Farm unrest blamed on chaotic land ownership system

The legacy of Zimbabwe’s land reform is that no one knows who owns what

By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
12 March 2014

Zimbabwe’s land ownership system is being blamed for the ongoing unrest on farms across the country, with no guarantees of property rights or reliable title deeds to determine who owns what.

Most recently, a row has erupted over the ownership of a Mazowe farm where former farm workers who lost jobs during the land grab campaign, had been resettled.

The property, Bloomfield farm, has reportedly been eyed out by a senior Air Force officer identified as P. Kazingizi, who has been attempting to evict the former farm workers living there.

According to the NewsDay newspaper, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs deputy Minister Fortune Chasi, the ZANU PF MP for the area, has blocked the move. In written correspondence between Chasi and the Air Force litigation head Albert Murove, Chasi claimed that the Force was responsible for beatings and assaults of the workers on the farm.

Chasi reportedly accused Air Force officials of assaulting the settlers, firing guns and intimidating civilians by pointing guns at them, all in an effort to force them to leave the farm.

“As indicated in my conversation with you this morning, your, Mr Kazingizi, emboldened by your letter, tried to coerce the police at Mazowe to effect the eviction and when that failed, he commandeered five soldiers who assaulted occupants of that piece of land,” Chasi claimed in the letter.

“Shots were fired and guns pointed at innocent civilians including a 12-year-old who was chased by Kazingizi at gunpoint. This is the second time I am informed, he has brought violent solders to the farm.”

NewsDay reported that Murove dismissed Chasi’s claims that the matter was never reported to the police. He added that the Air Force would proceed to issue eviction summons “regardless of any extra-legal or extra-judicial intervention on their behalf, irrespective of which office or who they approach or use”.

Independent economist John Robertson told SW Radio Africa that these kinds of incidents were indicative of the ‘chaos’ the land grab campaign has left in its wake, with no respect for property rights or value in title deeds. He said the damage to property rights in Zimbabwe meant the country was still “sliding backwards.”

“The problems will not go away while the level of indiscipline and breakdown of the structures that govern this remains. It seems people can bribe their way into deeds offices and get documents saying they own properties. The structures of these institutions have been so badly damaged that is very difficult to go to court to get this sorted out,” Robertson explained.

He warned that it is the long term investment future of the country that ultimately suffers, with a lack of confidence stopping development in any sector.

“It means that job creation and the ability of the country to produce goods that might become exports stops happening. And this is what we have seen here for many years. Our productive sector has shrunk to a very low level, formal employment is down to the figure achieve in 1970, so we’ve gone backwards,” Robertson said.

He added: “We have seen this shrinkage because of the damage done to property rights… because the confidence is no longer there, the country is slipping backwards at a very fast rate.”

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