Fake offer letters hamper new land permits

The allocation of new permits for resettled farmers is underway but is being held back by several constraints – including lack of finance.

Wonder Chabikwa
Wonder Chabikwa

President Robert Mugabe launched the new land permits in July, replacing the 99-year leases that did not guarantee tenure among farmers who benefited under the fast-track land redistribution programme that began in 2000 and forced out close to 5,000 commercial farmers.

The new permits allow the benefiting farmers to transfer the land to their children and set up permanent structures such as dams and plantations, unlike the 99-year leases. But the land cannot be used as collateral to borrow money from banks.

Lands officials who talked to The Zimbabwean could not give figures, but confirmed that smallholder farmers were already receiving the new permits.

“The process has commenced in most of the districts across the country. However, it is moving at a snail’s pace because there is little money to fund it and limited manpower,” said one of the officials.

He added that a substantial number of the beneficiaries were allocated land on forged documents and were being turned away while the ministry found ways of redressing the situation. Some of the farmers with fake offer letters, said another official, had been on the plots since way back in 2001.

“We have also received reports of double allocations of the same plots. In some of those cases, occupants have been fighting for possession of the land while, in others, there has been a compromise, resulting in them sharing the plots,” he said.

The allocation of new permits is expected to open a can of worms regarding the manner in which land was parcelled out during the redistribution exercise, which was marred by reports of multiple ownership and forgery of documents.

The allocation of the new permits involves a strenuous vetting and assessment exercise that includes physical inspection of the plots and scrutiny of offer letters.

Wonder Chabikwa, the president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union, said “There are numerous constraints that are slowing down the process, but we have gathered that there is lot of activity across the country. Our hope is that the exercise will be completed before end of year.”

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