Harare – An audit currently underway and set to be completed in March seeks to flush out multiple farm owners and correct some of the wrongs from the country’s chaotic fast-track land reform exercise that began in 2000.
The land audit has various aims, including seeking to identify underutilised land and redistribute it to productive farmers as agriculture accounts for 15 percent of Zimbabwe’s GDP and provides about 70 percent of its formal employment.
Speaking in parliament recently, deputy minister of lands Douglas Karoro said white farmers will be considered during the land restructuring programme.
“Government wants to see a situation whereby there is fairness in land ownership. There is a land audit that is currently under way and we expect the exercise to be finalised by the end of March.
“The redistribution is not going to look at the colour of the farmer, whether black or white. It is not going to look at the political inclination of an individual, neither is it going to look at the religious affiliation of the farmer. A farmer is going to be looked at as a farmer, who has capacity and competence. The essence is that we want to produce enough food for everybody as a country and surplus for export.”
Although Zimbabwe has said the exercise was irreversible it had promised to pay back some of the farmers while promising to audit the exercise in a bid to unearth underutilised land some of which was to be returned to white farmers.
Zimbabwe was once the bread basket of Southern Africa but after the land seizures, food production plummeted and the country now imports basic foodstuffs because of dire shortages of wheat, soya beans and other crops.
The seizures resulted in the displacement of 6 000 white commercial farmers and led directly to the collapse of commercial farming and the manufacturing sector and the consequent displacement of millions of workers.
Subsequently, the economy was informalised to such an extent that some estimate 90 percent of employment is petty trade, vending, and artisanal mining.
In previous years mining, manufacturing, services and agriculture – both large and small-scale – all contributed significantly to employment and to gross domestic product (GDP).
Historical data show that commercial agriculture alone contributed some 17 percent. The economy was well-integrated with particularly strong linkages between commercial agriculture and services and manufacturing.
It was axiomatic that much of the rest of the economy would benefit from reinvested earnings following a good agricultural season.
Commercial farmers were also playing an important role in the rapid expansion of Zimbabwe’s tourism industry through the conversion of marginal farmland into wildlife habitat.
Given the central role of commercial farming to agriculture and the economy, it is important that the foundations of agricultural recovery not be weakened further.
It however remains to be seen if government effectively moves forward with the plans amid British fallout.
In the aftermath of the recent military heavy handedness and crackdown on demonstrations reminiscent of Gukurahundi, Britain has said it will stop any bidding for Zimbabwe. Britain has been instrumental in facilitating Zimbabwe engagement with the rest of the world as guarantor and it has also been at the forefront of bidding a debt restructuring with the West.
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