ZIMBABWE will be commissioning a fresh agricultural land audit, about 15 years after the Charles Utete Commission report whose findings were never implemented, which will run alongside a review of the land tenure system.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
The institutional reforms are part of its commitments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a letter dated April 14, 2016 signed by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and central bank governor John Mangudya, which described the policies that Zimbabwe intended to “implement in the context of its request for financial support” from the multilateral financial institution.
“Bidders are invited to bid for the provision of consultancy services for the implementation of Comprehensive National Agricultural Land Audit Programme,” read a tender notice published by the Zimbabwe Land Commission (Commission) in a Government Gazette Extraordinary dated August 10.
“Bidders are invited to bid for the provision of consultancy services for Review of Agricultural Land Tenure System.”
In the letter of intent, Zimbabwe undertook to take five steps to resolve sticking issues around the fast-track land reform programme namely: the re-mapping of farm boundaries, valuation of improvements on the farms, in the case of Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) farms that were gazetted, valuation of land and improvements, modalities for compensation of farmers and the granting of property rights to beneficiaries of the land reform.
Accordingly, a fully-fledged land commission was established in July 2016 with a mandate to ensure “accountability, fairness and transparency in the administration of agricultural land vested in the State.”
The commission is also charged with the implementation of the five-step review of the land reform programme, starting with an audit of agricultural land, a review of the land tenure system and compensations for land acquired by the State between 1999 and 2002.
In the 2018 National Budget, Chinamasa said government was urgently addressing all issues related to land tenure in order to bring finality and closure to the management and ownership of land, issues considered critical for improved land utilisation.
The long-awaited new land audit is expected to resolve outstanding issues on multiple farm ownership, land ownership disputes and land compensation among other contentious issues, while the land tenure review will revise the 99-year lease framework to restore security of tenure to the leaseholders.
In their current form, the 99-year leases are considered unbankable, one of the stumbling blocks to farmers’ access to agricultural finance.
In its 2016 annual report, the commission said government had by December 31 2016 paid a total of $56,8 million in farm compensation since the adoption of the multi-currency system in February 2009.
The IMF reported in the 2016 Article IV Consultation and the third review of the staff-monitored programme that it had noted the Zimbabwe government’s progress with land compensation fund, mapping of land boundaries and systematic evaluation of mapped land and improvements on them.
Land disputes involving more than one claimant of a piece of farming land have also hogged the limelight recently.
In the 2016 annual report, the commission said it had received 62 land disputes from eight provinces, a majority of which were reported in Masvingo and Mashonaland West, which each recorded 13 disputes.
The province with the least number of disputes was Midlands where only three cases were reported.
“The disputes involved the following main issues; land ownership, double allocations, sharing of farm infrastructure, illegal settlers, boundary disputes, ownership of land and upon divorce and inheritance, settlement by persons in grazing land, conflict of shrines and cultural areas, and lastly disputes between the former farm owner and
newly-resettled farmers,” the commission said.