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Land Audit: A true test of national empathy

25 Feb 2019 at 12:55hrs | Views
The ongoing land audit breathes a new ray of hope to landless masses who hope to chance their first immovable property in a landmass collectively owned by all daughters and sons of the soil, Zimbabwe.

The setting up and operationalization of the Commission of Inquiry into the management and exploitation of state land could not have come at a better time than now, two decades after the first and historic land reclamation process in Africa. Now it is time to self introspect and see the wrongs and rights of the process.

It is inevitable that a process of the land reform program comes with some mistakes on its back. Also, some mistakes would be sponsored by opponents of the process, the former century old illegitimate occupiers and their sympathisers.

Also, the land reform program came with scores worth celebrating. It is an undeniable fact that some lives have been transformed forever. The story of tobacco farming is a case in point especially in Mashonaland West and Central. Before the arrival of land into the hands of previously dispossessed natives, there was only one tobacco merchant in Zimbabwe, the Tobacco Sales Floor. Now that we have teems of indigenous tobacco merchants, it is a clear sign of native empowerment through agriculture, a feat that was not achievable prior to land reform. Now the native farmer controls the total tobacco value chain from the seedling until it reaches the final consumer at any corner of the earth.
While it is true that the tobacco value chain is still being dominated by non native capital, the arrival of the few local merchants is a step in the right direction.

Going back to the farm, it is an unavoidable reality that some land is still not being put to good use. It doesn't need a ten thousand dollar funded research to come to this conclusion. Just driving along the highways provides the driver with a reality of the on goings in the farming countryside. Large swathes of formerly productive land greet the driver on either side of the road, betraying the derailed original designs of the empowerment project.

Nevertheless, the diminished productivity in the farmland should never the used as an excuse to return the land the former illegitimate occupiers, never. The land audit should create answers to this problem.

It is a natural necessity for any citizen that land should be availed to him in order to earn him or her a livelihood, but equity should dictate that each individual should be afforded land that he can exploit sustainably. Those farmers whose capacity outgrows the available land should be upgraded accordingly. In the same vein, those farmers who underwhelmingly perform on their pieces of land should be downgraded to plots they can exploit profitably.

Capacity utilisation on the farms must be kept at a sustainable high. There is no motivation bigger than the fear of being downsized for any farmer. Protecting non productive farmers will only promote laziness and speculation on the land.
All land compulsorily acquired by the state after 2000 is owned by the state and as such, the state has an obligation to supervise productivity on its land. The rest of Zimbabwe is a giant national farm with lease holders being labourers of the estate. If any such labourer wants to earn a wage for no work, its time he is replaced.

It is true that the land redistribution process in certain instances overlooked farmer capability considerations, a position that needs a relook. It doesn't profit anyone to award a farmer 300 hectares yet his potential is 47 hectares. Meanwhile, there would be capable would be and existing farmers with potential for better production. The ultimate goal should be the guarantee of food security and the growth of the economy through productivity on the land.

Land must not be used as a trophy or family meet rendezvous. It must be used for its primary purpose, production. Any and every land holder who holds on to land for any other reason away from this must be dispossessed.

The bigger problem within the land today remains multiple ownership of land. The media, across the divide, has reported this several times. While it is proper to wait for the official statistics from the land commission, it remains an uncontested fact that there is multiple ownership of farms. The accused have neither made an effort to deny the accusation nor challenging the accusers.

The absence of voluntary surrender of extra farms or unutilised swathes of land by those who have this land is nothing but impunity dressed in greed. The continued siege on the land by people who have no use for it is lack of necessary empathy needed to cement the gains of the historic native empowerment initiative.

In the absence of decisive action against multiple land ownership, we will become self retardants of the gains of agrarian reform while our real opponents watch from the terraces. While we design ways of dealing with the opposing inertia of the former land occupiers, failing to discipline ourselves will be an undeserved disservice.

There is no other time requiring discipline more than during times of war. Without discipline an enemy can easily overrun us. Lack of discipline on the farmland has reportedly seen remnants of former settler farmers creeping back and exploiting the same land through proxies. The Land Commission must uproot this cancer. Zimbabwe has teems of farmers who learnt the trade in colleges while some learnt it through family practice.

Farming is a natural occupation for Zimbabweans. Many excelled without college education in this industry. So did former settler farmers who learnt the trade from their fathers as they grew.

All eyes are on the Land Commission and it has no option but to deliver well on its job. Anything short of this would be an assault on people's hopes and confidence in them.

Source - Chigumbu Warikandwa
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