Land could make or break us

The misnamed "land reform programme" has been directly responsible for reducing Zimbabweans to a nation of hungry beggars. The shops are empty while goods imported from South Africa are sold by street vendors at exorbitant prices - for foreign currency only. 

Its impact is two pronged. On the one hand, it will directly impact how quickly and how successfully our farming industry and the economy recovers. On the other hand, it speaks directly to the issue of national reconciliation which our country desperately needs. Coming up with a plan that is both equitable, in perception and reality, and economically efficient is the huge task the next Minister for Land, Agriculture and Resettlement.   

 

As specified in the agreement:

Land ownership patterns established during the colonial quest of Zimbabwe and largely maintained in the post independence period were not only unsustainable, but against the national interest, equity and justice.

Zanu (PF) however disagrees with both MDC formations on how to achieve a just, sustainable and equitable system.  

 

Currently there is no agreement on the key ministerial posts between Zanu (PF) and the MDC factions. All indications are that the Tsvangirai faction will be in charge of the ministry of Land, Agriculture and Resettlement. The man likely to spearhead this issue is Roy Bennett. With scores of commercial farming experience, no-one will doubt his credentials or experience. However, some will raise eyebrows at the wisdom of nominating a white man, who lost his own farmland in the 2000 land grab. I believe Bennett has the objectivity to navigate the country and has demonstrated his commitment to building Zimbabwe on many occasions. Conversely, Tsvangirai will need to be mindful of the message this sends to the men and women on the streets of Zimbabwe.  

 

First on the minister’s agenda is establishing a land commission to audit the recent shambles of Zanu (PF)’s 2000 land grab. That needs a balancing act between taking land back and allowing those who have been disadvantaged over the years to keep or get land. Accountability and transparency must be established in the land redistribution process. In addition, the minister will have to eliminate multiple farm ownerships largely by Zanu (PF) cronies and their supporters. A public register of who owns what land is necessary.

 

Compensation for commercial farmers is the responsibility of former colonial powers; it should have been insisted upon before this land seizure was instituted. Native Zimbabweans should not be asked to buy back their land which was stolen by the colonialists. In saying that, those who inherited or bought commercial land over the years clearly deserve compensation for their livelihood that has now been disrupted.

Many of those commercial farmers suffering now where born into this situation and therefore it is difficult to hold them to account for a choice they did not make. Britain needs to address this issue once and for all and allow our country to move forward in a unified way. It is important for our national healing that all Zimbabweans, black and white, feel and perceive that they are being treated fairly.  

BY TAFADZWA G. GIDI

Post published in: News

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