RULING Zanu PF members have formed a shadowy group dubbed “Land for Economic Development (ED)” to fast-track parcelling out of “unutilised” land to party youths ahead of next year’s crunch polls.
Land for ED is one of the several Zanu PF associate groups created recently in support of the party leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-election bid.
Land for ED founder and leader Blessing Togarepi yesterday told NewsDay that the organisation would not allow authorities to deny them access to vacant farming land.
The latest move is likely to trigger a fresh wave of farm invasions considering the ruling party’s history of launching populist and unco-ordinated economic interventions each time the country heads towards national elections.
As the country heads towards the watershed 2023 elections, Zanu PF has been dangling the land to the youths as it seeks to win the elections resoundingly.
The youth vote remains critical to the ruling party.
“Land for ED is there to ensure that the youth have access to land for free. We have noted that ordinary citizens have challenges in accessing land, therefore, we are there to enhance the process,” Togarepi said.
“What happens is that those who need the land must identify vacant pieces and confirm with the land office that, indeed, they are vacant. We will then write land application letters to Provincial Affairs ministers, the district development co-ordinators who chair the land committees at the district level and the District Development Fund offices. If the land is vacant, they will have no excuse to deny the people who come to their offices. We will report them to the party (Zanu PF) or their senior government authorities.
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“We are aware that officials are sitting on their jobs giving excuses to deny the youth access to land. So if they give those excuses, we will corner them. Let’s say they claim that they do not have fuel, we will provide the transport. If they are engaged elsewhere, they should assign their subordinates to do the paperwork, because what we want is the land.”
In a letter addressed to Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister Aplonia Munzverengwi dated May 17, 2021, Togarepi urged the provincial leadership to prioritise youths in land allocation.
“In response to a call by President Mnangagwa to support Vision 2030, I have written this letter, requesting your kind permission to seek idle and vacant A1 farms that can be apportioned to and utilised by the youth for agricultural purposes.
“Also about the letter released by Minister Anxious Masuka on April 29, 2021, stating that the ministry has already complied with the directive to prioritise youth in the allocation of A1 plots ranging from two hectares to six hectares, also advising that the youth can approach provinces and districts where land is allocated,” Togarepi said.
“I, therefore, present that I have 40 youths with the financial capacity to do farming focusing on horticulture, crop farming and animal husbandry with a vision of job creation and community development through farming in your province. I, therefore, implore you minister to grant us the permission to go through the whole district of Goromonzi searching and identifying vacant A1 land for farming,” he added.
In a response dated May 18, 2021, Munzeverengwi promised to assist the youths.
“The letter serves to inform you that the minister’s office is in receipt of an application letter seeking permission to search for vacant A1 plots in the province. The minister will assist you as soon as possible,” the letter read.
Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu curtly said he was not aware of the Land for ED group.
“I am not aware of the group, but the Lands ministry oversees the issue of land allocation. They are better placed to respond to your questions,” Mpofu said.
Contacted for comment, Zanu PF information director Tafadzwa Mugwadi referred questions to party political commissar Mike Bimha.
“That question can be best answered by the commissariat because they are the ones with the database of all the party affiliates,” Mugwadi said.
Bimha curtly said: “I am not aware of the group.”
Political analyst Sydicks Muradzikwa said the continuous formation of shadowy ED groupings was a worrisome political trend in the country.
“If ED means ‘Economic Development, then it should have a sound economic governance system defined by its ability to reward compliance and ruthlessly punish errant behaviour like these misguided elements trying to grab land under the guise of the support of the President,” he said.
“This newest grouping of land grabbers calling itself Land for ED and linked to Zanu PF is emblematic of naive politics and is dangerous to the economic development trajectory of this country. Among other resources, land is one of the most strategic national resources that doesn’t belong to Zanu PF. In fact, allotment of land is a collective constitutional prerogative of land and government authorities, not party members, driven by rational self-interests.”
Thousands of low-income earning citizens are on the waiting list at the lands offices as access to land remains a challenge for the majority of Zimbabweans.
There are indications this latest grouping is prepared to disregard the existing waiting list.
Centre for Natural Resource Governance director Farai Maguwu said political interference in land allocation was a “recipe for disaster”.
“Land is a national asset which must be managed in a transparent and accountable manner. It then becomes a challenge when a political party starts controlling the government structures on land distribution,” he said.
“There are going to be challenges in auditing the land managed by an external structure. Zanu PF should just stay away from the State resources.”