‘Land reform destroyed commercial agriculture’


HARARE – Compensation Farm, once a thriving safari and animal conservancy in Nyamandlovu is now a pale shadow of itself, 13 years after the brutal murder of then farm owner Martin Olds by invaders.

New settlers have hunted down all the wild animals and vandalised aluminium pipes which used to supply water to the farm.

Now, the new farmers have to travel miles to fetch the life-giving liquid.

Another nearby farm, Silver Stream which belonged to Olds’ mother Gloria, who was also murdered in 2002, used to be a thriving cattle ranch, supplying butcheries in Nyamandlovu and Bulawayo.

It’s now lying in ruins.

The farms, which all fall within natural farming region 4 and 5 characterised with low rainfall, parcelled out to subsistence farmers have seen commercial production plunging, with the new farmers failing to utilise the land.

This situation is however, not peculiar to Compensation and Silver Stream farms alone, but is a commonplace at most of the farms acquired during the land redistribution programme.

Although there have been pockets of success, the land programme which kick-started in 2000 and saw at least 4 000 white commercial farmers lose their land to black farmers has been a commercial disaster.

A document titled: Land and Land Reform, cites vandalism of infrastructure and equipment on farms, as well as multiple farm ownership.

The report states that there was massive irrigation infrastructure that was not being utilised by new farmers.

Land distribution has once again taken centre stage as the country hurtles towards watershed elections in two weeks’ time.

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In their 2013 election manifestos, both Zanu PF and the MDC have cited land as a key election issue.
Zanu PF claims the land reform generated over one million jobs.

But the General Agricultural Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), formerly the biggest union for farm workers, says their membership currently stands at only 23 000 not the one million being touted by Zanu PF.

“In the past decade, Zanu PF has indigenised 12 117 000 hectares of land which was previously in the hands of 3 500 beneficiaries of colonialism and illegal and racist Rhodesian rule and has resettled 276 600 households that have created over one million jobs that have become a source of livelihood with enormous trickle down effects on the economy,” the Zanu PF manifesto says.

Although tobacco is now almost exclusively produced by black farmers, production has been slashed by at least four times over the past decade.

Formerly a bread basket of Africa, Zimbabwe is faced with serious food shortages and has been forced to import 150 000 tonnes of grain from neighbouring Zambia.

Resultantly, the price of staple maize meal has gone up.

Zanu PF claims it will support a multi-million dollar presidential agriculture input scheme to boost production.

The party says it will also allocate residential stands on peri-urban farms under the land reform programme. But critics say that another war may erupt if land is going to be redistributed again.

The MDC is on one hand focusing on productivity which they say is key to eradicating poverty in a country where more than 60 percent live way below the poverty datum line.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC says it will ensure equitable access to land irrespective of race and gender as well as to provide security and land tenure for all land owners.

In its manifesto, the MDC promises to revive the agricultural sector through “restoration of forms of title deeds, establishing the constitutionally-mandated Land Commission, enforce the one household one farm policy, strengthen agricultural technical support and ensuring access to credit for farmers.”

It also promises full and adequate compensation for land acquisition as well as to enforce a viable land tax system which will restore the land market.

While all of these suggestions by the two parties sound good on paper, none of them have elaborated how they will achieve their goals.

Political analysts say both parties agree that the land reform programme is irreversible.

Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said there was no difference between what the two parties are saying concerning land in their manifestos.

“The MDC want rationale redistribution of the land and title deeds for the farmers which will enable them to use the land for capital but Zanu PF does not want farmers to use the land as collateral because they want to create patronage,” Ruhanya said.

He also said the MDC needed to elaborate how they would adequately compensate for land.

“It could be tricky, they have to outline how they will do it and who they will compensate,” Ruhanya said.

On the issue of Zanu PF allocating residential stands on peri-urban farms, Ruhanya said the party was selling bottled smoke.

“This is an empty promise. Zanu PF is not in charge of local council. Look at the housing scandal of 1998, only top officials benefited from the scheme,” Ruhanya said.

Charity Manyeruke, University of Zimbabwe international relations lecturer said:  “Zanu PF has always delivered on housing since 1980 and high density suburbs like Kuwadzana, Tynwald, Warren Park, Westlea and Chitungwiza came about in the Zanu PF era. And in Marondera we talk of areas such as Cherutombo and Nyameni.”

She said Zanu PF’s plan to allocate residential stands in peri-urban areas was commendable.

“What is happening in town planning is that there is no more space and what is feasible is expansion in peri-urban farming areas. Offices have now expanded into the low density areas  from the central business district because expansion is impossible,” she said.

On the issue of full and equitable compensation for land acquisition, the social scientist said the matter had already been dealt with constitutionally.

“It has already been agreed that compensation must be made and there is no dispute on that. It is going to be a bilateral agreement between Britain and Zimbabwe,” Manyeruke said.

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