IT is sad to hear that some widows of our war veteran brothers are being harassed and pushed off the land on which they had been resettled during the chaotic 2000 land reform programme. While these acts of cowardice are dastardly, in our view, they also speak to something gravely wrong with our land tenure system.
These black-on-black land grabs have, of late, been worryingly increasing, which is pointing to something fundamentally wrong with the country’s land occupation system. But even more worrying are the comments by some of our war veterans over the prevailing land grab issue.
“We get mad when we are denied what is rightfully ours. We claim what is ours. Our solemn liberation struggle pledge was to claim our land from colonialists and, therefore, to attempt to dispossess widows and children of departed liberation war heroes would be an affront to our cause. Anyone who tries this automatically becomes our enemy. We were trained to confront and kill the enemy,” are words of one of our liberators, Mudzingaidzwa Nyikadzino Mudarikwa, secretary general of the Mashonaland West war veterans association chapter.
We understand that he has been angered by the land grabs, but to then threaten to kill people for land, which we all believed is essentially State land, leaves us a little worried. In the same breath, we are also saddened to finally learn that the liberation struggle was wedged so that those who fought the bush war would solely benefit from the country’s land.
We wish to draw our leaders’ attention to this simmering problem that is principally a ticking time bomb. We have heard of 99-year leases and offer letters being the sole ticket for one to own a piece of fertile farmland. These 99-year leases and offer letters are free of charge and can be generated any time, which we believe herein lies the major problem with our land tenure system.
For many years, economists and well-meaning citizens have been calling for the return of title to land. We believe this is the best way to go. So we humbly propose that after government completes its land audit, it should re-demarcate all the country’s land into small, medium and large-scale, with occupants being offered to buy the land over a certain period so that they actually own it. This will rid us of these incidents of having widows of war veterans being kicked around as is the case right now.
If those occupying these lands are serious farmers, determined to own the land and lead this country to prosperity, they should be more than happy to work this land and make it productive. This business of having people sitting on productive land and claiming that it is rightfully theirs without them producing anything, will not get us anywhere.
Many people today own houses in cities and towns to which they have title deeds; so why should those occupying farms not be willing to have title deeds to that land? As long as people keep occupying land that belongs to an institution called the State, they might as well be prepared to be kicked out at any time, whether they are widows of war veterans or not.