By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
02 July, 2014
The chaotic land reform programme started by ZANU PF in 2000 has now entered another confusing phase, after government cancelled all land permits that were issued to A1 farmers and announced changes in the land distribution process.
The Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Douglas Mombeshora, told journalists at a press conference Monday that land permits will no longer be issued by the local District Administrators (DAs), who were responsible for land distribution but are under the Local Government Ministry.
Mombeshora said at least 221,470 new A1 permits are to be issued by his ministry to resettled farmers, giving land ownership to the recipients for an indefinite period of time. He said the permits can be used as collateral at a bank.
Former farmer Ben Freeth, now spokesperson for the SADC Tribunal Rights Watch group, said the development means no-one has any rights whatsoever because they have been stripped of their documents.
“The only way you were allowed to remain on the land was if you had an offer letter, lease or permit and the Minister is now saying none of those people have any of those things and presumably they are either on the land illegally or someone is allowing them to be there,” Freeth told SW Radio Africa.
Minister Mombeshora said it will take two to three years to process the new permits, after government undertakes a land audit to determine who is on the land and to map out new plots and boundaries.
Freeth said: “We all know that to survey all the plots for about a quarter of a million people, to demarcate them on the ground and issue the paperwork in conformity to the surveying, will not take three years but an awful lot longer.”
He added: “I believe that this is another way of keeping people in uncertainty, insuring that they are able to be controlled. If they do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing or don’t support the party enough then they will be kicked off their plots.”
Freeth said this move is just a continuation of the “feudal, patronage system” that is in place already and a political move to control the masses.
He explained that the land itself is still very much in dispute. There are judgements from the SADC Tribunal which said that the land reform programme is illegal. Commercial farmers whose land was taken were not given any legal means to contest the acquisitions in the courts and they were not compensated for their loss.
Minister Mombeshora appealed to “foreigners”, including the British government, to help fund the land audit if they wished, making it clear that they would not have any involvement in the actual process.
But Freeth said it would be difficult for any country to “put the cart before the horse” and fund a process that is “severely flawed”, that is illegal and goes against all human rights charters that were agreed on.
According to the state run Herald newspaper, the new land permits were due to be launched by President Robert Mugabe at Chifundi Farm in Makonde on Wednesday, even though the money for the audit has not yet been sourced and government itself is broke.