The government has criminalised the irregular sale of State land by unscrupulous traditional leaders in connivance with senior officials in the lands ministry as it moves to curb the chaos rocking the redistribution of land.
The National Land Policy, which was launched last year, has been given more teeth and those found to be selling State land illegally would be prosecuted.
The government is arguing that the land disputes and illegal selling of State land was stalling production and productivity in farms hence the country is spending over US$1.8bn yearly on food imports.
Marius Dzinoreva, Lands Administration and Management director in the Ministry of Lands, told Business Times that the policy was expected to bring finality to the Land Reform Programme and clear all hurdles that stand between production and economic prosperity through maximum land usage.
“We were in Mutare last week at the formulation and empowering of the National Land Policy to hold accountable those who parcel out land illegally,” Dzinoreva told Business Times.
“We thought that the government had done enough to empower its landless people and gave them resources that enable them to be productive but some of the people are now abusing State assets and the office they hold and we want to say to them ‘the end in nigh’.”
Dzinoreva said the absence of a comprehensive National Land Policy document was giving the government a serious headache although they were relying on a 1990 National land policy.
“The issue here is that we are compensating former commercial farmers an amount of US$3.5bn [almost the same as the national budget] for their assets and improvements to bring finality to the land reform to start producing in the farms and enable our farmers to access finance in banks so that we can reduce imports but the level of corruption in farms needs to be dealt with to bring sanity to the programme,” he said.
It is estimated that the Land, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement ministry has over 100,000 land seekers on its waiting list.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, John Bhasera, recently said his ministry was carrying out an investigation after Business Times first reported that there is rampant illegal sale of the land. He said that must stop.
“We noted with concern that there are such illegal activities taking place hence we tasked the director (Dzinoreva) to activate systems and deal with such matters decisively,” Bhasera said.
Business Times can report that some land officers have since been reshuffled across the country as the government looks at curbing rising corruption in land allocations.
The syndicate has taken advantage of the rising demand in farming land and they have been undertaking their own land auditing exercise that has seen most farmers lose their land.
Some traditional leaders have been claiming that they were the custodians of the land and demanding active involvement in its management.
But Dzinoreva said the land belongs to the State and anyone who is involved in the illegal land dealings would be dealt with, notwithstanding their position.