Land Reform: Time for finality
Tichaona Zindoga Senior Political Writer
In all honesty, Zimbabwe needs to get real and establish just how much we have put to good use and how much we have squandered (there are some politicians who became notorious for taking over farms and ransack them and move to the next).
Those following the news lately may have noted some worrying trajectory of disturbances in resettled areas.
Stories of fights and evictions and court orders are becoming more and more common.
“Illegal settlers” are becoming more emboldened by the day and are claiming space. Some of them are, or profess to be, spirit mediums and we see them, spiritual garb and all, invoking the war spirit.
The land and war are inseparable in this country. Here are a few choice incidents: Last week, there were skirmishes at Mashonaland East Tobacco Graders in Bromley, near Marondera, which sucked in a deputy minister .
In Buhera a fortnight ago, there were land skirmishes which left hundreds homeless.
In March, a Norton farmer, Pieter Nicholas Nel locked horns with Temba Mliswa and some “illegal settlers” on his property.
In Masvingo illegal settlements and land wars from farms to conservancies to sugar plantations have been reported.
Similar incidents have been recorded in the Midlands province.
This writer happens to have witnessed incidents in Shurugwi. The dispute is far from over as we speak.
In Bulawayo, some people, a good number of them claiming to be war veterans, last week settled themselves in a park belonging to the city council.
Largely, disputes on the farms seem to revolve around double — or multiple allocation of same pieces of land and encroachment.
Now, it has to be conceded that these issues are not particularly new in any farming community, here and elsewhere.
While it can, as should, be acknowledged that farmers find it difficult to make peace with each other socially, there are certain worrying aspects of such developments in Zimbabwe, politically and economically.
First, the land question is one that carries a lot of political baggage and negative developments such as an upsurge in disputes present cannon fodder to the country’s detractors.
As more and more “illegal settlers” make themselves seen, they challenge our claim of how many have benefited from the land reform.
A land-satisfied country does not parade hungry vigilantes, does it?
Where some of the protagonists happen to be of the white skin, the politics and the stakes get bigger, often justifying our continued ostracisation and punishment.
By and large, the upheavals seem to suggest that land reform in Zimbabwe is unfinished business — which can be done or undone.
In this comes this thing called the land audit. It has always been an uneasy phrase. It turns out not to be any ordinary appraisal of the heroic process called the Third Chimurenga — something through which the country takes stock of what has gone right, that should largely be the case, and what has gone wrong.
No process is ever perfect.
However, the procedure of the land audit has been stalled for a long time having been feared, whether wittingly or otherwise, be an instrument by some elements in the ill-fated inclusive Government to reverse the gains of the land reform programme.
It has been previewed to be too costly, as well. Lately, the issue has cropped up and it would seem that Land Minister Douglas Mombeshora is ready to roll it out. He needs to be encouraged.
He also needs everyone’s prayers.
The land audit is the biggest step to bringing finality to the issue of land reform in the country.
That is, even if we indulge ourselves that it has seen its successful conclusion.
The fact of the matter is that the country needs to know how much land has been given out, to whom and what is unclaimed. The country also needs to know how much of the land we are utilising and how much is being under-utilised, if at all.
It is all good for the sake of planning and progress and not risk the folly of the man who, having left home with a significant amount of money which he goes spending, finds it hard to check his pockets the following morning to determine what he spent and what he has left.
It is time to get real.
In all honesty, Zimbabwe needs to get real and establish just how much we have put to good use and how much we have squandered (there are some politicians who became notorious for taking over farms and ransack them and move to the next). Opportunities beckon, both for an informed Government and serious individuals wanting to venture into farming, when a land audit is done.
The continued disturbances at the farms are symptomatic of something ill in the land reform programme, qualitatively.
That must be healed and finality should be brought to the land question in the country.
Besides, when should we continue having “illegal settlers” in a vast landed country as we have?