HARARE – Proposed legislation by the Agriculture ministry to establish a Land Commission through an Act of Parliament should be given wholesome support and hailed considering the evident squander of a valuable economic factor of production that has blighted food production in Zimbabwe.
Vast swathes of arable land are underutilised at the moment, forcing the nation to feed itself through imports at huge costs that drill gaping holes in the national purse in the light of competing social service delivery needs such as reliable power supplies.
This hybrid proposal by the Agriculture ministry comes out of the stark realisation that a valuable national asset such as land cannot be allowed to remain redundant when thousands of peasants battle to eke out a living from less-productive marginal lands.
Many of the land-short peasants are a hard-working lot able to at least feed themselves without relying on government food largesse for survival except in instances of crop failure owing to severe droughts.
Quite often we have been bombarded with threats from the government that idle land held for speculative purposes or as a status symbol will be repossessed. But this sort of pressure and exhortations on work-shy landowners has remained mere talk with nothing specific done.
As a nation, we simply cannot afford to be prodigal with this finite natural resource.
We can only do so at our own peril.
Through this commission, action should be taken against land beneficiaries that scrambled to acquire more land than they can utilise fully; wrestle large tracts without requisite competency to work it for the benefit of the nation and those that took up land merely to enhance their social status or as retirement homes.
Agriculture and its capacity for employment creation and proven sustenance of industry through its products has been and will for quite a reasonable period, remain the mainstay of the national economy.
It is essential therefore, that steps such as the establishment of a Land Commission are taken.
In addition, in dealing with agrarian reform issues, the proposed land commission should be mandated to conduct a land audit and be able to effect tangible ownership reconfigurations to reflect the much-vaunted egalitarian nature of this finite resource.
It is no secret that the elite have parcelled prime land to themselves and their families with husband and wife owning a farm each while thousands remain land-short in a manner not much different from the skewed land ownership patterns practised by the colonialists.
This is a travesty to be confronted by the proposed Land Commission and tackled in a robust manner to allay simmering discontent that the agrarian reform represented a deceitful form of official entitlement.