Over and above the need to fulfill the liberation war imperative of freeing land from remnants of colonialism, two other reasons why the land reform programme was executed since 2000 was to address multiple and absentee farm ownership.
Some whites held as many as 10 farms, with others owning properties measuring up to 10 000 hectares each, most of which was left fallow for decades.
It was therefore an irony of ironies that we had some indigenous farmers helping themselves to more than one farm while others are merely sitting on their farms instead of using them productively. Those were two big blemishes of the fast track land reform and redistribution programme, which had to be cleaned up.
It was counter-revolutionary that tens of thousands of patriots rose that February 2000 to reclaim their birthright from white farmers, mainly of British extraction, some patriots losing their lives or getting injured in the process, only for some indigenous Zimbabweans to gobble up large pieces of land that they have failed to utilise. As that happens, thousands of compatriots have remained on the waiting list, hungry for a share of their birthright.
Yes, these blemishes were expected in a revolutionary land reclamation process and were identified during the First Republic but it appears there was a considerable amount of lethargy in addressing them.
The Second Republic has demonstrated great courage and leadership by, starting yesterday, repossessing underutilised, abandoned farms and those that are held by multiple-farm owners. The repossessed land, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka told Chronicle on Saturday, would be allocated to people on the waiting list.
“Government will from Monday start the exercise of repossessing land from multiple farm owners, those who have abandoned the land and those who are underutilising the land. The repossessed land will be allocated to the landless as we push to achieve the agricultural revolution aimed at making the country food secure,” he said.
Dr Masuka indicated that those with more than one farm will be left with one, those underutilising the land will lose the portion that is not being utilised and the abandoned or vacant land will be repossessed. He said farmers with bigger farms than the recommended sizes but are fully utilising the land will be spared.
The maximum farm size policy is now also being implemented.
Under the farm size limits, farms in natural region One, generally specialist farming areas in the Eastern Highlands should not exceed 250ha; those in region Two, the well-watered northern highveld areas, are limited to a maximum of 500ha; farms in region Three, largely less well-watered than region two, should be limited to 700ha; region four farms, mostly in livestock production areas, should be at most 1 000ha; and natural region five farms, usually ranches, should not go beyond 2 000ha.
Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans who have been on the waiting list, some since 2000, would be delighted at the prospect of the success of the process that started yesterday. By success, we are saying, much land would be freed up from multiple farm owners, absentee landlords who take land as an ornament to admire not as an asset to be used for productive purposes and those who have too much of it, would be recovered and expeditiously reallocated to those who need it and have waited for so long for it.
President Mnangagwa has repeatedly said there would be no sacred cows in the process. No boss would abuse their power to refuse to have their fallow land repossessed, or their extra farm reclaimed for redistribution to those who need it.
It is critical to note that the work that started yesterday is informed by a land audit that took a number of years to be conducted. It is therefore clear that the repossessions are not guesswork, but a product of a competent study which clearly identified those sitting on land, those with more than one farm and those whose properties are too large for their natural agro-ecological region. We therefore look forward to the process being done most expeditiously and with no acrimony as it is based on facts.
The land reform programme was implemented not to create a new class of privileged farmers, but to democratise and deracialise land ownership while boosting production.