On Wednesday the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement told the Parliamentary Portifolio Committee on Lands that the government was set to embark on a land audit that would be implemented over two years.
The announcement is welcome but two crucial questions emerge from this: Why implement the audit over a period of two years and are we going to see a genuine land audit this time around, given the hullabaloo that we have seen in the past?
A genuine land audit is, for want of a better expression, long overdue. It seeks to correct the mess that the chaotic land-grab, disguised as land reform that the then ruling party, Zanu PF, and its supporters visited upon the country in 2000.
Land was grabbed from white commercial farmers willy-nilly with the big fish grabbing more farms that even a commercial enterprise could handle. The result was a situation so ruinous to agriculture that it turned, overnight, our country from being a breadbasket to a basket case.
Granted, the idea to redistribute land was and is still noble. In fact, other political players like the MDC-T claim it was their idea which Zanu PF snatched before implementing it in a suicidal manner. What happened was that the land was not redistributed in a fair or sensible manner.
People were discriminated against on political grounds. Not just anyone could apply and get a farm. There were individuals who were more equal than others and therefore needed to be satisfied first before anyone else.
There was a loud outcry over this and to quell the dissenting voices the Zanu PF government undertook partisan types of land audits that yielded nothing while land-grabbing continued. The land-grab was concomitant with looting of farm equipment and non-productivity.
That the government now wants to carry out a land audit over a period of two years points to the continued desire by the big fish to buy time while looting and under-utilisation of land continues. The sincerity of the audit becomes questionable.
There are genuine concerns that the two-year period is designed to lengthen the period of looting for the benefit of Zanu PF and its supporters. Why take two years because that amount to two whole farming seasons?
Zanu PF has never wanted an independent land audit and the dispute with MDC-T on who should be commissioned to carry out the task indicates their intention to have a body that they can easily manipulate for political expedience. They have the warped belief that Zimbabwe’s land belongs to their party and its supporters.
What Zimbabwe needs is a land audit that would lead to a framework ensuring the majority benefit from this natural resource. Political parties must not behave as if they own Zimbabwe’s land. Land should be viewed as a national heritage that should benefit every Zimbabwean, regardless of colour or ethnicity.
Zimbabwe is an agro-economy and we have all seen the result of sacrificing the agricultural base on the political altar.
A proper land audit should result in fair redistribution of land so that not only the majority benefit, but that the wheels of our agro-based economy start turning again.
It would be another undeserved waste of resources to commit the $31,1 million set aside for land audit to another fruitless exercise meant to pacify local and international dissent while buying time for looters.