploy from those who want to tarnish her image.
Although there are claims that Cde Kadzinga is the owner with all the paperwork of the piece of land which include a farm house and other properties, a letter he wrote to Cde Mavhunga and is in possession of our sister paper The Herald dated September 22, 2019 reads: “May your office please assist by availing documents that confirm that I am already the legal beneficiary of the so claimed land by now Plaintiff Mr Witness Jonga.”
Without dwelling much on the details of the letter, the case studies in Mashonaland Central and Manicaland may be a tip of the iceberg of what is happening to many farmers across the country. Many of the farms that were allocated during the Fast Track Land Reform Programme suffered vandalism and theft only to be left to lie bare, with no or very little farming taking place because beneficiaries lack the necessary experience and administrative skills to run the farms, but used the acquisition as an opportunity to smirk as farm owners.
Some of the challenges in allocating land could be remedied by making the Ministry of Lands the sole issuing authority of tenure documents.
Land remains a valuable national resource that must be jealously guarded and effectively used for the benefit of current and future generations. Government must make it a policy that all the beneficiaries who are not using the farms for the nation’s benefit, must be kicked out and have the land given to those who will use it effectively for the benefit of the nation.
The land audit, without fear or favour, should establish the extent of land utilisation, as well as address the disparities of the Fast Track Land Reform and device ways of improving agricultural production on the farms.
Zimbabweans should view the development of agriculture as part of local economic development.
Additionally, agriculture must be integrated into wider planning and investment frameworks starting at district level, linking farms to towns and cities near land reform areas as this will improve employment and service provision opportunities.