Land reform: From distribution to production


NO GOING BACK . . . Farmers dance and ululate on receiving their A1 resettlement permits from President Mugabe last week. What is only left for those fervently rooting for the reversal of the land redistribution exercise is to realign their efforts to complement Zimbabwe’s agrarian aspirations

Benny Tsododo
The recent launch of A1 settlement permits by President Mugabe was an unequivocal statement that should instruct all concerned stakeholders to duly consider a shift of their views towards Zimbabwe’s land reform programme.It is clear that through the A1 settlement permits, together with the A2 99-year leases, Zimbabwe has demonstrated the irreversibility of its land reform programme and concomitantly exposed the futility of extraneous attempts to reverse the programme.

No amount of vilification, diplomatic coercion or global alienation could force the country to repeal its Land Acquisition Act.

Zimbabwe will not buckle under the effects of unjustified sanctions, economic sabotage and any political chicanery aimed at coercing it to abandon its land redistribution drive.

What is only left for those fervently rooting for the reversal of the land redistribution exercise is to re-align their efforts in order to complement Zimbabwe’s agrarian aspirations.

It is time for a paradigm shift.

As clearly spelt out by President Mugabe, the shift should begin with those who benefited from land reforms. People should not take the land for either esoteric, aesthetic or recreational purposes.

If the land is not tilled, it will not yield any benefits to the country. Failure to till the land is tantamount to working in cahoots with those intending to reverse the gains of the land redistribution process.

Zimbabwe cannot afford to continue recording food deficits when people are taking land for some other purposes other than producing food.

It is, however, comforting that the new A1 settlement permits will only be issued to those who have shown productivity on their allocated pieces of land.

President Mugabe rightfully said: “If there are those who still believe that the land they acquired was to afford them places to visit over weekends for braais and picnic parties, or for prestige or as places of interment when they pass on, then surely these will, sooner than later, lose the farms allocated to them.”

So, those who have been holding land for some other purposes should shift their focus towards the production of food, otherwise they will lose the land.

Another pivotal stakeholder that must put its shoulder to the agrarian wheel is the financial services sector. It appears the sector has adopted a wait-and-see approach to the land reform programme as it has not been enthusiastic to extend lines of credit to the newly-resettled farmers.

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that some financial institutions have adopted the wait-and-see approach in the hope that Government, at some point in the future and due to Western pressure, would reverse the land reform exercise.

Now that Government has manifestly demonstrated that the land reform programme is irreversible, it is high time the financial services sector considers supporting the resettled farmers.

On its part, Government should be commended for coming up with securitised documents such as the A1 settlement permits that could be used as collateral by farmers wishing to borrow money from banks.

With reports indicating that the chief executives of banks have been requested by the Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to examine the permits and determine whether they are acceptable as collateral for loans, we only hope that the financial institutions will this time around accept the documents as security.

While it is probable that the security documents might not fully meet the rigorous expectations of the bankers, any shortcomings thereof should be ironed out between Government and the financial institutions without prejudicing the farmers.

If the banks continue to reject the A1 permits and the 99-year leases, this would scupper the effective implementation of the historic land reform programme.

A dimensional shift to the latest developments in the land tenure is also expected from the private media. It is not a secret that some private media publications are at the forefront of demonising the land redistribution exercise. Up to now, there are media houses that cannot refer to the land reform programme without qualifying it as “violent and chaotic”.

Such a build-up of a negative perception around the agrarian reform programme has for long oiled the Western–choreographed crusade to push for the reversal or frustration of the agrarian programme.

Media practitioners should wake up to the reality that Government is not going to reverse the land revolution. The negative perception created by the media is not only counter-productive to the studious efforts of the new farmers but is also working to perpetuate the food shortages.

As such, the private media should try to build a positive perception about the land reform programme for the purposes of promoting adequate food production in the country.

The same applies to opposition political parties, particularly the MDC-T, that is riding on the deleterious message that it will reverse the land reform programme once in power. Such a retrogressive political trajectory should be abandoned forthwith as it runs counter to the aspirations of Zimbabweans.

For those countries that imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in the hope of impelling the Southern African nation to reverse its land reform programme, this is the time to evaluate the efficacy of their embargoes viz-a-vis the land redistribution programme.

Britain and the United States should respect the will of the Zimbabweans to fully own their land. They should also concede that their siege approach on Zimbabwe has failed and it is time to lift the sanctions.

Even those countries that are withholding their agricultural support to Zimbabwe in camaraderie with Britain should now come and give the African country the necessary expertise and technological support to rebuild its agricultural sector.

It is high time that all stakeholders acknowledged the futility of trying to derail the agrarian revolution in Zimbabwe.

What is only left for all stakeholders is to shift their conduct towards supporting the land reform programme for the sake of promoting food security in the Southern African nation.

Behavioural change is also expected from those who superintend over the distribution of agricultural inputs sourced to support farmers.

Each year, Government mobilises agricultural inputs to support farmers.

Some of these inputs have reportedly been looted by individuals who divert them to their own use.

The looting of inputs impedes the country’s bid to stave off recurrent grain deficits and attain food security.