Lands ministry in diaspora land scandal

 

 

LIVINGSTONE MARUFU

 

Lands ministry officials are in the eye of a storm after some provincial land Officers sold peri-urban land that was earmarked for the diaspora community.

The government has invited Zimbabweans living outside the country to apply for land. It said the completed application forms have to be submitted to the ministry through a courier or an individual duly appointed to do so.

Once the application forms are completed the Provincial Land Committees will screen applicants in terms of set criteria and recommend to the minister for allocation.

But some provincial officials have capitalised on the desperate local land seekers with deep pockets to illegally parcel out the land to them.

An official from the Lands Inspectorate Department, which is a security arm in the Lands ministry, told Business Times that the latest land offering by the government to the Diaspora community has created a serious land rush around various towns and cities across the country.

“We are yet to open dockets but there are some reports from Marondera and Chinhoyi where some Provincial Land officers are dishing out land to the people who are based in Zimbabwe but use Mastercard and Visa cards to apply for the land. We are still in talks with our principals to map the way forward on the course of action,” the source said.

Areas such as Melfort and Goromonzi in Mashonaland East are some of the areas where these illegal activities are rampant.

The Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement ministry said the Diaspora community was supposed to buy the agro-residential land at a fee and will get the title upon completion of the processes.

When contacted for comment, Lands ministry permanent secretary John Basera said he has not heard about the issue but will “certainly take action if that happens”.

Most people seem to be more interested in building in peri-urban areas where they will be doing various projects and the 10 to 25 hectares land waiting for title is most ideal.

The programme is described as the second phase of the equitable land redistribution programme which is meant to increase investment and enhance production.

This comes at a time when Marondera Provincial Land officers are still under investigations for conniving with village heads in the illegal sale of State land around the province, prejudicing the government of millions of United States dollars.

Once the investigations are concluded, the provincial land officers and district land officers are expected to appear in court soon.

Consequently, desperate land seekers have been fleeced of over US$25m yearly with village heads and rural district councils being accused of living lavishly.

This has been prevalent in areas closer to Harare such as Ziko in Chitungwiza, Domboshava, Mazowe, Norton, Juru, Goromonzi and Murewa.

Business Times reported last year that a syndicate of top officials in the Lands ministry were cashing in on the rising demand for land.

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