PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last week presented the findings of the Land Audit Report to the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a bid to convince the international
community that reorganisation would take place on the farms to correct errors in the fast-track land reform programme.
Diplomatic sources this week said Mugabe, who met Annan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on Tuesday last week, wanted the UN to believe that there were positive developments on the land as evidenced by the report.
At the United Nations Development Programme-brokered donors conference held in Harare in 1998it was agreed that for Zimbabwe to receive international financial assistance, the land reform programme would have to be transparent, benefit mainly the poor and be sustainable. To date many senior members of the ruling Zanu PF party, the defence forces and government have benefited, with some of them getting more than one farm.
Mugabe recently issued an ultimatum for senior officials who acquired more than one farm to surrender them. The response has been less than enthusiastic.
Analysts dispute government claims that 300 000 families have been resettled on nearly 11 million hectares of land seized from white commercial farmers.
The sources said Mugabe was keen to secure an endorsement of the land review process from Annan who has in the past registered his disquiet at Zimbabwe’s conduct of land reform.
Information and Publicity secretary George Charamba, who accompanied Mugabe to New York, yesterday refused to discuss the issue.
UN co-ordinator in Harare Victor Angelo could not be reached as his office said he was in New York on business.
The report, which was compiled by an audit team headed by former senior civil servant, Dr Charles Utete, has been kept under wraps since it was presented to Mugabe last month. It was presented to politburo members last month and Zanu PF sources said the party’s decision-making organ deliberated on it this week. The sources said government would only release the report after securing endorsement of the review from key stakeholders, which include the UN.
Diplomatic sources said the endorsement of the report’s recommendations by the UN was crucial in shoring up Mugabe’s regime which has seen the agricultural sector collapse around it. Despite loud official bragging about the success of land reform, the government cannot hide the huge funding deficit in the agricultural sector.
The government has failed to mobilise funding for infrastructure development and extension services. It believes that its commitment to implementing the one-man one-farm policy, which would see the redistribution of excess farms, could restore confidence in the donor community.
“Through the (Utete) audit, the government is trying to say to donors, ‘we do not have anything to hide and we are prepared to correct our mistakes’,” said an officer at the UNDP.
There are fears among donors that the UN, through the UNDP office in Harare, could be manipulated by the government to try and legitimise a flawed process of resettlement.
“Donors will be closely following the developments on the ground before committing their resources,” the officer said.