New, old farmers wrangle over infrastructure

HARARE - More than half of nearly 12 000 blacks allocated medium sized farms under President Robert Mugabes controversial land redistribution programme are locked up in disputes with the former white owners mostly over infrastructure and equipment, according to a government land audit report

The report dated March 26, 2008 and one of several such reports prepared by Mugabes previous government also acknowledges that thousands of workers of former white commercial farms have not benefited from the farm reforms, with several thousands of the ex-labourers left without jobs or land.

Under the chaotic and often blood reforms the medium-sized or A2 model farms are supposed to engage in commercial farming and absorb tens of thousands of workers from former white-owned commercial farms. A1 model farms are smallholder plots in either villages or on self-contained units. “There are a total of 6355 disputes amongst the 11 857 beneficiaries who were audited and found to have taken up their A2 plots across the countrys eight provinces,” said the report.

The document titled Consolidated National A2 Land Audit Report, which was prepared by the old Ministry of Lands said most of the disputes are over farm infrastructure such as water sources, fencing, houses and other farm structures which are either immovable or former owners were prohibited form taking away with them on the promise that they would be compensated for the property.

Mugabe, who has refused to pay white farmers for land he says was stolen from blacks in the first place, has also not compensated the farmers for infrastructure and other improvements on the land despite promising to do so or in cases where compensation was offered it was way below market rates.

Giving more evidence of the suffering caused Mugabes skewed land reforms the report said thousands of black farm labourers who enjoyed steady employment and income under their former white employers were not allocated land and are jobless. Some have become squatters on the new A2 farms but refuse to work for the cash-strapped new farmers who cannot afford to pay wages.

“A total of 15 086 former farm workers who are not employed by the A2 beneficiaries but are residing on 674 A2 plots were found during the audit, the report said. Mugabes land reforms are blamed for plunging once self sufficient Zimbabwe into food shortages after the veteran leader failed to provide funds and skills training to black peasants resettled on former white farms to maintain production.

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