HARARE-Government and Zanu-PF officials who seized excessive farmlands and benefited from Mugabe’s controversial fast track land reform programme are set to have the farms reduced in size beginning this week for redistribution.
According to the Herald ,most of the farms far exceed recommended sizes gazetted province by province and are not being fully utilised.
The exercise to slash farm sizes begins in the Midlands this week where impeccable sources say those affected include Cdes Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Joram Gumbo and suspended party member Flora Bhuka.
This is after a land audit committee established that more than 70 farms in the province far exceeded the maximum recommended sizes of 500 hectares while the list of people in need of farms keeps growing.
Other provinces will begin with farm inspections. Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora, a senior Zanu PF official said 40 farms in Mashonaland East would be assessed with a view to downsizing them.
Government has stepped up efforts to set up a Land Commission to carry out periodic land audits to identify multiple farm owners, resolve land disputes and deal with land reform beneficiaries leasing out farms to former white commercial farmers.
The Land Commission is a requirement under Section 296 of the Constitution.
Dr Mombeshora said the recommended maximum farm sizes varied according to ecological region, ranging from 250 hectares in Region I to 500 hectares in Region V.
“We want to make it a policy that we will no longer be offering or issuing offer letters to farm or plotholders whose land exceeds the recommended sizes approved by Government corresponding to regions,” he said.
“For those with offer letters but whose land is above the recommended maximum farm size, we are going to visit them and downsize to the stipulated size or even less depending on the utilisation of land and activities taking place on the farm.”
Minister Mombershora said the recently approved land rentals and unit tax would fund the exercise.
Cabinet recently approved new rentals of $3 and $2 unit tax per hectare annually for A2 farmers, while A1 farmers will pay $10 land rental and $5 unit tax per year.
“Work has started,” the minister said. “Unfortunately, there are limitations of resources. That is why we have introduced land rentals so that part of the money will go towards funding the land audit.”
He said the downsizing would ensure maximum utilisation of the land by beneficiaries of the agrarian reform to meet food security requirements under Zim-Asset.
The Midlands provincial lands officer, Mr Joseph Shoko, said the province had engaged those being asked to surrender portions of their farms back to Government.
“We conducted farm inspections to identify farms whose sizes exceed the maximum recommended sizes as well as assess land utilisation,” he said, refusing to disclose the names of bigwigs affected.
“We then engaged the owners of the farms. We did not face any resistance from farm owners.”
Government is targeting to repossess 80 000 hectares of land for redistribution in the Midlands.
President Mugabe recently warned farmers, especially A2 beneficiaries, against viewing land as a status symbol saying they risked losing it.
“(They say) ‘I am a farmer, I have a farm’, but what are you producing? That’s what we want to know, (not) to just have a farm where most of it is just pasture for cattle and you are not looking after the cattle, too,” he said, calling for an audit.
Meanwhile, Dr Mombeshora said his ministry was working on the final draft of the Land Commission Bill.
All things being equal, he said, the Bill should be ready for Cabinet and eventually Parliament by Wednesday.
“As espoused in the new Constitution, we came up with the principles for the Bill and these have been approved by Cabinet,” Dr Mombeshora said.
“The next thing for us was the drafting stage, which we did and we have revised the Bill. We are polishing up the document before taking it to Cabinet again and Parliament for approval. The content side is now fine and we will be looking only at things like spellings and punctuation.”
The Land Commission is expected to ensure accountability, fairness and transparency in the administration of agricultural land controlled by the State.
It is also expected to make recommendations to Government regarding all aspects of agricultural land and to investigate complaints related to administration and allocations and farm boundaries.
Dr Mombeshora said they had already begun scouting for people who will sit in the Commission.
“We are going through the CVs and after screening them we will take the names to the principals who will have the final say.”
More than 300 000 families benefited from the agrarian reform exercise which gave landless black people a chance to own the means of production.
Some land beneficiaries have been leasing their farms to former white commercial farmers.