EU and UN support Zim land programme

The European Union and United Nations have pledged $7.8m to help the government’s land management efforts through computerising and training, a cabinet minister has revealed.

Man on a mission: Douglas Mombeshora says he wants to oversee the transformation of the surveyor-general’s department to world-class standards.
Man on a mission: Douglas Mombeshora says he wants to oversee the transformation of the surveyor-general’s department to world-class standards.

“The EU and UNDP agreed to assist us in computerising, updating the land database, equipping and training staff in the surveyor-general’s department and providing vehicles for outreach programmes,” land minister Douglas Mombeshora told The Zimbabwean.

The EU ambassador, Aldo Dell’ Ariccia, confirmed the development.

“The EU has considered the government of Zimbabwe as one of the priority areas of cooperation under the 11th European Development Fund (2014-2020), where we granted $7.1m, and about $600,000 was donated by the UNDP, who are also implementing partners of the project,” he said.

EDF is a financial arm for EU aid for development cooperation in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries formed in 1957.

Funding is provided by voluntary donations by EU member states and runs for six years. The fund is subject to its own financial rules and procedures.

Food security

Ariccia said the project was aimed at enabling the government to update the land database and provide necessary equipment and capacity building of officials in the ministry of lands to effectively carry out their duties.

“This is meant to have a framework that enables realignment of the land programme to the rule of law and the constitution. In turn, it will enable the country to improve its food security through proper utilisation and management of land,” said the ambassador.

He said the two-year partnership has foreseeable outputs and is not a fund-raising project.

“There is equipment which is provided at the start of the project to make sure that the ministry will be able to properly carry out its duties to solve issues on land tenure, redistribution, use and administration,” said Ariccia.

However, Mombeshora said there were a number of things in the land ministry that were not up to world standards.

“First and foremost, we do not know exactly what is happening on the ground. The land that we have allocated to people, how many have taken up that land and what percentage they are using.

“My aim in the next five years is to leave this office having given the government correct information about the land redistribution and usage,” he said.

Mombeshora said new software that captured all the details of every farmer, how many farms they were occupying and using and general information about farms and infrastructure would be installed to get information from district and provincial levels to national levels.

“The system will enable us to know who has two farms or more so that we take the other pieces and ensure everyone has one farm. We can improve the monitoring and evaluation programme,” he said.

Compensation fraud

Mombeshora said his administration was working to consolidate records to address issues of evaluation at a time when the infrastructure was collapsing.

“We are having problems with some former white farmers who claim compensation for things which were never there or they auctioned. Just last week, we had a case of a farmer who claimed that his farm equipment was confiscated while evaluation forms indicated that he had actually auctioned his property,” he said.

Mombeshora said vehicles provided under the EU partnership were also meant to help gather information about claimed farms.

“Those who are entitled to compensation will get their dues, but it has to be done transparently,” he said. He took a swipe at unruly land invasions in the country, describing them as illegal and criminal.

“We have received numerous reports of certain individuals and groups invading land, and both government and the party do not condone such practices.

“Land is applied for by any citizen above the age of 21 years and we have since ordered all provincial administrators to engage the police and displace such invaders and land barons. We have laws that ought to be followed and we cannot operate on jungle laws,” he added

Areas of improvement

Mombeshora also sought to capacitate the surveyor-general’s department and put policies in place to promote sustainable economic growth and food security.

“I want to go further to look into various challenges that resettled farmers are facing, such as having land permits. I’ll be championing government support to them because they can revive and turn around the economy and food security if assisted correctly,” he said.

Mombeshora said that, to address some of these challenges, the subdivisions of land to be launched with the deeds office needed proper surveying. The surveyor-general’s office, however, had limited capacity.

“The department is understaffed, does not have the equipment and the latest technology is not there. This is one area I want to make sure is upgraded to world-class standards and ensure that our farms are properly demarcated,” he said.

He admitted that bankruptcy was the major obstacle to his mission, but said this was why he engaged willing partners such as the EU and UNDP to fund the programme.

“We requested $55m in our 2014 budget and only $10.8m was made available, and the deficit is so huge. We are also coming in with our own fund-raising internally. All resettled farmers require some training and support on land management, the inventories that have to be done and periodic audits for the good of the government and themselves,” Mombeshora said.

He revealed that his ministry would soon roll out land tax, which would see it retaining 60 per cent of the money with 40 per cent ceded to the Treasury.

“Government has already approved the tax and we are waiting the party’s green light. The tax will see A1 farmers paying $6 per year, A2 and commercial farmers will pay per hectare ranging from $1 to $3. We aim to raise $10m annually,” he said.

The minister said permits for A1 farmers had already been designed and approved by both the party and cabinet.

“The permit has no time limits and has regulations which outline the rules to be followed, such as inheritance when one marries, dies and so forth. It also indicates when government can withdraw it if certain conditions are breached,” said Mombeshora.

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