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Government threatens to reverse land reform

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GOVERNMENT has threatened to withdraw offer letters from struggling farmers allocated land under the land reform programme if they fail to pay leases and rentals.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

In a notice published yesterday, the Lands and Rural Resettlement ministry warned beneficiaries of the chaotic land reform programme, which is blamed for food shortages, that they risked losing their land if they did not pay up.

“Farmers (A1 and A2) should pay all land rentals due to avoid having their offer letters and permits withdrawn,” the notice read, providing provincial account numbers into which beneficiaries can pay their rentals across the
country.

“All farmers with leases with the option to purchase small-scale commercial farms (matenganyika) and farmers allocated land under the commercial farm resettlement scheme must pay rentals due to avoid having their leases cancelled.”

The issue of leases and rentals was raised by government long after many had taken up the offer to move into commercial farms in an exercise that disrupted farming activities for years, while in other areas like the sugarcane, producing Lowveld problems continue to this day.

As if to acknowledge its inadequacies, the government warned of impostors fleecing people under the guise of working with the State.

“Farmers should be aware that there are impostors collecting money purporting to be Ministry of Lands officials. All farmers A1, A2 and traders on State land be advised that lease rentals and development levy are paid to the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement only. Business stands on rural State land are allocated by the ministry and lease rentals should be paid to the ministry only,” the statement read.

“All farmers who had deposited money in the ministry account in 2016 and the current year should visit the ministry’s accounts offices to obtain receipts.”

Amid reports that top government officials were planning to turn agricultural land in peri-urban settings into residential stands, the notice warned: “No State land is for sale.
The only applicable fees are land rentals and development levy to those already issued with offer letters or A1 permits. Land allocated by the ministry should be used for the purposes agreed upon in the offer letter.”

With the planned relocation of the country’s Parliament to Mt Hampden on the northern fringes of the capital, there have been reports that senior officials in government, who now own farms around the area, stand to make billions after turning their land into prime residential stands.

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