HomeNewsLand titling sparks uproar in Parliament

Land titling sparks uproar in Parliament

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Finance minister, Tendai Biti, on Wednesday struggled to convince Parliament that new farmers who got land offers from government during Zimbabwe’s fast-track land reform urgently needed title deeds to access agricultural funding.
The remark – made as he presented his mid-term fiscal review statement —sparked an uproar, which lasted at least five minutes, erupting again as Biti tried to rub the message in.
“It’s a fallacy to think that government, especially this government, can finance agriculture,” said Biti. “No government can adequately finance agriculture . . .”
Biti stopped again mid-speech as hollering exploded again. “There is nothing wrong with 99-year leases. What I am saying is, they must be guaranteed and supported by an Act of parliament. They must be transferable . . . ”
The jeering intensified after one MP suggested that Biti was pressing for secutity of tenure because he had an underhand plan to commercially dispose the land he allegedly got.
“For as long as there are no title deeds, the land is a dead asset. If we say that we want to develop this economy through agriculture, then we need banks to come in and finance agriculture . . .”
“We need to restore the land market through title deeds or securitised leases guaranteed and supported by an Act of Parliament, not by an offer letter, which can be ignored the moment someone powerful appears.”
“If we say that land is the most important resource in this country, then it is imperative that there is security of tenure.”
Biti argued that titling land or securitising the 99-year leases government granted about two years ago to new farmers would revive a land market for the benefit of those who did not benefit directly from the fast-track land reform, which occurred between 2000 and 2002.
Zimbabwe’s economic planners have based the recovery of the country on a strong recovery in agriculture, now dominated by largely under-capitalised new farmers technically barred from bank credit by a lack of collateral.
The fiscal authorities have even revised upwards their projections of agricultural output this year from 10% to 18,8%.
Farmers say industry’s contribution to gross domestic product would even be greater if the uncertainty related to land tenure was resolved. Statistics available from the Zimbabwe investment Authority show that agriculture has attracted the least investment interest since the formation of the inclusive government last year.
Zanu PF and the two MDC formations are starkly opposed on how to handle the issue and are unlikely to reconcile their positions in the near term.

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