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Wed Aug 24 08:46:53 CAT 2016

Zim's farm grabs over

Nhlalo Ndaba and Bloomberg | 09 February, 2016 00:23
The process resulted in a slump in farm production that severely affected the broader economy - and in disputes over land ownership between new occupants. File photo
Image by: PHILIMON BULAWAYO / REUTERS

Zimbabwe yesterday announced it had no more land for resettlement, signalling the end of a chaotic, 15-year exercise during which 4000 white commercial farmers were forcibly evicted and government treaties violated - leaving many aspirant black landowners high and dry.

"We are satisfied with the programme; obviously it hasn't had a 100% success rate, but we are satisfied," Lands and Rural Settlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora said yesterday.

Since 2000, mostly white commercial farmers have been forcibly and sometimes violently evicted from their land and homes to make way for the settlement of black producers and the members of the power elite.

The process resulted in a slump in farm production that severely affected the broader economy - and in disputes over land ownership between new occupants.

The haphazard, highly politicised resettlement exercise also resulted in numerous beneficiaries - some of them politically connected - getting multiple farms while many others missed out.

Yesterday Mombeshora broke the news.

''Tough luck to those who need to be resettled because land is almost exhausted,'' he said.

Government records indicate that 14.5million hectares were parcelled out during the resettlement process.

The remaining 900000ha are forests, plantations and land owned by foreign holdings through government agreements.

The exhaustion of land comes at a time when chiefs in Masvingo province are pushing for the government to allocate to villagers sugar cane farms in Chiredzi, where South African-owned sugar producer Tongaat Hulett operates.

The chiefs were first promised 4000ha in 2013, but nothing has materialised.

Last month the government started offering the remaining white farmers the option of leasing land that had been targeted for resettlement.

Mombeshora said land availability was being audited.

Owners of more than one farm stand to lose their land to the state.

Opposition political parties have long complained that the land issue was just a vote-buying gimmick.

"It is now emerging, rather crudely, that the Zanu-PF's chaotic land reform was never genuine or about redressing colonial imbalances. It was a shameful vote-buying, patronage jamboree," said the opposition MDC.

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