SEVERAL government ministers and senior military officers accused of grabbing farms in violation of the government’s “one man, one farm” rule have still not handed the extra properties back to the
state, almost a year after the expiry of an ultimatum issued by President Robert Mugabe, the latest land audit has revealed.
A five-member Presidential Land Resettlement Committee appointed by Mugabe in January has completed its land allocation audit and has once again unearthed widespread evidence of corrupt allocations and the use of violence by senior politicians and military officers to evict landless smallholder farmers, the very people Mugabe claimed the land reform policy sought to help.
The Zimbabwe Independent understands that the confidential audit has also revealed that the land policy has not only precipitated a catastrophic reduction in crop production, but has financially benefited the elite of Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF.
Reports of abuses uncovered by successive groups of auditors since February last year have embarrassed Mugabe, who has staked his domestic reputation on the speedy transfer of land to Zimbabwe’s more than two million landless farmers.
Stung by the series of damaging revelations, Mugabe last year gave his lieutenants up to June 30 to surrender their supplementary properties and remain with one farm each. But up to now only one Zanu PF official, Matabeleland north governor Obert Mpofu, is understood to have relinquished his extra properties.
The latest land audit team is expected to present its findings to the Ministry of Special Affairs responsible for Land, Land Reform and Resettlement, which is expected to subsequently present the report to Mugabe. Officials on the committee confirmed the latest developments.
“The committee has finalised its audit process and a report has been compiled,” said Willard Chiwewe, a senior secretary in the President’s Office who is heading the taskforce.
“We will hand over the report to the ministers in the land task force who will consider what we have found out. After that, the report will be handed over to President Mugabe.”
The five-member committee was set up to beef up another team led by Special Affairs minister John Nkomo in the clean up effort. Chiwewe said one of the key recommendations of the audit was that ruling party officials who had multiple farms should have the extra properties forfeited to the state.
“One of the key findings of the report is that those with multiple land ownership should be served with withdrawal letters of the farms,” he said.
“The Ministry of Agriculture would have to send those letters to those people with multiple land ownership. That would happen I am sure, I do not see any problem at all.”
The team was tasked to look into the chaotic handling of the land reform programme and came up with recommendations that would see the creation of a permanent office that deals with land reform. Like the Utete Committee before it, the team said that areas that were protected under bilateral trade agreements, forestry estates or which had Export Processing Zone (EPZ) licences be exempted from compulsory acquisition.
An audit, carried out last year by former secretary to the cabinet, Charles Utete, to investigate matters relating to an earlier land audit by Flora Bhuka, the Minister of State in Vice-President Joseph Msika’s office, revealed that some of the violations of the land reform policy were committed by Mugabe’s closest political allies.
About 13 cabinet ministers and four provincial governors were named as having violated the “one man, one farm policy”.
Since the Utete Report was published, a number of EPZ farms have been invaded, which has resulted in the destruction of property and looting of assets. National Parks and conservancies also remain occupied.