‘Only 500 A2 farmers got 99-year leases’

Lands minister Anxious Masuka.

GOVERNMENT only issued 99-year leases to 500 out of 23 000 A2 farmers before abandoning the process which Lands minister Anxious Masuka said had become “cumbersome”.

Asked by Harare North legislator Allan Markham to give an update on issuance of 99-year leases to A2 farmers during Parliament’s question-and-answer session on Wednesday, Masuka said farmers would ordinarily get A2 offer letters, and after five years of developing the property, they would then apply for 99-year leases.

“After assessment and payment of a fee, the Department of Lands would then assess the property. When the Land Commission Act was promulgated, that changed to say that a 99-year lease may not be issued by the minister without reference to the Zimbabwe Land Commission which created a second level of verification,” Masuka said.

“That assessment would then leave the ministry’s Department of Lands and be submitted to the Zimbabwe Land Commission who would also do their own assessment of whether the farmer would get a 99-year lease or not. Then they would recommend to the minister whether issuance of the 99-year lease is appropriate or not.

“Through this cumbersome process, we have issued under 500 out of the 23 000 leases to A2 farmers. Noting this very cumbersome process, government last year changed the policy on the issuance of 99-year leases.”

Masuka said government would start to issue securitised A2 permits this year which would allow farmers some security of tenure.

“All A2 farmers automatically qualify for 99-year leases now. No one needs to apply for a 99-year lease and this is the policy position of government. We introduced what we call the production and productivity return form. It is an annual production and productivity form which A1 and A2 farmers should complete, and an assessment team assesses the level of production and productivity on the farm and recommends for the automatic issuance of a 99-year lease,” he said.

Masuka said the process would begin this year, adding that farmers ought to complete the production and productivity returns by March 31.

“This enables them to be assessed for such. This is the correct position in relation to 99-year leases.”

Masuka said the securitised offer letters were already recognisable in terms of the law and in terms of the Finance Act of 2023.

He implored parliamentarians to support future suggestions in the amendments to the Land Commission Act, which will separate the administrative processes of land from the oversight role on land so that it becomes the responsibility of the Zimbabwe Land Commission.

“Once that happens, we will be able to issue 99-year leases without reference to the Zimbabwe Land Commission because currently, they seem to be both a referee and a player in this regard,” he said.

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